According to AutoGuide, Toyota Engineering and Manufacturing North America (TEMA) has filed a patent for a novel flying car concept. The drawings accompanying the application show what looks like a scaled-up quadcopter, each rotor powered by its own electric motor with a cabin of sufficient size to carry passengers. In road-going mode the rotors swivel sideways through ninety degrees and the blades retract inside a hub which become wheels. A conventional steering linkage is not required because the vehicle’s direction will be controlled by adjusting the power independently to each the rotor/wheel motor.

Toyota flying car concept seen from above. image: AutoGuide

The patent states that the motors can be powered from battery-packs, a gas turbine generator, hydrogen fuel cell or any other suitable energy conversion system. The history of the flying car can be traced way back to the Curtiss Autoplane, unveiled in 1917. Many of the designs have failed to leave the drawing board let alone terra firma. Given the capability of current-day computer control systems, GPS and collision-avoidance measures, it is conceivable that such a vehicle could probably fly more safely without any manual input from a pilot, especially in poor weather conditions with limited visibility and gusting winds. In the old days the flying-car driver would also be obliged to hold a pilots licence before taking to the skies.

It’s clear that the first working prototype is still a long way off but the patent contains a number of interesting ideas. Toyota is not the only carmaker experimenting with flying cars, Porsche and Audi are also working on similar concepts.