Is Toyota’s Aerocar a Glimpse of the Future?

Automaker focusing on flying efficiencies.

Toyota Aerocar
A patent filing by Toyota shows what the aerocar might look like.U.S. Patent Office

While critics have, for decades, scoffed at the idea of flying cars, that attitude is beginning to change. Toyota jumped into the flying-car arena by filing a patent for a “shape morphine fuselage for an aerocar” in 2014. The giant autobuilder claims the new aerocar will easily morph from a road-hugging automobile to an airborne vehicle.

According to a story in last week's Daily Mail, the car in the 2014 patent will use a tensile skin stretched between flexible wing members to hide the wings beneath the fuselage, similar to how birds fold theirs until they're needed. In another Toyota patent awarded last fall called a "stackable wing for an aerocar," the wings unfold one at a time from a panel beneath the roof before locking themselves in place for flight.

Toyota’s patent language said the aerocar might require “physical trade-offs in design in order to facilitate operations in both the land mode and the flight mode.” In other words, Toyota’s design will focus on superior aerodynamics, low drag and vehicle stability over a comfortable cabin. While the aerocar’s power plant hasn’t yet been named, the design does call for a single propeller attached to the rear bumper, although precisely how the prop will focus enough energy from the unknown power plant to generate takeoff power is still a mystery.