It’s like “Back to the Future,” but real: A car took flight Monday in Japan.
The prototype made by Tokyo-based NEC Corp. looks more like a large drone than typical car. The unmanned, battery-powered contraption hovered 10 feet off the ground for about a minute inside a cage at a company facility in Abiko, Japan, according to news reports.
“We at NEC believe that a revolution of travel centered on flying cars will occur,” Norihiko Ishiguro, vice president of the global technology company, told the Associated Press. “When that time comes, we want to provide technology and services as a management base.”
The technology still has a number of kinks to work out, such as battery life, safety and regulation. But the EVtol — or “electric vertical takeoff and landing” — technology is supposed to be cheaper, quieter and more accessible than helicopters, and could be used to bypass traffic in heavily congested cities, transport cargo or just offer recreational travel.
“You may think of [the 1985 film]‘Back to the Future,’” Fumiaki Ebihara, a Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry official who is overseeing the country’s development, told CBS News in 2018. “Up to now, it was just a dream, but with innovations in motors and batteries, it’s time for it to become real.”
And Japan is taking turning that dream into reality seriously, after falling behind on technological advancements like ride-hailing services and electric cars, Bloomberg reported.
The Drone Fund is a group of venture capitalists investing in the industry that covers autonomous aircraft, including flying cars. The Japanese government has already built a test course for flying cars in Fukushima, which was hit hard in 2011 by a tsunami, earthquake and nuclear accident, according to the Associated Press. It’s part of the country’s infrastructure plan to use the technology to deliver goods starting in 2023 and for everyday travel in the next decade, Ishiguro told the Associated Press.
Monday’s test flight is a first for a major Japanese corporation, Bloomberg reported, and the latest advancement in the global race to create autonomous flying vehicles, which also includes Uber, Airbus, Volocopter and Boeing.