Toyota joins flying car project

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Rasheed Bisiriyu

Toyota Motor Corporation has announced that it will finance a flying car project that is expected to take off by 2018 but adds that the sky drive car will be unveiled this year.

A flying car is a type of personal air vehicle that provides door-to-door transportation by both road and air, according to wikipedia.org.

Before now, the biggest story in the auto industry was the production of autonomous or self-driving vehicle. But the project has been enmeshed in controversy even before it could properly get off the ground.

Until the latest development, there had also been talks about flying cars, which experts viewed as future rides, with prototypes exhibited by sponsors but none had reached the production stage.

According to multiple online sources, including independent.co.uk, Toyota plans to give engineers £274,000 to develop the jet-propelled vehicle that will travel up to 10 metres from the ground.

It says some of Toyota’s young employees have been voluntarily working on the project led by a start-up group called ‘Cartivator’.

The report recalled that the project began in 2012 and the project members had hitherto donated free time to the goal of developing a ‘flying car’ or drone capable of carrying a person (the ‘Sky drive’ prototype has three wheels and four rotors).

A news agency, Nikkei, says Toyota has agreed, in principle, to provide some 40 million yen to Cartivator, which has so far relied on online crowd-funding and other means for financing.

It adds that the group plans to develop a prototype for a manned test flight by the end of 2018 and hopes to commercialise the flying car in 2020, when Tokyo hosts the Olympics.

Drone technology, it says, is being used to power the three-wheeled prototypes, which measure just nine-and-a-half feet by four feet, with projected top speed of 62mph.

Another report by Autoblog.com also confirms that so far crowd-funding has paid for the development of the Sky drive car, which uses drone technology and has three wheels and four rotors.

It adds that the Sky drive cars have been masterminded by a crowd-funded group, Cartivator, based in Japan.

A group of Toyota engineers had been working for them voluntarily, according to the Nikkei Asian Review.

They hope early models could be used to light the Olympic flame at the 2020 summer games in Tokyo, with a manned test flight planned for the end of 2018, it says.

The report also says other firms in the United States, China, Germany, and the Netherlands have been attempting to develop flying cars.

“Lilium, a Munich-based group backed by Skype co-founder Niklas Zennström, completed successful test flights of a flying five-seater taxi in April,” it says, adding, that the company says its jet has a range of 190 miles and a top speed of 186mph.

Multiple flying cars will be unveiled this year, says a report by electronicproduct.com. Already, it notes that Slovakia-based AeroMobil has started taking pre-orders for its 500-unit flying car.

“Kitty Hawk, the flying car company financed by Google founder Larry Page, unveiled the first video of its prototype aircraft set to sell later this year. The government of Dubai wants to offer rides in flying taxis from EHang beginning this July,” the report says.

It also states, “AeroMobil’s flying car is ahead of full anticipated production. Users can drive it up to 160 km/h (99 mph) on the road and pull into an airport to convert it into a plane in less than three minutes with the touch of a button. You will need a pilot’s licence if you intend to fly the vehicle.

“During the conversion process, the wings fold out, the front wheels tuck into the chassis, and a pitch pusher folds out of the back. A custom 2.0-litre turbo engine switches 300 horsepower between the front wheels and the pusher prop via a modified transmission.”

It quotes the FAA regulations as stating that the flyer is an ultra-light aircraft, which is why no pilot’s licence is required, and it is intended for recreational flying in uncongested areas.

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