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Let’s discuss flying cars

This week’s featured article

BLOOMBERG, JIJI

Japan is making a push to develop flying cars, enlisting companies including Uber Technologies Inc. and Airbus SE to join a public-private panel tasked with making airborne vehicles a Japanese reality in the next decade, people familiar with the matter say.

As part of its budget request for fiscal 2019, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said Friday it plans to seek ¥4.5 billion ($40.4 million) in funds to support private-sector development of high-performance batteries, motors and other equipment for flying cars.

The panel will draw up a road map for technological development and regulations by the end of this year. It will initially comprise about 20 companies including Boeing Co., NEC Corp., a Toyota Motor Corp.-backed startup called Cartivator, ANA Holdings Inc., Japan Airlines Co. and Yamato Holdings Co.

An Uber spokeswoman confirmed the company’s participation in the group but declined to comment further. Representatives for Airbus, Boeing, ANA, JAL, NEC, Yamato and Cartivator also declined to comment, as did those for the trade and transport ministries.

Flying cars that can zoom over congested roads are closer to reality than many people think. Startups around the world are pursuing small aircraft, which until recently existed only in the realm of science fiction.

With Japanese companies trailing their global peers in electric vehicles and self-driving cars, the government is addressing the aircraft technology with urgency, stepping in to facilitate legislation and infrastructure to help gain leadership.

METI chief Hiroshige Seko told reporters last month that flying cars could ease traffic snarls, help transportation in remote islands or mountainous areas during disasters and be used in the tourism industry.

As with aviation, the technology would need to win approval from several regulators — a process that could take years. And agencies will need to develop safety standards before commuters will embrace flying vehicles.

Japan wants to take a lead in writing the rules for the nascent industry because policymakers think the current aviation regulations are mostly set by Europe and the U.S., one of the people said.

First published in The Japan Times on Aug. 26.

Warm up

One-minute chat about cars.

Game

Collect words related to technology, e.g., computer, startup, innovation.

New words

1) decade: 10 years, e.g., “I’ve been working here over two decades.”

2) peer: a person who belongs to the same age or social group as someone else, e.g., “He is respected by his peers.”

Guess the headline

Japan joins r _ _ _ to make f_ _ _ _ _ cars

Questions

1) What is the target of the project mentioned in the article?

2) How much is the budget for the project?

3) What would be some of the advantages of this technology?

Let’s discuss the article

1) What do you think about this project?

2) Do you think Japan can meet its target with the plans it has in place now?

3) What sci-fi technology would you like to see made real?

Reference

幼い頃は空想の世界での出来事だと思っていたことが次々と現実になり、そのスピードは年々加速の一途をたどっていきます。それがイノベーションというものなのでしょう。今はニュースで最先端として取り上げられている 今回の取り組みも、数十年後にはこんなことが話題になっていたんだと思われるような当たり前の日常になっているのかもしれません。 これからの未来に私たちはどのようなテクノロジーを取り入れて行くのでしょうか。朝の会に参加し皆さんで話し合ってみましょう。

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