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Toyota Investigating Hovercars 186

Posted by Soulskill
from the would-go-great-on-michigan's-pockmarked-roads dept.
cartechboy writes: Remember back in the day when we all thought we'd be driving flying cars in the future? Well that clearly didn't happen, though it still might in the future. But somewhere inside Toyota there's a team of engineers who think hover cars might be a thing, and apparently there's a project underway at one of Toyota's "most advanced" research and development areas. We aren't talking Jetson's flying car, more like a car that merely hovers "a little bit away" from the road. Probably a few inches, with the aim to reduce road friction. With no wings or ridiculous speed, this is probably no simple process. No one really knows how long Toyota has been working on the idea, or how far along it is. Basically, don't expect flying Priuses any time soon...
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Toyota Investigating Hovercars

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  • by nimbius (983462) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @08:32AM (#47211095) Homepage
    call me a fogey but we cant handle flying cars and we certainly cant begin to handle hovering ones either.

    Here in america you need look no further than your local road to confirm my assertion. just drive to lunch today and count how many people change lanes without a signal, make an illegal left across two lanes of opposing traffic, run red lights, cut eachother off, and tailgate. We're a fucking mess. On the highways every single vehicle routinely travels 15 miles or more above the speed limit, even though we've had reliable cruise control thats far superior to our own clumsy right foot for more than 3 decades. Drivers are glued to their phones or face down in the texting position for the majority of their commute. We're horrible at looking ahead and predicting when traffic will stop, instead choosing to slam on our brakes and let the other guy do his best to stop. Although every drivers manual reads we should slow down if someone wants to merge into our lane, we instinctually speed up or ignore them. Try an experiment: go the speed limit in the center lane of the highway and see how many furious drivers pound their horns and flash their headlights. Better yet, try driving in the left lane on a road that isnt limited access, a speed limit something around 35mph, and see how many people completely lose their minds despite the fact that what youre doing is entirely legal. And speed? The only time speed factors into any collision in america is when its fatal, and even then its only if the wreckage is catastrophic or the occupant a celebrity. We wrecklessly whip across 3 lanes of traffic and insist on maintaining our lead regardless of how congested the roads are. We categorically ignore speed limits in a construction zone despite a quad-damage boost to any citation received. We race along at all hours of day and in all seasons as if a collision would have no consequences to us, because we're all we think of.

    The best innovation in automobiles has been to autonomize them, but compared to things like rail even an autonomous car is laughably inefficient and merely perpetuates a host of systemic and unsustainable problems related to automobiles nonetheleast of which is climate change.
  • Re:aka (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CastrTroy (595695) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @08:38AM (#47211137) Homepage
    I'm not sure why a person would want a hovercraft for general use. It's way more efficient to just have car that rolls on wheels. Lifting the entire car off the ground with a cushion of air is terribly inefficient. Not that there aren't any uses at all, but as a general purpose vehicle on public roadways, it seems like a terrible idea.
  • Re:aka (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tx (96709) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @08:57AM (#47211297) Journal

    The trouble with those car-sized hovercraft is the turning and braking profile, which is nowhere near good enough for public roads designed for cars. Now a design something like the Aero-X [aerofex.com] hoverbike might be able to improve on that - by hovering a bit higher and tilting the entire craft, you could effectively vector a large proportion of the lift airflow for turning force, as opposed to redirecting a bit of the horizontal thrust only with a fin as with conventional hovercraft. Aerofex don't seem to make any such claims about their design though, they seem to be targeting off-road use only, and I guess turning that way might present problems for other road users/pedestrians getting hit by the airflow.

  • Re: aka (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Viol8 (599362) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @09:02AM (#47211333)

    Given 95% of resistance at motorway speeds is air resistance, not rolling resistance I'm not entirely sure how having a massive fan to create the lift and another to propel the car is going to improve fuel efficiency given how inefficient propellers are to start with.

  • by Viol8 (599362) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @09:07AM (#47211375)

    "Try an experiment: go the speed limit in the center lane of the highway and see how many furious drivers pound their horns and flash their headlights"

    Yeah , I wonder why that could be. Perhaps because some arrogant ass is blocking the lane when he's supposed to move over if the nearside lane is clear. If you want to play traffic cop go sign up and do the 2 years training, otherwise get out the fecking way.

  • Re: aka (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rmdingler (1955220) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @09:27AM (#47211515)

    Yes.

    Unless and until technology emerges that makes defying gravity much more efficient, there is no advantage (outside of the WOW factor) for using these vehicles on the highway.

    Off-road applications are a different matter.

  • Re: aka (Score:4, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday June 11, 2014 @10:23AM (#47212107) Homepage Journal

    Off-road applications are a different matter.

    Yes. A different matter entirely, as in, hovercars will never be useful in off-road applications. Unless, perhaps, they are antigravity vehicles and they are utterly unconcerned about slopes and grades. You cannot take a hovercraft up a grade of any note. Antique steam trains can ascend a steeper grade.

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