Sunday 18th April 2021

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  • Japan’s flying cars: Future or fantasy?


    This summer, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) stated intentions to allocate about 40 million U.S. dollars of the 2019 METI budget to support flying car technology. 

    It also organized a task force of 21 companies from aviation, automotive, and information technology sectors to help Japan catch up with other international flying car competitors.

    The amount of money allocated is relatively limited, but it has focused industry and investors’ attention on the race to make flying cars more than a fantasy. 

    Emerging from the score of government-led flying car companies is a scrappy start-up “Cartivator.”


    Cartivator representative director Tomohiro Fukuzawa describes his team of about 100 flying car enthusiasts, both volunteers and paid, “Some of the members (are) from airplane companies, some from helicopter companies, some from car companies, and some from drone companies.”

    Cartivator has received roughly 375,000 U.S. dollars in support from Toyota Motors to get their dreams off the ground, but Cartivator has a way to go if their 2.9-meter “SkyDrive” single person flying car, still in development, is really to achieve their dream of carrying a pilot to light the Tokyo 2020 Olympics’ ceremonial flame cauldron.


    Fukuzawa said that Cartivator’s project extends beyond technology, taking on global transportation rules and norms. “Mobility itself won’t make the city different. Infrastructure, or electricity – many things are needed for a flying car world. For example, zoning is not only a Japanese problem but also a worldwide problem. So, now we and the other countries get together to make new rules or new infrastructure for better flying car business and a flying car world.”

    While Tokyo’s futuristic architecture may look ready-made for flying cars, more safety measures will need to be put in place before flying cars can become a reality for commuters. 

    Current designs for flying cars are frequently based on drone technology, which lacks the gliding flight stability of wing-based aircraft. Functional failure could not only result in the death of the passengers but also the people on the ground. 



    Aviation critic and former Japan Airlines pilot Hiroyuki Kobayashi also envisions the arrival of flying cars, with appropriate controls in place. 

    “Flying cars can be achieved, but of course regulation is important. Ensuring the safety of flying cars is a requirement for widespread use. Without proper regulation, many accidents will occur,” warned Kobayashi.

    On the future prospects for flying cars and the requisite legal framework to incorporate them into daily life, Kobayashi remains positive, if cautious, “I think that flying cars have a future and the technology for them will develop further and further.  Regulations always follow technology. The key to the success of flying cars is the proper balance of regulations with the technology.”

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