AZUSA KAWAKAMI, Nikkei staff writer
TOKYO — ANA Holdings has joined hands with U.S. startup Joby Aviation to explore aerial ride-sharing services, the parent of All Nippon Airways said Tuesday, becoming the latest Japanese company to seek potential business opportunities involving flying cars.
Toyota Motor-backed Joby is developing an all-electric, five-seat aircraft that takes off and lands vertically and has a range of more than 240 km. The vehicle would be able to carry passengers from the city’s Kansai Airport to Osaka Station in less than 15 minutes, compared with about an hour by car.
Flying cars have been hailed as a potential way to alleviate traffic jams in cities and provide transport in rural areas. With the 2025 World Expo in Osaka coming up, Japanese companies are moving into a field where U.S. and European manufacturers have a lead.
New York Stock Exchange-listed Joby’s memorandum of understanding with ANA’s holding company covers cooperation on flight operations, infrastructure construction and pilot training, as well as working with the central and local governments to clear regulatory hurdles.
Toyota Motor will support integration with ground transportation.
Founded in 2009, Joby has completed more than 1,000 test flights, according to the company.
Shares in Joby were up 26% during afternoon trading.
Flying car services and related technological development will become a $198 billion market by 2040, according to Morgan Stanley.
ANA rival Japan Airlines is exploring business models and flight paths with Mie Prefecture in western Japan with an eye on launching aerial transport services in fiscal 2025. It partnered with Irish aircraft leasing company Avolon Holdings to launch a flying car business in Japan, and it also plans to buy aircraft from German startup Volocopter.
This spring, Kawasaki Heavy Industries will launch a next-generation service that combines multiple modes of transportation, including helicopters. It aims to accumulate knowledge regarding users, their luggage and regions with strong demand, hoping to eventually use flying cars as well.
In Japan, flying cars are considered aircraft under the law, so aviation laws would need to be revised. The government has begun the process with an aim to make intercity aerial transport a reality in the 2030s. A new approach is necessary for safety standards since flying cars do not use jet fuel, and legal issues need to be resolved in several areas such as pilot licenses and operating rules.
The government drew up a plan at the end of December that spells out steps that ministries and agencies should take ahead of the World Expo, but few of the measures involved deregulation.