Businessweek reports on Larry Page's not-secret-anymore efforts to make the perpetually-futuristic vision of flying cars a reality. Turns out, Page is funding two flying car companies, Zee.Aero and Kitty Hawk. Apparently the latter's president is Sebastian Thrun, the pioneering roboticist who drove Google's autonomous vehicle efforts. From Ashley Vance and Brad Stone's Businessweek feature:
Zee.Aero now employs close to 150 people. Its operations have expanded to an airport hangar in Hollister, about a 70-minute drive south from Mountain View, where a pair of prototype aircraft takes regular test flights. The company also has a manufacturing facility on NASA’s Ames Research Center campus at the edge of Mountain View. Page has spent more than $100 million on Zee.Aero, say two of the people familiar with the company, and he’s not done yet...
The (Hollister) airport is open for business from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, but Zee.Aero employees frequently run test flights when no one else is around. Nonetheless, people working at the airport have caught glimpses of two Zee.Aero craft in recent months. Both have a narrow body, a bulbous cockpit with room for one person upfront, and a wing at the back. In industry lingo, the planes are pushers, with two propellers in the rear. One of the prototypes looks like a small conventional plane; the other has spots for small propellers along the main body, three per side.
When the aircraft take off, they sound like air raid sirens.
The people at the airport haven’t heard Page’s name mentioned, but they long ago concluded Zee.Aero’s owner is super rich. Zee.Aero employees receive catered lunches—sometimes $900 worth of barbecue from Armadillo Willy’s, a local chain. Recently, the company purchased a $1 million helicopter to fly alongside the planes and gather data.
For Page, this project is deeply personal. He’s been known to spend evenings with (Elon) Musk, both men thinking aloud about ways to fundamentally change transportation. Musk wants to build an upscale electric (vertical take-off and landing) jet; Page wants the down-market version.