Toyota Motor Co. is investing $394 million (¥43.3 billion) in Joby Aviation, one of a handful of companies working toward the seemingly implausible goal of making electric air taxis that shuttle people over gridlocked highways and city streets.
Toyota is the lead investor in Joby’s $590 million Series C funding, alongside Baillie Gifford and Global Oryx and prior backers Intel Capital, Capricorn Investment Group, JetBlue Technology Ventures, SPARX Group and its own investment arm, Toyota AI Ventures.
The deal, for now, makes the Santa Cruz, California-based Joby the best-funded “eVTOL” (electric vertical take-off and landing) startup in a booming category that must overcome significant regulatory hurdles and concerns about passenger safety and noise, bringing the total money it has raised to $720 million.
“Air transportation has been a long-term goal for Toyota, and while we continue our work in the automobile business, this agreement sets our sights to the sky,” said Toyota President and Chief Executive Officer Akio Toyoda. “As we take up the challenge of air transportation together with Joby, an innovator in the emerging eVTOL space, we tap the potential to revolutionize future transportation and life.”
Over the past year, the 82-year-old Japanese automaker has deepened its interests in futuristic transportation technologies. Last year it backed Recogni Inc., a Silicon Valley maker of autonomous vehicle systems, and May Mobility, an Ann Arbor, Michigan-based operator of self-driving shuttle buses. At CES earlier this month, Toyota announced its intention to build a 175-acre community, or “Woven City,” at the base of Mount Fuji to serve as a showcase for self-driving cars and other innovations in transportation.