By on June 5, 2017

Cartivator sky drive, image: Cartivator

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 purchased Cartivator Resource Management in the hopes that its “flying car” expertise will yield a vehicle capable of lighting the torch 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 fiery disaster. 

Cartivator’s current project essentially involves aluminum scaffolding attached to eight propellers. It’s an uncooperative and suicidal drone that manages to hover a few feet off the ground before immediately crashing to the pavement — 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 “Sky Drive,” and Cartivator hopes the investment will provide the means to move the project along. The team’s lead, Tsubasa Nakamura, told The Associated Press the company wants to provide a vehicle offering seamless transition between driving and flight, à la “Back to the Future.”

“I always loved planes and cars. And my longtime dream was to have a personal vehicle that can fly and go many places,” said Nakamura.

While the company looks to have an incredibly long way to go before Sky Drive goes anywhere, vertical takeoff would set it apart from literally every other “flying car” milling around in development hell. 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, 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-categorize 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]

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13 Comments on “Shenanigans: Toyota’s ‘Flying Car’ Doesn’t Fly and Isn’t a Car...”

  • avatar

    So it’s basically the Naked Lunch of vehicles.

  • avatar

    I’m reminded of Linda Richman (Mike Myers SNL) in Coffee Talk:

    “I’m a little verklempt.”

    “Talk amongst yourselves.”

    “Grape-Nuts – it contains neither grapes, nor nuts. Discuss.”

    “Toyota’s flying car is neither a car nor does it fly.”

  • avatar

    Yes, building a vehicle that combines and airplane and a car is not hard enough, let’s through VTOL capability into it as well.

    If you want something besides an open frame, you are probably talking about a gas turbine and resulting high fuel consumption; a piston engine coupled with an enclosed body would be too heavy.

    Terrafuga is working on the same thing, but it is much more developed than this thing; it is the TF-X:

    There have been, and are others.

  • avatar

    Put some tires around the prop guards, make them rotate. Would be pretty cool if the props can turn sideways to fly, then turn vertical to drive.

  • avatar

    As long as the number of kids reaching adulthood, and with it the number of “Toyota grade” engineering grads, keeps up it’s freefall; the only way to recruit any of the endangered snowflakes, is to allow each and every one of them to do whatever the heck he wants. No matter how crazy and seemingly uneconomical. Blindly hoping that they either hit wild home runs, or eventually come back down to boring old earth, from whatever flying hydrogen powered scifi fantasy they currently prefer to remain stuck in.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I think the future of urban air transit will be with the use of rechargeable 4 rotor autonomous drones all managed via an Uber style business model.

  • avatar
    Glenn Mercer

    I’m biased, but I like this one: (make sure to watch the YouTube video showing actual flying and driving, just search Aeromobil)

  • avatar

    Assume for moment they do build a flying car that hovers…think through the problem how does one keep a flame burning among the downdraft of four propellers. Flares are not an option considering bringing the original flame from distant shore.

  • avatar

    Urban Aero’s AirMule ducted fan drone could probably already do the job.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Agreed on the “flying car” terminology. Regulators will never allow millions of unwashed pilots to buzz around each other, around power lines, around bedroom windows, or around public events just to name a few.

    As for this Toyota investment, I’m just not seeing it. The other products mentioned above show much more promise.

    Minor nit: That “aluminum scaffolding” is known as 80/20 structural aluminum, which is a staple for everyone from garage experimenter to industrial factory layouts and robotics. It’s good stuff.

  • avatar

    “Still, based on the firm’s progress to date, we can only imagine the attempt ending in a globally broadcast fiery disaster.”

    Oooooh, that would be entertaining.

  • avatar

    Why does this thing not have auto-hover or some kind of stabilization software running? Model helicopters have it, drones have it…heck, I used to write this kind of real-time feedback-response hardware control code myself back in the dawn of of computing. If I could do it with a 6502 processor and 48K of RAM then anyone can do it. All engineers, no coders?

  • avatar

    THIS is what $ 390k gets you? F**k off…

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