Uber Selling its Flying Taxi Business to Joby Aviation

The company is looking to excise money-losing parts of its business as it seeks to become profitable.

The news comes as Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi attempts to push his company closer to profitability, which includes the sale of the money-losing parts of the business. The company is also said to be exploring the sale of its autonomous vehicle division. A spokesperson for Uber declined to comment.

Uber first announced its interest in launching a network of electric flying taxis in a white paper published in 2016. Under Uber’s calculations, a two-hour, 12-minute slog from San Francisco to San Jose would become a breezy 15 minutes by flying car. A two-hour, 10-minute battle through São Paulo gridlock would be transformed into an 18-minute pleasure ride.

Last year, Uber starting offering helicopter trips from Manhattan to John F. Kennedy International Airport. The trips were meant to offer a taste of what the experience would be like to use the Uber app to summon a flight rather than a car ride, and the company certainly saw it as an opportunity to gather data for its air taxi plans.

Those plans were ambitious, and perhaps doomed, from the start. It relied on a technology — electric-powered aviation — that was still under development and had yet to be tested as part of a commercial service. And it would have been costly to implement, requiring the construction of a vast network of rooftop or ground-level “skyports” and regulatory approval from a host of federal, state, and local agencies.

The choice of Joby Aviation as buyer makes sense. In December 2019, the ride-hailing company said it would join forces with the Northern California-based aerospace company, which has been working on electric aircraft for over a decade. Joby was the first company to commit to Uber’s aggressive timetable to launch a flying taxi service by 2023. A spokesperson for Joby declined to comment as well.

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