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Toyota eyes flying car tech with Joby investment, partnership

The Japanese automaker invested nearly $400 million in the company.

Toyota invests in Joby VTOL startup
Toyota's coined phrase "Let's go places" takes on new meaning.

Increasingly, automakers are looking to the sky. We saw Hyundai go big at CES 2020 with flying car tech, and now, Toyota has made its own splash.

On Wednesday, the Japanese automaker said it's forged a partnership with Joby Aviation. The startup company has worked on its electric vertical take-off and landing machine (eVTOL) vehicle for commercial use and Toyota plans to provide its expertise in the process.

All of this comes to the tune of a $394 million investment from Toyota into the startup company. And with it, the automaker is playing the long-term game, specifically noting this kind of transportation isn't ready for prime time any time soon.

"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," CEO Akio Toyoda said.

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Not only does Joby now have a large sum to work with (the latest investment round raised a total of $590 million, with Toyota leading it), but it gains access to the automaker's skills of the trade. Toyota plans to share its skillset when it comes to mass production, quality and cost controls. It's these types of skills that helped the Japanese automaker put a hurting on American automakers in the former's early days.

As mentioned, don't look for VTOL contraptions to start zipping around the sky just yet. Not only is the technology still in the works, but regulations would prohibit low-flying aircraft in cities. Companies like Uber and its NASA partnership are working around that, but for now, the only Toyota people will ride in is a car. Perhaps that'll change in 10 years.

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