Japan could be first country to approve flying cars

19 February 2019

Japan could be the first country to deploy a widely anticipated technology: flying cars.

Last year, the Japanese government established the Public-Private Conference for Future Air Mobility, a working team of government agencies and private companies assembled to stimulate the development of personal flying vehicles. One of those private companies is SkyDrive, which published the above video of its concept. In December 2018, the conference published a roadmap outlining the technological and regulatory developments that would need to occur for a commercialized air taxi industry by 2023.

According to Spectrum, that roadmap includes the first test flights later this year, although operators and dates have yet to be selected. Japan must work fast if it wants to be the first nation with a flying car concept come to life, as there are initiatives in the U.S., EU, China, Singapore and Dubai.

Several of the key technologies for flying cars - including electric motors, batteries and navigation systems - are already well-developed thanks to the autonomous autos industry. The flying vehicles in development in Japan are all vertical take-off and landing models, roughly the size of a regular car, with room for two passengers.

Japanese officials expect these flying taxis to proliferate in phases. First, pilots would be responsible for transporting cargo, not passengers, between landing pads. Eventually, human passenger tests would commence once the technology is deemed safe enough. Additionally, these services would first service Japan’s mountain communities, where terrain makes land travel difficult and potential crashes would have a small chance of injuring bystanders. Eventually, the conference expects these flying vehicles to be autonomous and operate in a wide variety of environments, including cities.

In the meantime, the government continues to explore how licensing and regulations for the vehicles would work, while business partners research how to make the technology more reliable and scalable.

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