Japan’s Timeline for Flying Cars
Japan is looking to commercialize flying vehicles in the 2020s. Cartivator, a Japanese nonprofit, plans to kick things off by lighting the torch at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games with SkyDrive, its road/air quadrotor craft that uses drone technology.
In pursuit of its ambitious goal, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry recently recruited 21 businesses and organizations—including Subaru, Uber Technologies, Airbus SE, and Boeing Co.—to join its campaign to build a flying kuruma, the Japanese word for car. Each company brings value to the table: Subaru its car savvy and experience making commercial helicopters, Boeing and Airbus their autonomous eVTOL aviation technology, and Uber, the know-how to create a transportation system for consumers.
The Japanese government is keen to explore the potential benefits of flying cars for issues such as relieving traffic congestion, providing disaster relief, and improving mobility for those who live in the country’s mountainous areas and remote islands.
Japan is interested in autonomous road cars and autonomous flying vehicles because of its rapidly aging population, which is spiking the number of serious car accidents in the country. In fact, private industry and local governments have for years been trying various initiatives to convince older drivers to give up their licenses. Banks offer seniors who quit driving higher interest rates for their savings. Stores offer older customers free deliveries. And bus and taxi systems offer senior discounts.
Right now, about 27 percent of the Japanese population are seniors, according to the latest census figures. By 2035, that percentage rises to 33 percent, and then hits 40 percent by 2060. The government is hoping that autonomous mobility services will convince more of its seniors to quit driving. Japan plans to launch a self-driving car service for the Olympics, with the hopes that it can commercialize the system by 2022.