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During a Q&A session at the Bloomberg Next Big Thing summit, the research and development chief of Toyota said that the company was investigating hover cars.

The revelation occurred in a discussion titled “The Future of Cars” with David Friedman, Acting Administrator of the US’ National Highway Transport Safety Administration, and Hiroyoshi Yoshiki, Toyota’s head of R&D.

Right at the end of the session the moderator asked, almost flippantly, what both men thought about the possibility of flying cars.

Yoshiki replied that Toyota has “been studying flying cars in our most advanced R&D area”. The man from Toyota later went on to clarify that he actually meant a hover car “that’s just a little bit off the road, so it doesn’t have any friction or resistance from the road”.

According to The Verge, after the on-stage discussion Yoshiki declined to elaborate further on either the state of Toyota’s hover car research or its prospects for making it to market.

Golf hovercraft

Given the high price of hovering vehicles at the moment, it’s probably safe to assume that mass market hover cars are still some way off in mankind’s future. As an example, the golf hovercraft (above) retails for a cool US$58,000 on the Hammacher Schlemmer website. That’s significantly more than a regular four-seat, four-wheel golf cart, which you can pick up for around US$8,000.

With Google’s recent demonstration of a driverless car without any steering wheel or pedals, the majority of the discourse focussed on autonomous vehicles.

Yoshiki stated that Toyota’s aim “is not to build a true driverless car, but to eliminate traffic casualties”. He doubted that the public were yet ready to sit in an autonomous car without any steering or braking control.

When asked if driverless vehicles were likely to become reality in the near future, Yoshiki replied that, in his mind, the most likely scenario would involve autonomous vehicles with car-to-car and car-to-infrastructure communication operating on designated stretches of highway. He thought that autonomous cars driving in built-up city areas was a little further down the track.