In an initiative to develop flying cars, Japan is recruiting companies such as Uber Technologies Inc. and Airbus SE in a group led by the government to bring air vehicles to the country in the next decade.
The group will initially consist of 21 companies and organizations, including Boeing Co., NEC Corp., a startup supported by Toyota Motor Corp. called Cartivator, ANA Holdings Inc., Japan Airlines Co. and Yamato Holdings Co., according to a statement from the Ministry of Commerce in Tokyo that was published on Friday. The delegates meet on 29 August to help draw up a road map this year, according to the statement.
"The Japanese government will provide sufficient help to realize the concept of flying cars, such as creating acceptable standards", the ministry reported.
Flying cars that can travel on busy roads are closer to reality than many think. Startups around the world are developing small aircraft, which until recently were only in the world of science fiction. Given the fact that Japanese companies lag behind their global competitors in the development of electric vehicles and autonomous cars, the government demonstrates the urgency of air technology and has decided to intervene to facilitate legislation and infrastructure to win leadership .
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Technology, such as aviation, must obtain approvals from various supervisors that can take many years. This will only happen when the agencies set safety standards, without which passengers will not adopt the aircraft.
"It is imperative that the government takes the initiative and coordinates the adoption of safety standards"said Yasuo Hashimoto, a researcher at Japan Aviation Management Research, based in Tokyo. "They are trying to set a tone for the industry for other countries."
Japan's economy minister, Hiroshige Seko, told earlier this month that flying cars can alleviate urban traffic problems, help transport in remote islands or mountainous areas in times of disaster and can be used in the tourism sector.
Many have already had an advantage in the race. Uber, who will invest 20 million euros (US $ 23 million) over the next five years to develop flying car services in a new facility in Paris, aims to start the commercial activities of its air taxi company in 2023. Kitty Hawk, the start-up based in Mountain View, California, founded and supported by Larry Page from Google, presented a prototype aircraft in June: a recreational vehicle for one person.
Other international companies that come up with this new form of transport are Volkswagen AG, Daimler AG and the Chinese car manufacturer Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd. Japanese car manufacturers have not yet announced plans to develop flying cars.