Market Watch: Flying Cars

Concept of Skydriver

Concept of Skydriver

The idea of flying cars had always existed in modern fantasy and sci-fi genre literature; most of us have some impressions of flying cars via films like Harry Potter and Star Wars. In reality, there are always been predictions written in technology articles with titles like “There will be flying cars in 20___” since decades ago. The public always seemed they will never lose their interests at flying cars. Overall, it is an awesome concept and everyone would want to fly away when they are waiting in a long congestion.

At the moment, there are multiple companies that are working on this technology. Companies like Uber, European aircraft maker Airbus, and Chinese drone company Ehang are developing flying cars. Nevertheless, Toyota wanted to step into the game and have their names flying in the air, they are hoping they can showcase their product by the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Overall, all of these companies’ concepts and prototypes reveal that what’s called “flying cars” will be like drones that can roll on the ground more than cars that can fly.

In May 2017, Toyota announced that they are developing a flying car project and it will be prepared for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. That flying car will be used to light the Olympic flame. Toyota invested 40 million yen (about $365,700) and offered assistants from its mechanical engineers to Cartivator to initiate this project. In addition, Cartivator is receiving money from online crowdfunding. They are expecting that people can fly their product Skydriver anytime and anywhere by 2050. Cartivator is a Japanese volunteer group located in Aichi, Japan, consisting of young volunteers who work in the automotive and the aviation industries. Their mission statement is “Connecting dreams to the next generation through mobility.” At the moment, they are prototyping and establishing a theory of flight control, and forming alliances with major corporations. 

According to Cartivator, the Skydriver will be 2.9 meters (~9.5 feet) long, 1.3 meters (~4.265 feet) wide, and 1.1 meters (~3.61 feet) tall. The startup also set a goal of achieving the maximum flying speed at 100km/hr (~62.14 miles/hr) when it is about 10 meters (~32.81 feet) above the ground. When this vehicle is driving on the ground, it should reach about 150km/hr (about 93.21 miles/hr). In addition, Cartivator claims that this will be the world’s smallest flying car, it can take off from public roads, and is able to have intuitive operation. 

Test flight of prototype

Besides the cool looking appearance and innovative features of flying cars, there will be more legislation and infrastructure works for this new release technology if it is going to become a product for the masses. Like any consumer technology, it will be likely only being luxuries for the wealthy, as only the rich and powerful were able to afford the original automobile in the late 19th century. Then, the price of the flying cars will drop when there are mass production of flying cars and more people will be able to own flying cars. By that time, there will be countless of iterations, optimizations, and innovations within flying car technology. Nevertheless. with fewer cars on the road, it will be very likely that less congestion will occur. 

We will also need to look forward to the development team's method of fueling these futuristic automobiles. Will they be battery? Nuclear energy? Solar energy? The same old fossil fuel? How much gas emission will one flying car produce? How long can it last? And importantly, what happen if it is running low energy and it is in the mid-air?

After when the flying cars are mass produced and released in the market, the first thing consumers will need to learn is to know how to operate this machine. If it is controlled or semi-controlled by humans, there will be training before operating this machine can commence. As everyone needed to learn how to drive before having their driving license, there will mostly likely going to be a “non-commercial pilot flying license.” If it is fully controlled and operated by the drone and the driver will only need to fill in the destination, can its software security system protect itself from malicious hackers, and how much can the driver customize their vehicle?

Meanwhile, new traffic laws, regulations, and infrastructures will be implemented. Since the time when automobiles became popular, new roads, traffic lights, and traffic laws were implemented to avoid congestion and accidents. Will there be aerial traffic lights and policemen? The danger of a drunk flying car driver in air would be more server than a regular drunk driver on land. Drunk driving is always a problem that causes tragedy that takes away lives. However, for drunk drivers in the air, it is possible for them to collide onto buildings, poles, transmission towers, or any tall, futuristic infrastructures. In addition, collision of flying cars can cause serious impacts on the ground when they drop from the sky. 

In conclusion, this technology is still in development. It will still take decades to fulfill this fantasy/sci-fi concept. Even for the optimistic Cartivator, they only plan to sell flying cars at 2023, and mass producing these flying cars globally in 2030-2040 if every previous milestone is achieved successfully. Then, there will be laws and regulations regarding to this new technology before the future can fully roll (or should I say fly) in.