Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Joby Aviation to use parking garage rooftops to build its vertiport network

Joby Aviation, a Santa Cruz, California-based company, has announced a partnership with REEF Technology and Neighborhood Property Group to build its network of vertiports, with an initial focus on Los Angeles, Miami, and New York, and San Francisco Bay Area metropolitan areas.

The partnership will allow Joby to access REEF’s existing network of parking garages, which according to REEF, reach more than 70% of the American public. Through the partnership, Joby gains access to an unparalleled range of rooftop locations across all key metropolitan areas in the U.S., as well as a mechanism to fund the acquisition and development of new Skyport sites.

Buiding a convenient, accessible, and large network of locations to hitch a ride on an air taxi will likely be a key factor determining which companies succeed in attracting would-be riders to their service. The current infrastructure to support helicopters is limited, especially in urban areas, where electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) companies intend to launch.

The deal will provide exclusive access to the sites for a period of time, which Joby says can secure long-term rooftop leases on Skyport sites within NPG and REEF’s network of parking garages. Until now, little was known about the electric aircraft giant’s intentions for its aerial ridesharing network, although its founder and CEO, JoeBen Bevirt, has spoken publicly about the benefits of using existing parking lots.

Such structures are typically found in dense areas; they are large and made of sturdy material that can support multiple small aircraft. But perhaps most importantly, car parks already house cars, another mode of transportation that will likely work hand in hand with air taxis while serving the first and last mile segments of a journey.

With an aircraft that is expected to be more than 100 times quieter than a conventional helicopter, Joby sees a significant opportunity to deliver its aerial ridesharing service from downtown locations, repurposing the often dormant top level of many parking garage structures. Joby Aviation will be offering eVTOL trips between 5-150 miles (8-240 km) in its five-seat, at 200 mph (320 km/h).

Joby is citing the proximity of parking garages to city centers and their pre-existing infrastructure, among other features, as drivers for the infrastructure partnership, which it says will help its service expand into areas that better serve the needs of users.

In addition to working with NPG and REEF to identify parking structure locations, Joby claims it will be able to access over 5,000 existing heliports and regional airports across the U.S. for its rideshare service, which it intends to launch in 2024. Uber will also continue to play a role in the rideshare network, bringing riders to a Skyport just in time for their flight and, if necessary, another car would complete the journey to their final destination.