Toyota is working on a "flying car." The AP reports the startup backed by the Japanese automaker has developed a test model that engineers hope will eventually develop into a tiny car with a driver who'll be able to light the Olympic torch in the 2020 Tokyo Games. For now, the project is a concoction of aluminum framing and eight propellers that barely gets off the ground and crashes after several seconds. Toyota has invested some $386,000 in startup Cartivator Resource Management to work on "Sky Drive." At a test flight Saturday, a car-size machine loaded with batteries and sensors rose to eye level for several seconds before tilting and falling to the ground. Basketballs attached to its bottom served as cushions. The goal is to deliver a seamless transition from driving to flight, a la Back to the Future, says project leader Tsubasa Nakamura.
"I always loved planes and cars. And my longtime dream was to have a personal vehicle that can fly and go many places," he says. The group is now working on a better design with the money from Toyota, with the plan to have the first manned flight in 2019. In recent years, Toyota has aggressively pursued ventures into robotics and artificial intelligence, investing a billion dollars in a research and development company in Silicon Valley. It's also working in Japan on using robotics to help the sick walk. The idea that each generation must take up challenges is part of Toyota's roots, one analyst says. That extends to the water, with Toyota recently giving reporters a test ride on a Lexus luxury concept "yacht," which runs on two gas engines. With a design inspired by a dolphin and evocative of a Lexus car, the boat is expected on the market in the next few years. (Read more Toyota stories.)