Toyota is entering the flying-car race. The Japanese automobile major is backing a project to build a car that will light the Olympic cauldron.
Fifteen Toyota Group companies, including Toyota Motor Corporation, have pledged financial support to Cartivator Resource Management, a Japanese non-profit organization that is developing a flying car called SkyDrive.
“I would like to thank all those that have supported us until now and to extend a heart-felt thank you to our new supporters from the Toyota Group,” Tsubasa Nakamura, founder of Cartivator, said in a Press release. “This activity is an effort to make a dream vehicle – a flying car that gives dreams which connects to the next generation…”
Toyota’s financial backing, which includes $378,000 over the next three years, could help the startup achieve an ambitious goal of carrying the Olympic flame in SkyDrive and fly it to the cauldron at the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo. Through this display of technological innovation, the engineers at Cartivator hope to show the world the potential for flying cars, which most would say is still science fiction, Jay Devineni has reported for Sporttechie.com.
“I always loved planes and cars,” Nakamura told the Associated Press. “And my longtime dream was to have a personal vehicle that can fly and go many places. What I have in mind is something like the DeLorean in Back to the Future, so I’m doing this because I want to make it a reality.”
The engineers at Cartivator are still in the early stages of building a full-scale prototype, and a demonstration in June didn’t go so well: the prototype, which consists of four rotors and an aluminum frame, hovered in the air for several seconds before falling and getting damaged.
On top of that, Toyota’s financial support is relatively small when compared to the total $9.33 billion that it plans to invest in research and development this fiscal year.
Still, the funding could be enough to allow Cartivator, and its prototype, to take off. The company’s engineers previously stated that they needed $267,000 to make the prototype ready for a manned test flight, so Toyota’s backing will put that claim to the test.
After taking some time to tweak the design and the vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) system, Cartivator’s engineers plan to perform a remote test flight in July 2018 and a manned test flight by the end of 2018. If those trials go well, they hope to start selling SkyDrive to the public in 2023 and mass produce it by 2030.
If all goes as planned, the finished product will be able to fly 100 kilometers per hour at an altitude of 10 meters, while also being able to drive up to 150 kilometers per hour on land. In addition, the three-wheel vehicle will be 2.9 meters long, 1.3 meters wide, and 1.1 meters tall, which Cartivator claims will make it the world’s smallest flying car.
The company’s roughly 30 engineers — all of whom work on a volunteer basis — have a long road to the finish line, but Nakamura says Toyota’s support has increased interest in their project.
“More than 100 newcomers are applying [to] the team, about ten new companies or individuals [are] offering sponsorship, and [an] uncountable amount of media offers are coming our way,” Nakamura said.
But even with the surge in popularity, Cartivator will be facing some tough competition. While SkyDrive is still revving its engine, other personal vehicles are ready for liftoff.
So when will the technology be ready? That’s anyone’s guess, but the 2020 Olympics still seem like a longshot for SkyDrive. Cartivator’s engineers have to walk before they can run. Or, in SkyDrive’s case, it has to hover before it can fly.