For flying cars, watch this Page

The Transition, a flying car, was unveiled by US company Terrafugia last year. Firms have been looking into building flying cars, such as Zee.Aero and Kitty Hawk, both of which are reported to have received funding from Google co-founder Larry Page.
The Transition, a flying car, was unveiled by US company Terrafugia last year. Firms have been looking into building flying cars, such as Zee.Aero and Kitty Hawk, both of which are reported to have received funding from Google co-founder Larry Page.PHOTO: TERRAFUGIA

SAN FRANCISCO • Google co-founder Larry Page has secretly poured more than US$100 million (S$135 million) into building flying cars, Bloomberg reported on Thursday.

Mr Page has backed Zee.Aero, while striving to keep his involvement hidden, according to the report that cited unnamed sources described as having intimate knowledge of the flying car start-up launched in 2010.

"Based in the heart of Silicon Valley, Zee is developing a revolutionary new form of transportation," the start-up said on its website, which invited people with engineering skills to apply for jobs.

Zee is "working at the intersection of aerodynamics, advanced manufacturing, and electric propulsion", it said.

As part of a bid for secrecy, Zee.Aero employees referred to Mr Page as "GUS", a play on "Guy UpStairs" since, for a time, the Google co-founder had a private hideaway on the second floor of their facility, according to Bloomberg.

It said Zee.Aero has nearly 150 employees and expanded operations to an airport hangar about an hour's drive from Alphabet-owned Google's headquarters in the Californian city of Mountain View.

Mr Page has spent more than US$100 million on Zee.Aero, according to Bloomberg. It also reported that Mr Page was backing a second flying car start-up, Kitty Hawk, that began operating last year not far from Zee.Aero and is taking a different design approach.

Neither Zee.Aero nor Alphabet responded to requests for comment.

Mr Page is pursuing a flying car dream on his own, not as part of Alphabet's investments in "moonshots" such as self-driving cars, Bloomberg said.

Other companies are also investing in the development of flying automobiles. For example, Terrafugia - a United States company set up in 2006 by a group of Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduates - unveiled its own flying car, called Transition, last year. It is expected to cost US$261,000 when it goes on sale.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 11, 2016, with the headline 'For flying cars, watch this Page'. Print Edition | Subscribe