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Boeing and Uber Join Japan's Flying Car Alliance

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【Summary】The inception of the flying car industry has taken an interesting turn, as governments look to capitalize on the nascent technology.

Michael Cheng    Sep 01, 2018 6:00 AM PT
Boeing and Uber Join Japan's Flying Car Alliance
author: Michael Cheng   

The inception of the flying car industry has taken an interesting turn, as governments look to capitalize on the nascent technology. Recently, the Japanese government announced a firm commitment to developing flying vehicles and incorporating the aircrafts with public transportation. 

The country's Trade and Transportation Ministry plans to call on industry leaders to streamline research and development efforts. According to a news release from Bloomberg, the group will consist of 21 organizations and companies from the following sectors: automotive, aircraft manufacturing and commercial aviation.

"The Japanese government will provide appropriate support to help realize the concept of flying cars, such as creation of acceptable rules," said Tokyo's Trade Ministry.

Flying Car Alliance

The Japanese government has listed businesses that will participate in the local flying-car alliance, including Uber, Boeing, Airbus, ANA Holdings and Cartivator (startup backed by Toyota). Delegates have already held discussions about the group's plans, which also resulted in the creation of a road map.

In order to support upcoming projects, the ministry overseeing the alliance will allocate funds to the group. For the development of flying car components, such as batteries, motors and other equipment the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry confirmed the allocation of $40.4 million (according to a report from the Japan Times).

Additionally, to create a thriving ecosystem for flying car developers, the Japanese government intends to launch a supportive regulatory environment for the companies participating in the alliance. Officials will also promote infrastructure projects to ensure developers are not held back in their abilities to innovate and test their prototypes.

"It's necessary for the government to take a lead and coordinate on setting safety standards," said Yasuo Hashimoto, a researcher at Tokyo-based Japan Aviation Management Research.

"They are trying to set a tone for the industry ahead of other countries."

Flying Car Applications in Japan

Japan is known for being technologically advanced in a myriad of sectors, from automotive to semiconductors and consumer electronics. Hence, it's no surprise that the government views flying cars as a solution to heavy traffic in urban locations. According to Hiroshige Seko, Japan's Minister of Economy, the compact aircrafts may provide low-cost methods for deliveries to remote, mountainous regions.

Seko also believes that flying cars could support emergency evacuation services for locals residing in far-flung islands. Such applications would be useful for Japan, as the country is home to numerous active volcanoes (roughly 10 percent of active volcanoes worldwide are located in the country) and have been struck by a handful of deadly earthquakes and tsunamis in the past decades.

For the tourism sector, Japan is planning to incorporate flying cars with upcoming events. Cartivator, a notable member of the country's newly established flying car alliance, is working on an aircraft (Skydrive) that will light the 2020 Olympic flame (to be held in Tokyo).

"By 2050 we aim to create a world where anyone can fly in the sky anytime and anywhere," said Cartivator.

"To realize our vision, a compact flying car is necessary with a vertical takeoff and landing technology, which do not need roads and runways to lift off."

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