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Toyota goes back to the future


13th Oct 2015

There is no doubt that this month is a big month for any child of the eighties. Huge. In fact, it’s a big month for any fan of the eighties (unlikely), or of eighties films (far more likely). All those years spent waiting and the day is finally upon us. Yes, Wednesday, 21st October 2015 is Back To The Future day.

When Back To The Future: Part II was released in 1989, the 2015 it depicted may have seemed a long way off. Now the future is here. In addition to a mind-bending plot tackling deeply philosophical questions relating to determinism and causality, the film also featured a host of gadgets and technological predictions, many of which have proved surprisingly accurate. For example, the commonplace use of video conferencing, flat screen TVs, and mobile payments – although being fired by fax might come as a surprise to most of us. But where are the self-drying clothes, self-tying shoes and, more importantly, where’s my hoverboard?

Hollywood promised us a cool 2015. (Rehydrated pizza, anyone?) You would be forgiven for being disappointed.

Until now…enter, Toyota.

US2015246720

The illustration above is taken from Toyota’s US patent application, US 2015246720, which was published in September.

The application is directed to a “stackable wing for an aerocar” and features wings with “bistable” lower surfaces that are moveable from a deployed shape (as shown above) to a stowed shape in which each lower surface nests against the upper surface of the wing below. According to the disclosure, the extent to which the stack is extended or retracted can be varied to provide a variable amount of lift “for specific flight operations such as takeoff, landing and cruise”.

Aside from sticking wings on the roof, the application is a little light on any discussion as to how a car might otherwise become an “aerocar”. For example, the power system (referenced 16 in the figure above) is described as taking a variety of possible forms, including “internal combustion engines, gas turbines, distributed electric propulsion systems or other energy conversion devices” (no mention of Mr Fusion Home Energy Reactors), and delivering power in flight mode to a propulsor system (18) which may be “a pusher propeller, open rotor, turbofan, or other thrust generation system”. Clearly, the finer details may need ironing out. As might the styling. Nevertheless, it is exciting to think that companies such as Toyota have not given up on the idea of flying cars, even if we have.

Yes, the road to development of such a car might be a long one. But roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads.

This article is for general information only. Its content is not a statement of the law on any subject and does not constitute advice. Please contact Reddie & Grose LLP for advice before taking any action in reliance on it.

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