Toyota plans to invest more than $350,000 in a fledgling Japanese startup that hopes to develop a practical flying car.
Nikkei Asian Review reports that numerous young Toyota engineers already work on the project in their free time. The automaker reportedly decided to get involved as it dramatically steps up its spending on next-generation technologies.
The startup, called Cartivator, was born in 2012 when Tsubasa Nakamura won a business contest; the project now includes about 30 people.
Its initial designs show a craft with four horizontal propellers that would allow it to take off vertically. Company officials hope to test a prototype with a human driver by the end of next year and commercialize a flying car by the time Tokyo hosts the 2020 Summer Olympics.
Although Cartivator received some additional help from a Tokushima University engineer and the founder of GungHo Online Entertainment, it is largely financed via crowdfunding.
Toyota follows numerous other prominent companies and investors taking an interest in the potential of personal aircraft. Company chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada, a person familiar with the matter told Nikkei, determined that "things will not progress if you wait and provide money only when the technology is ready."