Uber, Boeing enlisted to help Japan develop flying cars

Flying cars in Stuttgart, Germany's Porsche museum. Photo: Pixabay

Japan is making a push to develop flying cars, enlisting companies including Uber Technologies Inc. and Boeing Co. in a government-led group to bring airborne vehicles to the country in the next decade.

The group will initially comprise 21 businesses and organizations, including Airbus SE, NEC Corp., a Toyota Motor Corp.-backed startup called Cartivator, ANA Holdings Inc., Japan Airlines Co., and Yamato Holdings Co., according to a statement Friday from the trade ministry in Tokyo. Delegates will gather Aug. 29 to help chart a road map this year, it said.

“The Japanese government will provide appropriate support to help realize the concept of flying cars, such as creation of acceptable rules,” the ministry said.

Flying cars that can zoom over congested roads are closer to reality than many people think. Startups around the world are pursuing small aircraft, which were until recently only in the realm of science fiction. With Japanese companies already trailing their global peers in electric vehicles and self-driving cars, the government is showing urgency on the aircraft technology, stepping in to facilitate legislation and infrastructure to help gain leadership.

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The technology, just like aviation, would need to win approvals from several regulators that can take many years. That would also happen only when safety standards are set by agencies, without which commuters won’t embrace the flying craft.

“It’s necessary for the government to take a lead and coordinate on setting safety standards,” said Yasuo Hashimoto, a researcher at Tokyo-based Japan Aviation Management Research. “They are trying to set a tone for the industry ahead of other countries.”

Japan’s Economy Minister Hiroshige Seko told reporters this month that flying cars could ease urban traffic snarls, help transportation in remote islands or mountainous areas at times of disasters, and can be used in the tourism industry.

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Many have already had a head start in the race. Uber, which will invest 20 million euros ($23 million) over the next five years to develop flying car services in a new facility in Paris, has set a goal of starting commercial operations of its air-taxi business by 2023. Kitty Hawk, the Mountain View, California-based startup founded and backed by Google’s Larry Page, in June offered a glimpse of an aircraft prototype: a single-person recreational vehicle.

Other global companies envisioning this new form of transportation include Volkswagen AG, Daimler AG and Chinese carmaker Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd. Japanese carmakers have not yet announced their plans to develop flying cars.

Bloomberg

Singapore Reporter/s

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Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.