Automobile

Top Toyota exec: It’s a dream of Toyoda family to build flying car

TOKYO – Japan’s Woven City, the digitally-driven town of tomorrow that Toyota Motor Corp. is building on the foothills of Mount Fuji, could be a future air hub for the country’s flying cars.

The vision for airborne offerings from the world’s biggest automaker was floated Tuesday in a presentation to local residents on the Toyota’s plans for the futuristic living laboratory.

James Kuffner, a director at Toyota Motor and the CEO of the Woven Planet subsidiary overseeing construction of Woven City, said taking flight was a passion of the founding family.

“It’s been a dream of the Toyoda family to build a flying car,” Kuffner said while outlining plans to develop the Woven City, with its mixed mobility system, green energy grid, sustainable agriculture practices and diverse population of artists, families, entrepreneurs and inventors.

“I used to watch many TV shows about flying cars, and maybe someday Woven City can become the area that introduces flying mobility to Japan and the world,” the American executive said.

Toyota is already dabbling in electric vertical take-off and landing, or eVTOL, aircraft.

It has invested in a Japanese air mobility startup called SkyDrive, and in January 2020, Toyota announced a $394 million investment into a big U.S. rival, Joby Aviation. Last month, Honda joined Toyota in the pursuit, announcing plans to commercialize its own eVOTL aircraft by 2030.

The field of electric-powered aircraft, sometimes described as “flying cars,” is increasingly being explored by global automakers, including South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Group.

Daisuke Toyoda, the son of Toyota Motor President Akio Toyoda and a senior vice president at the Woven Planet software and automated driving unit, is the executive in charge of Woven City.

Toyota broke ground on Woven City in February, and construction is progressing according to schedule despite obstacles thrown up by the COVID-19 pandemic, Kuffner said. Construction of buildings is set to begin in 2022, with the city opening sometime around 2025, he said.

Toyota Motor Corp. announced the creation of Woven City in January 2020 at CES, with scant details. But the plan is gradually being fleshed out. Autonomous driving, for example, will be a key focus of Woven City and is a central reason for building such a city in the first place.

The city will be laid out in 150-meter-by-150-meter grids with three kinds of roads. One will be dedicated to autonomous vehicles. Another will be only for pedestrians. The third will be for mixed use by pedestrians and their personal mobility devices. Some roadways will be above ground, exposed to the elements, to test mobility technologies in rain, snow, fog and sun. Others might be below ground, to fully leverage the efficiency of zipping around, rain or shine.

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