Ever since the early days of the Space Race, people have been eagerly expecting the introduction of flying cars into everyday life. But as the decades went by and the potential remained untapped, people started to give up on the dream. Recently, one company is out to bring that dream back – and Toyota is paying for it.
Most people know Toyota Motor Corporation as a versatile manufacturer of cars of every kind. But flying cars are one thing neither Toyota nor other major car companies have yet endeavored on their own – until now. Joby Aviation, a Santa Cruz-based company promising us all a whole new world in the sky, is currently working on a type of hexacopter that will offer a taxi-like service…and Toyota has made a $394 million (around £300m) investment into.
Joby describes their prospective flying taxi vehicle as an electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. This flying car, or eVTOL “aircraft” if we must be technical, can apparently hit 200mph and cross over a 150-mile distance on a single full charge. It is designed to seat four passengers plus a professional pilot, and is completely emissions-free – or so they’ve sworn.
And they’re planning to release both the model and a flying taxi service to go along with it by 2023.
So what’s the moral of Toyota’s input? They want to see themselves into the future, too – but they’ve still had to put a bit too much effort into keeping things up to speed in the present that this wasn’t the kind of revolutionary product their own engineers could hit the ground running with. When Joby announced their plans, Toyota saw an opportunity – to keep up the production that their many devoted customers rely on, and to help bring the future around.
In Toyota’s own words, it recognizes “the long-term potential of the urban air mobility market” and that in return for their investment, they’ll share expertise in manufacturing, quality, safety and cost controls with Joby – as well as helping with the company’s ‘strategic direction’ and is hoping to get the eVTOL into mass production.
Toyota is no longer merely a carmaker – they’re transitioning to become a “mobility company.” With one foot in the present and one foot in the future, we’ll just have to see what comes next.