NEC Unveils Flying Car Prototype in Japan, Hovers 10 Feet Above Ground for a Minute in Public Test

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It’s like “Back to the Future,” but real: a prototype of a flying car hovered 10 feet above the ground for about a minute in Japan on Monday.

Designed for autonomous delivery flights, the early prototype looks more like a large drone than a typical car. Made by NEC, a global technology company based in Tokyo, it’s battery-powered with four propellers and designed for self-flying deliveries. According to news reports, the vehicle hovered about 10 feet off the ground inside a cage without passengers at a company facility in Abiko, Japan, a Tokyo suburb.

“We at NEC believe that a revolution of travel centred on flying cars will occur,” NEC Corporation Vice President Norihiko Ishiguro told the Associated Press. “When that time comes, we want to provide technology and services as a management base.”

The technology still has a few kinks to work out, like 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 ‘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.”

The Japanese government has already built a test course for flying cars in Fukushima, a site that hit 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 by the 2030s, Ishiguro told the Associated Press.

It’s the latest development in the global race to create autonomous flying vehicles, which also includes Uber, Airbus, Volocopter and Boeing.

© The Washington Post 2019

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