Google co-founder Larry Page secretly spending more than $100 million on flying cars: report

The workers in the secrecy-shrouded building next to Google in Mountain View didn’t refer to their boss by name. He was “the guy upstairs,” aka “Gus,” according to a new report. And Gus didn’t want people to know he was upstairs, or even in the building, and least of all that he was working on a fabled, pie-in-the-sky technology that recent advances appear to have brought closer to the realm of reality.

The guy upstairs was Larry Page, and he’s building flying cars, Bloomberg reports. The Google co-founder, now CEO of the firm’s parent company Alphabet, has invested more than $100 million in his company Zee-Aero, located beside Google’s headquarters in Mountain View.

But it’s what’s happening in Hollister that presents a view of a possible future in which commuters leave traffic-clogged roadways far below, to cruise quietly to work under electric power, up in the sky. Two of Zee-Aero’s prototype flying cars are taking to the air regularly, for testing, from an aircraft hanger in Hollister, according to the Bloomberg report, which it said was based on interviews with 10 people close to the company.

Page, as one might expect, isn’t putting all his golden eggs in one basket. He’s also funding Mountain View’s Kitty Hawk, competing against Zee-Aero in the flying-car space, Bloomberg reported.

Globally, some dozen firms are working on flying cars, but Zee-Aero and Kitty Hawk are the closest to a viable product, according to Bloomberg.

“Over the past five years, there have been these tremendous advances in the under­lying technology,” NASA aeronautical engineer Mark Moore told the news outlet. “What appears in the next 5 to 10 years will be incredible.”

Indeed, NASA last year released slides from a concept study for autonomous, electric flying taxis, and identified Silicon Valley as an “early adopter” area because of its heavy traffic, large incomes and high rates of embracing new technology. The air taxis could cruise at up to 200 miles per hour, according to NASA.

Page had endeavored to keep secret his involvement in the two flying car companies, but Zee-Aero, which is currently seeking aerodynamics, controls and IT engineers, has publicized its work to a limited extent, saying on its website that it’s working on “better ways to get from A to B.”

Kitty Hawk is also hiring engineers, according to postings on Glassdoor, including one for a mechanical engineer specializing in “recovery systems.”

“We are not attempting to re-develop the same devices that have been developed in the past so are seeking applicants from a range of backgrounds including aerospace decelerators and parachutes, vehicle crash safety engineering, rapid mechanical prototyping, product development, and so on,” the job posting from two weeks ago says.

While Massachusetts firm Terrafugia is developing a flying car with manual and autonomous modes, it’s yet unclear who or what is intended to pilot the vehicles from Zee-Aero and Kitty Hawk. But considering the 30,000-plus annual roadway deaths in the U.S., 90 percent caused by human error, and Bloomberg’s report that Google self-driving car “godfather” Sebastian Thrun heads Kitty Hawk, it appears likely that Page is angling toward autonomy in his air-space pioneering.

 

Image: Zee-Aero flying car (U.S. Patent and Trademark Office)

 

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  • Reed More

    Larry Page has been one of the greatest benefactors of American Capitalism. Capitalism is supposed to be about the efficient use of capital to grow economic opportunity. Is this really the best investment of capital in transportation? Google is among the companies causing absolute gridlock in the Bay Area and they invest in a flying car?

    Vision without execution is a hallucination. Sadly our business leaders no longer build things that increase productivity (and thus the quality of life and a robustness of the economy for America.) Instead, we have rich children who squander this precious capital to do something that will be interesting on Instragram, but will provide no real value.

    • Boom Boom

      Yes, Google’s 55,000 employees make up a whopping 1% of Silicon Valley jobs, so let’s blame them for all the area’s traffic. You do realize that flying cars, no matter how fanciful the notion is, would all but eliminate traffic jams, sparky?

    • GUS

      I disagree with you sir, if aerial personal transportation becomes viable it would be a great productivity boom, less cars on the road means less congestion and road maintenance, more areas would be habitable due to a less need to roads, shorter and more direct travelling ways. He is putting his money where his mouth is, he is putting his personal wealth to execute this vision. the Car when it first built it was considered a useless and dangerous toy for rich people. A breakthrough always seems as useless and a toy, if it wasn’t ridiculed someone have already made it.

  • Bob Spidell

    The FAA will have a lot to say about this. You’ll need some sort of certification, and a pilot’s license is a LOT harder to get than a driver’s license.

 
 
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