Japanese car manufacturer Toyota seems to have made a good investment in the second quarter of 2017. This is because Cartivator, the startup company Toyota decided to fund, flew a test model for the flying car it is developing.
The test model is still currently only a basic set of aluminum frames and propellers, and it can only fly up to eye-level for a few seconds before gravity wins over, but it is still a good achievement for a group of volunteer engineers and car experts who work on it on weekends.
"I always loved planes and cars. And my longtime dream was to have a personal vehicle that can fly and go many places," Cartivator project leader Tsubasa Nakamura said.
Cartivator plans to unveil the concept model of its flying car, dubbed "Skydrive," in July and continue development. One of the company's earlier goals is to fly Skydrive during the torch lighting ceremony at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and, since Toyota gave $385,000 (42.5 million yen) funding for the project in May, Cartivator may just achieve it.
"Toyota's business is centered on mobility, anything that moves, including people, things, money, information, energy," auto analyst Takaki Nakanishi said.
The project began in 2012 when Cartivator won a business contest but it wasn't until 2014 when development of Skydrive actually began. By July 2014, Nakamura and his colleagues successfully flew a 1/5 scale prototype model of the flying vehicle.
The startup presented its idea to the public through Zenmono, a Japanese crowdfunding site, and successfully raised 2.6 million yen ($23,550) to begin development. From December 2014 up to the present, Cartivator has partnered with associate professors from Tokushima and Nagoya Universities and held team camps in order to discuss and refine its vision for Skydrive.
Now that Toyota is backing its project, Cartivator is already working on an even better and more streamlined design for Skydrive, which is actually in line with the company's mission.
"The origin of CARTIVATOR comes from idea that we would like to be a CULTIVATOR who is producing excited experiences with a car (CAR)," the site explains.
Thanks to Toyota and its affiliated companies, Skydrive will finally transform from a bulky aluminum frame and propeller model to the futuristic "Back to the Future" inspired vehicle Cartivator wants it to be. Both current and concept design can be seen below.
Cartivator plans for a first remote controlled demonstration in July 2018 and a manned test drive and flight in January 2019. If successful, the 2020 Olympic torch lighting is next in the agenda, as well as mass production and first public sale by 2023.