Three years ago, Silicon Valley developed a fleeting infatuation with a startup called Zee.Aero. The company had set up shop right next to Google's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., which was curious, because Google tightly controls most of the land in the area. Then a reporter spotted patent filings showing Zee.Aero was working on a small, all-electric plane that could take off and land vertically--a flying car. In the handful of news articles that ensued, all the startup would say was that it wasn't affiliated with Google or any other technology company. Then it stopped answering media inquiries altogether. Employees say they were even given wallet-size cards with instructions on how to deflect questions from reporters. After that, the only information that trickled out came from amateur pilots, who occasionally posted pictures of a strange-looking plane taking off from a nearby airport. Trump Says'No Reason' to Raise 1 Billion for Campaign Turns out, Zee.Aero doesn't belong to Google or its holding company, Alphabet.
Flying taxi start-ups Joby Aviation and Kitty Hawk are being bankrolled by the US military. The rival companies, which are currently leading the race to build the first self-flying taxis to take to the skies, received $2 million (£1.5 million) in funding from the military last year. The funds, which were not disclosed at the time, were provided by the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx), a Pentagon-backed organisation founded to help the US military make faster use of emerging technologies. But despite the involvement of the armed forces, there will be'no weapons' added to the autonomous flying vehicles, it has been confirmed. Joby Aviation received $970,000 (£730,890) in funding from the DIUx in January last year, while Kitty Hawk was bankrolled $1 million (£753,495) a few months later, government contracting sites uncovered by The Guardian reveal.
Toyota announced creation of a $100 million venture fund to invest in autonomous driving and robotic technology start-ups as automakers increasingly push into the self-driving market. Toyota AI Ventures, a Silicon Valley-based subsidiary of Toyota, plans to invest the said amount into early-stage startups that are developing "disruptive" technologies in those fields, the company said. Jim Adler, managing director of Toyota AI Ventures, said in a statement, "Auto manufacturers must participate in the startup ecosystem to stay ahead of the rapid shift in the auto industry." The company added that the fund is part of Toyota's mission is a futuristic "discover what's next" phase. Toyota's AI venture fund has already invested in 19 different start-ups over the last two years, bringing its total funding commitment to autonomous driving technology to $200 million, the company further stated.
Everywhere you turn in the transportation industry these days, Toyota Motor Corp. already seems to be there. From batteries and self-driving vehicles to lunar rovers and ride-hailing companies, the world's second-biggest automaker is on an investment spree, pouring more than ¥300 billion into deals and partnerships in recent years. Toyota is placing bets across the board, mimicking technology investors like SoftBank Group Corp. Toyota, Volkswagen and other carmakers face an uncertain future as new technologies and business models ripple through the $2.23 trillion global auto industry. Uber Technologies Inc. has made younger buyers less interested in owning and driving cars, and Tesla Inc.'s success with electric vehicles has spurred bigger rivals to counter with their own products. All told, car sales will be only slightly higher in 2030, while new spending on mobility services will total $1.34 trillion, Accenture predicts.