Flying cars, a staple in sci-fi cities dreamed of in the past, are finally coming in the 2020s.
In August 2018, Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism succeeded in implementing flying cars in society, setting up a public-private council for fostering the new industry. Tomohiro Fukuzawa is the young owner of SkyDrive, a startup company that develops flying cars. He was selected to collaborate with executives from major airlines and aircraft manufacturers to achieve their dream of flying cars.
After graduating from the University of Tokyo, Fukuzawa began developing flying cars as part of a volunteer group while working for the Toyota Motor Corporation. He founded SkyDrive in July 2018, making it the first Japanese private company to achieve a 4-minute manned car flight in August 2020. Although China's Ehang and Germany's Volocopter are leading the development of flying cars, Fukuzawa's SkyDrive, along with its volunteer group predecessor, is in hot pursuit of their movements, achieving manned flight in less than three years.
Fukuzawa is aiming for the practical use of eVTOL-type (electric vertical takeoff and landing) two-seater flying cars. It's not exactly a car, technically speaking, since it has no tires and cannot run on the ground. However, Fukuzawa figuratively calls it a car since it was built as a vehicle for everyday use. Its noise, maneuverability, and price are closer to that of an automobile than an aircraft. SkyDrive is currently developing a miniature-sized air-vehicle capable of fitting two parking spaces. It's also equipped with an attitude control automation mechanism, making it usable even with an ordinary driver's license.
Fukuzawa is in a position of gathering talented engineers, directing air-vehicle development, and leading the social implementation of flying cars in Japan. He's also participating in Japan's development of infrastructure and regulations. In July 2020, the Japanese government started aiming for a personnel transportation service in rural areas by 2023, to be expanded for urban use afterward. SkyDrive will be launching an experimental air taxi service to fly in bay areas in 2023, with its sights set on mass air-vehicle production in 2028.
Fukuzawa is advocating for a better lifestyle through flying cars, shortening travel time in urban areas, speeding up emergency patient transportation, and creating new tourism resources through scenic flights. Aside from this, he also envisions the revival of Japan's manufacturing industry. Fukuzawa, who began with Toyota, has a close relationship with small and medium sized manufacturing companies. He believes that flying cars will act as the catalyst for reactivating the stagnant Japanese technical manufacturing industry, just as its automobile industry once grew and swept the world. "I'll make this Japanese hardware startup a success and revitalize the Japanese manufacturing industry," says a determined Fukuzawa.