We’ve seen it countless times in the movies. It’s been promised for years and years. But now, science fiction may just become our new reality as Japan’s SkyDrive company has just debuted what many thought we’d never see: The flying car.
Its technical name is the Electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing or eVTOL. The Toyota-backed SkyDrive is just one of more than one hundred flying car projects going on around the world, though it is one of the first to get (or fly) as far as it has.
In this case, though, “flying” means more like hovering. During its presentation, the flying car rose off the ground several feet and hoovered in place for nearly four minutes.
The Toyota flying car is not big. It holds but one passenger and has the look of an enclosed three-person jet ski. It is surrounded by two propellers on each corner of the vehicle for a total of eight. It has safety glass for its windshield, though there doesn’t appear to be any covering to go over one’s head (at least not for the time being). It has landing gear (skids) attached to the bottom of the vehicle and the little it moved during its presentation, it seemed to be quite smooth.
Watch Toyota’s flying car in action below…
Tomohiro Fukuzawa is the man in charge of bringing the flying car to the public. He spoke to the Associated Press after the presentation. He says, “Of the world’s more than 100 flying car projects, only a handful has succeeded with a person on board. I hope many people will want to ride it and feel safe.” He also explained that, right now, the vehicle can only fly for five to 10 minutes. His team is trying to increase that to 30 minutes.
THE FUTURE OF TOYOTA’S FLYING CAR
Make no mistake about it, there are big plans for SkyDrive’s flying car in the very near future. Although Fukuzawa hopes to have it commercialized by 2023, Toyota has its sights set on the Olympics. As in the 2020 Olympics, which has been pandemically pushed to 2021. In Japan.
Back in 2017, Toyota handed over nearly 40 million yen (around $353,000 back then) to help fund the SkyDrive. The goal, which still seems to be, was to have the flying car ready to rock by the time the Olympics took place so it could fly up and light the Olympic torch. It’s a lofty goal and the company has about a year to make this happen.
Of course, this new flying car technology doesn’t come without its set of challenges.
Sanjiv Singh is a professor at the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, who also happens to be working on an eVTOL flying car with his crew, spoke about some of these via TechExplore, “Many things have to happen. If they cost $10 million, no one is going to buy them. If they fly for 5 minutes, no one is going to buy them. If they fall out of the sky every so often, no one is going to buy them.”
But that’s not all. There are battery sizes to be concerned with (hence the “fall out of the sky” comment), there would be the issue of air traffic control and where exactly these aircraft would be allowed to fly and just how high. Many other infrastructure issues come with it. Not to mention the “car” insurance.
But first things first. Get a flying car that can fly, safely. The Japanese government looks to be all in though when it comes to the flying car. They continue to push its development as evidence by another recent round of funding, this one to the tune of 3.9 billion yen ($37 million).
OTHER FLYING CARS
SkyDrive, as mentioned earlier, is not the only one aiming high. Joby Aviation in California, Lilium of Germany, and Wisk, which is a joint venture between Boeing Co. and Kitty Hawk Corp., are all working on their version of a flying car. The Japanese company seems to be the farthest along, but don’t count out any of the others.
If flying cars are the future, the push to be the first safe, dependable, eVTOL will be a race not to miss.