We need to have a candid discussion about flying cars. Automobiles and airplanes entered into the mainstream around the same time, and we’ve talked about combining them into a singular platform ever since. While nobody has successfully pulled it off, we keep acting like the technology is right around the corner. The closest we’ve gotten are the Terrafugia Transition and Pal-V One. However, both of those products make major on-road sacrifices, undergo a pre-flight metamorphosis, and require regular access to a runway. They’re still not representative of anything we’d consider a real car.
Lack of success hasn’t stopped automakers from dabbling in the field of aviation. Toyota has purchasedÂ Cartivator Resource Management in the hopes that its “flying car” expertise will yield a vehicle capable of lighting the torchÂ at the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo. Still, based on the firm’s progress to date, we can only imagine the attempt ending in a globally broadcast fieryÂ disaster.Â
Cartivator’s current project essentially involves aluminum scaffolding attached to eight propellers. It’s anÂ uncooperative and suicidal drone that manages to hover a few feet off the ground before immediately crashing to the pavementÂ â€” and the company wants someone to pilot it above a flaming cauldron in just a few years.
Toyota has invested 42.5 million yen ($386,000) into the startup for work on its â€œSky Drive,â€� and Cartivator hopes the investment will provide the means to move the project along. The team’s lead,Â Tsubasa Nakamura, told TheÂ Associated PressÂ the company wants to provide a vehicle offering seamless transitionÂ between driving and flight, Ã la “Back to the Future.”
â€œI always loved planes and cars. And my longtime dream was to have a personal vehicle that can fly and go many places,â€� said Nakamura.
While the company looks to have an incredibly long way to go before Sky Drive goes anywhere,Â vertical takeoff would set it apart from literally every other “flying car” milling around in development hell.Â But it doesn’t currently have wheels, a roof, or a seat for the exceedingly brave pilot this giant quadcopter is supposed to cart around.
Even if it could be made safe,Â Cartivator’s ultimate goal for the project wouldn’t result in something you’d ever be able to call a car. Members of the Sky Drive team have suggested the vehicle should one day be capable of flight, with a maximum ceiling of around 30 feet.
Automakers, please stop calling these objects flying cars. Media outlets, please stop acting like this technology is anywhere near mainstream acceptance. What we have now are roadworthy aircraft and that’s likely all we’ll see for the foreseeable future. Regulators would never allow for deafeningly loud, open-prop vehicles capable of three-dimensional mobility and the autonomous technology needed to make them safe doesn’t exist.
Re-categorizeÂ them as mobility solutions, single-occupant flight systems, or whatever the hell else you want to call them. But please stop referring to them as “flying cars” because we’re calling shenanigans.[Image: Cartivator Resource Management]