The transport ministry has started full-scale discussions on safety standards and other key issues related to putting flying cars into practical use.

In April this year, the ministry set up a dedicated department that will draw up guidelines as early as this autumn on procedures needed for companies to conduct test flights of vehicles currently under development.

The ministry plans to establish standards on required performances and safety, as well as a licensing system, by the end of 2023.

Such flying cars use propellers and other devices to rise and move in the air.

The ministry hopes to establish related technologies and systems in 2023 and for such vehicles to start flying in safe areas where there are no people around.

After gradually introducing such vehicles to transport goods, save lives at times of disaster and as a method of transportation in underpopulated areas and remote islands, the ministry plans to start flying car operations in urban areas in the 2030s.

The ministry ultimately aims to introduce vehicles that are cheaper than helicopters, easy to maneuver and fit for daily use.

In December 2018, Japanese startup SkyDrive Inc. conducted a test flight of a pilotless vehicle controlled remotely. The Tokyo-based company successfully conducted a manned test flight in August last year.

More tests are expected to be conducted for vehicles developed by Japanese companies, as well as for those imported from overseas.

For tests conducted outdoors, companies need to obtain approval from the transport minister under the civil aeronautics act, as is the case with tests of aircraft.

The firms must also submit documents including blueprints of the flying car prototype, licenses including those to fly helicopters and a plan of measures to mitigate accident risks.

With many within the industry asking that Japan adopts simplified procedures, the ministry plans to create guidelines that are easy for companies conducting tests for the first time to understand.

The ministry’s new department will act as a point of contact for such firms, allowing them to complete one-stop procedures.

The ministry will hold discussions on the performance of such vehicles, including vehicle stability, weight and flying range, and on safety standards such as collision avoidance systems. It will also debate whether to create a dedicated license for flying car pilots.

Outside of Japan, the United States, Europe and China have already launched flying car development.

The value of the global market for flying cars is seen reaching some ¥150 trillion by 2040.

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