Computer-generated image of SkyDrive. Photo Credits: Cartivator.

Published: July 18th, 2017

If you’re just getting used to the idea of autonomous cars, just wait ‘til you hear what’s next: flying cars.

Like a scene straight from Back to the Future, 15 Toyota Group companies, including Toyota Motor Corporation, have announced financial funding for Cartivator Resource Management, a Japan-based non-profit organization that is developing a flying car called SkyDrive.

Toyota’s contribution of 42.5 million yen (USD378,000) over the next three years will support the startup’s lofty goal of having SkyDrive carry the Olympic flame and fly it to the cauldron at the 2020 Summer Games opening ceremony in Tokyo.

The Cartivator team working on a SkyDrive prototype.

“Things will not progress if you wait and provide money only when the technology is ready,” Toyota chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada explains to the Nikkei Asian Review.

Cartivator says the finished product will be able to fly 100 km/h at an altitude of 10 metres, while also driving up to 150 km/h on land. The three-wheel vehicle is expected to be just under three metres long, 1.3 metres wide, and slightly over a metre tall, which would make it the world’s smallest flying car.

“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, says 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.”

Cartivator was established in 2012 and is run by a team of approximately 30 volunteer engineers and professionals involved in various startups. Beyond its Olympic hopes, the group also plans to have another remote test flight in July 2018 and a manned prototype test flight completed by the end of 2018, Nakamura says.

Testing the vehicle’s stability.

However, Cartivator’s initial demonstration in early June left much to be desired, as its prototype hovered for a few seconds before falling and damaging itself. Despite these setbacks, the group is still aiming to have a commercially viable SkyDrive ready to sell to the public in 2023 and mass produce the vehicle by 2030.

“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.”

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