Toyota has invested 42.5 million yen into a project to develop a 'flying car' which they hope will be subsequently used to light up the Olympic flame for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games. Engineers showcased a demonstration of its 'flying car' at an event last week -and expressed their confidence that it will be able to design a model that will light the Olympic torch.
The innovative project is being spearheaded by a start-up company called 'Cartivator' - and has around 30 engineers engaged in the project, in fact, many of the engineers are employed by Toyota. The program to develop a flying car which has been entitled 'SkyDrive' began in earnest back in 2014. However, with the significant boost provided by crowdfunding - those tasked with the responsibility of developing the car believe that by the end of next year it will be in a position to conduct its first manned-flight.
Tsubasa Nakamura, who is the head of the start-up company Cartivator conceded that whilst the development of the 'flying car' was at an early stage - he was confident it can achieve its target of conducting a manned flight by the end of 2018, although he did add that it was clear the design needed more stability following the results of the demonstration
He said: “During their demonstration, the current test model was able to get off and float on the ground for a few seconds. However, it's clear the design needs more stability in order to enable the prototype to be able to fly long and high enough to reach the Olympic flame.”
However, the project has not been initiated as a stand-alone initiative specifically designed to light the Olympic torch at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Engineers at Cartivator aim to make the 'flying car' the world's smallest electric vehicle, and have announced its intentions to commercialize the car by 2025, citing that it would be ideal to be introduced into small urban areas.
Nakamura confirmed that it will accelerate its efforts to improve the design in the hope that it can secure further investment from Toyota. Companies in the world have been competing to develop the first flying car or vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) vehicles. Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] announced its plan to deploy its flying taxi service by 2020 in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, and Dubai. Airbus Group is also working on developing its flying car under its division called Urban Air Mobility.
However, those involved in the manufacturing and development of 'flying cars' still face many challenges in relation to convincing regulation and more importantly convincing the general public with the benefits of this technology, with many raising concern over the safety of these products. Governments are still grappling with regulations for drones and driverless cars.