Larry Page's air taxis are already flying above New Zealand

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The flying auto company led by Udacity CEO Sebastian Thrun and backed by Google co-founder Larry Page is breaking cover with a new deal that will see it test its autonomous electric air taxis with the New Zealand government, with the aim of having a commercial network ready to carry passengers within as little as three years, the New York Times reports.

California-based company Kitty Hawk, operating as Zephyr Airworks in New Zealand, has revealed it's testing the world's first self-piloted and electric air taxi.

The combination of electric power, self-piloting software and vertical take-off pioneers a new way to fly. According to the company's FAQ, the plane has three independent flight-computers and can navigate even if one goes down, while each rotor works independently and just in case things really go wrong the plane has a parachute for landing without its fans.

Altitude: Operates between 500 ft to 3000 ft above the ground. Therefore, Cora has no need for a runway. It has a 62-mile range and room on board for two passengers.

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Speed: About 110 miles per hour / about 180 kilometres per hour.

Kitty Hawk's intent is to have the aircraft certified for fully autonomous operation by launch, which it hopes will happen sometime around 2021 once it completes testing with New Zealand, its first partner on the government and regulatory side.

The aircraft has been developed by Kitty Hawk, which is run by Sebastian Thrun, who previously led the development of Google's self-driving cars as director of Google X. As the New York Times explains, today the company will join with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to announce an agreement to test the vehicles there.

"We are offering a pollution free, emissions free vehicle that flies independently", Fred Reid, head of Kitty Hawk operations in New Zealand, said in a video posted on the company's website.

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