If Waymo starting the first paid robo-taxi service using driverless cars on course to launch in Phoenix later this year is an exciting example of the latest technology in the world, recent news out of Japan will be getting technophiles even more optimistic that a Jetsons-esque world is just around the corner. With tech start-ups already manufacturing prototypes of drone-style flying vehicles likely to become a new part of future ‘3D’ transport networks, Japan’s government is obviously taking developments seriously. A council has been set up to start putting in place the framework for an ‘airway code’ that will govern flying car traffic.
The 2020 Tokyo Olympics is being targeted as a showcase for the latest flying car technology Japanese companies are working on and it is thought operational vehicles could be a regular sight above the city by as soon as 2023. The council, to be convened before the end of this year, is to be formed as a public-private combination of ministry officials and representatives of the companies currently developing flying cars.
Initially, flying cars, or passenger drones, are expected to gain traction as a transport solution for mountainous areas of Japan or for those living on remote islands. They would also be a far more cost -efficient alternative to helicopters in search and rescue. However, eventually, it can be expected that they will also become a feature of futuristic 3D transport arteries it is hoped will relieve traffic congestion in major cities.
Tesla’s Elon Musk has often spoken of this 3D approach to future transport infrastructure in relation to his Boring Company’s mission to reduce the cost of boring underground tunnels for high speed trains and futuristic hyperloop lines. But 3D also logically entails transport arteries above ground level as well as under. A big advantage of flying cars is that they would not require the same kind of huge investment in infrastructure that roads, railways, metro systems or hypothetical hyperloop systems entail.
Nagoya-based Cartivator, a Japense start-up working on a flying car project commented on developments around the new council and the sector’s prospects through business director Ryutaro Mori:
“The world is increasingly urbanised and city traffic is getting worse and worse, with roads too expensive to build and maintain. In addition, a lack of road infrastructure has become a bottleneck for the economic development of developing nations. Flying cars will be one viable solution to these transportation and economic issues, getting people from point A to point B faster”.
The latest technology in the world is naturally associated with the most highly developed nations. However, the role affordable flying cars could play in developing economies where bad roads are one of the most significant obstacles to economic development is particularly fascinating,
Cartivator hopes that one of its early vehicles will be ready in time to play a key role in the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. It is pencilled in to carry the flame over its final leg to light the Olympic Torch.