Well, it’s official. Toyota, maker of the Camry, Corolla, Sienna, and other vehicles that are mistaken for household appliances, has lost its damn mind. It’s become the automotive equivalent of that weird uncle at Thanksgiving, the one who used to really be on top of things, but now talks to himself so much that it’s at the point where you wonder if you should really try the cranberry sauce he brought. Yeah, you know the one.
Over the past year, Toyota has attempted to make the Camry more exciting, which we’re told somehow involved B.B. King (R.I.P), and blowing up the Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge. And to show that it’s interested in more than making a car in a dying segment slightly more exciting than a teeth cleaning, it released the Mirai, a car designed to to revolutionize the hydrogen-powered segment in the same way the Prius revolutionized the hybrid segment some 15 years before. But the Mirai costs $57,000, hydrogen stations aren’t exactly on every corner, and it’s looks can best be described as “not for the feint of heart.” So in an effort to close the gap between its two most visible forays into alternative fuels, this week it unveiled the 2016 Prius, which has gone from “so boring I didn’t even notice it” to a more Mirai-like “holy crap, why does that mid-’90s Peugeot have tailfins?”
If that were all Toyota was up to, it might not be so bad. After all, it showed restraint with the redesigned Land Cruiser, and overall, we liked the 2016 Tacoma pickup just fine. It’s been working with BMW on what’s rumored to be an all-new Supra based on the incredible looking 2014 FT-1 concept car, and trying to regain its World’s Largest Automaker title from Volkswagen. It all sounds like business as usual, until you find out that Toyota wigged out again and just filed a patent for a flying car. Suddenly it hits you: it just might be time to put old Toyota in a home before it hurts itself.
Now, this may be an unfair reaction by us towards Toyota. After all, if Honda said it was working on a flying car, that’d be no problem. It’s got the Asimo robot, the HondaJet, and an entire linuep of self-propelled lawnmowers too. Honda’s a shoo-in for a wacky idea like this. Or how about Mercedes? The Germans love wacky vehicles, take the F300 Life Jet trike, the Bionic Car concept, and the Unimog. But no, this came from Toyota, the company that makes America’s best-selling midsize and compact sedans and minivan, which each come in several lovely shades of silver, gray, and beige.
With the assistance of two outside designers, Toyota patented its wing section for an “Aerocar,” which could be propelled through the air by things “such as a pusher propeller, open rotor, turbofan, or other thrust generation system in flight mode.” The “car” in “Aerocar” here looks a lot like a Prius – the one currently at dealerships, not the new one that Toyota asked two kids in the “Chill Out” tent at Bonnaroo to design.
As an aircraft, the design wouldn’t be so unusual if it were designed about 100 years ago. Four stackable wings are mounted on the roof, and can be raised and lowered at will. There’s no word on a wingspan for the Quadruplane/Aerocar/Prius, but the three lower wings are actuated to adjust lift, and to stow easier when it’s not in flight.
To be fair, automakers patent wacky ideas all the time, so they can stake a claim if the tech ever takes off in the future (sorry, couldn’t resist). But the idea of a flying car from Toyota is just too bonkers to ignore. We just hope wacky endeavors like these are enough for Toyota to get its ya-yas out before it reveals a mind-bendingly great new Supra. And if for some reason Toyota’s flying car does see production and catches on, this article is going to make us look really, really stupid.
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