Larry Page’s air taxi start-up loses one of its main designers


Kitty hawk may have support from Google’s Larry Page, but that doesn’t mean things are going well. Forbes possesses learned that Kitty Hawk let go of key engineer Damon Vander Lind in May after “months” of fighting with Page and CEO Sebastian Thrun over the company’s strategy. Page and Thrun want to create a larger version of the Heaviside air taxi which autonomously carries two passengers with a backup remote pilot, but Vander Lind reportedly felt that was “too risky”.

There were also accusations that Vander Lind was unresponsive to ideas and at times hostile to staff, Forbes sources claimed. Kitty Hawk further addressed separate complaints of sexism. An external investigation found no known cases of discrimination, but the company brought in an outside advisor to help improve the corporate culture.

The company will partially fill this gap by acquiring 3D Robotics and hiring its co-founder (and former Wired editor) Chris Anderson as chief operating officer. Thrun also said he’s taking a much more hands-on approach to running Kitty Hawk, including developing the production-grade Heaviside prototype.

The moves could help invigorate Kitty Hawk, who removed its original flying car effort in 2020 and laid off most of the team for this project. However, it still highlights the challenges the business faces. It is now a air taxi competitor host that could beat it in the market. And while the two-passenger Heaviside might fare better under certain circumstances (it might not have to wait that long for customers, for example), Kitty Hawk is taking a risk, hoping officials will approve her. mixture of automation and remote control. Simply put, the stakes are only growing.

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