For decades, we've been teased mercilessly about the arrival of flying cars. Popular Mechanics covers from yesteryear have inundated us with those aeronautical vehicles, while pop culture's visions of a commute through cumulous clouds manifested themselves in everything from Jetsons cartoons to sci-fi flicks like Blade Runner and The Fifth Element.
Granted, the technology's available, but bureaucracy and regulation have waylaid those aspirations. Now, according to Financial Post, the government of Japan has high hopes of helping design a craft designed to take urban transportation to the next level.
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The Japanese government has partnered with such corporate bigwigs as All Nippon Airways, NEC Corp to have such a vehicle become available by the time the 2020 Summer Olympics hits Tokyo, where it's anticipated a model will fly up to light the torch during the event's opening ceremonies.
The dream of the government is to create a car that operates like a drone that enables smartphone users to book a flight and wait for departures and arrivals on rooftops. The craft would be powered by a battery, just like most smaller-scale drones on the market today. Once functional, these cars, frequently referred to as EVtol (electric vertical takeoff and landing) craft, would go a long way towards cutting down on road traffic congestion, parking lot hassles and reducing emissions into the atmosphere.
“This is such a totally new sector Japan has a good chance for not falling behind,” said government official and project head Fumiaki Ebihara, who didn't reveal the monetary value of such an investment. “Up to now, it was just a dream, but with innovations in motors and batteries, it’s time for it to become real.”
To more cynical experts, the notion of flying cars is still a pipe dream, namely issues concerning public safety, as more people on the ground will be at risk should one of those vehicles crash. With no geographic roads to speak of, there's the matter of how to regulate air traffic of this sort. Then there's the concern about creating batteries powerful enough for EVtols to do their job, additional noise and the costs of maintaining the craft.
Tesla and Space X magnate Elon Musk has already gone on record stating that EVtols simply aren't realistic right now, adding that a helicopter on wheels would be more practical. However, that's not stopping other developers like Google, Volkswagen, and even Toyota investing in their own versions of the flying car.
And if those sky-high obstacles are overcome, chances are a flying car industry could emerge in ways that not even the Jetsons could have imagined.