Toyota is backing a flying car project that developers hope could be used to kick off the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with a certain high-tech flair. The massive automaker is investing 40 million yen (US$354,000) in SkyDrive, a drone-like compact flying car designed by a group of Toyota employees in their spare time. The goal is to have the vehicle ready to go in time to light the torch at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo games.

SkyDrive is being developed by a group called Cartivator, with a few dozen members who donate their time. So far, development of the vehicle has relied on crowdfunding and other donations, as the group works toward creating a prototype and conducting its first manned test flight sometime next year.

Toyota's contribution will be stretched out over three years to help reach the goal of lighting the Olympic torch.

The SkyDrive concept is a small, one-seated craft flanked on each corner by large propellers, giving the vehicle the appearance of an oversized quadcopter, which it basically is. This is different from many other flying car concepts of the moment like AeroMobil's design, which is essentially a road-ready car with wings that unfold to convert the vehicle into a small plane.

Cartivator says SkyDrive will measure 9.5 feet (2.9 m) long by 4.3 feet (1.3 m) wide by only 3.6 feet (1.1 m ) tall. The team is touting it as the world's smallest flying car, apparently considering this to be a key advantage.

Target top speed will be 93 mph (150 km/h) and steering will be "intuitive," according to an early spec sheet.

The Cartivator team says its vision is to create a world where anyone can fly to their destinations on demand without need of airports or runways, by 2050. We've heard of similar concepts from the likes of Jetpack pioneer David Mayman, who envisions vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) craft leap-frogging self-driving cars to become the personal transport of choice in coming years.

Following the public demonstration at the 2020 Olympics, the group hopes to begin public sales of SkyDrive in 2023.

Sources: Nikkei Asian Review, Cartivator

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