Ever find yourself idling in gridlock, a string of traffic stretching long before you, vehicles boxing you in on either side, and think: If only I could soar above this mess?
It doesn’t take a soothsayer to know that this is exactly the direction in which technology is headed. About a year ago we wrote about Uber’s sky-high vision, which would see the rideshare company offering air service. Now another company has thrown its hat into the ring: New Future Transportation Inc., a scrappy start-up located in the heart of Silicon Valley.
Co-founded by Maki Kaplinsky (CEO) and Guy Kaplinsky (Chairman), the ASKA initiative is the company’s entry into the flying vehicle race. In Japanese, the word “aska” means “flying bird,” and this vehicle does have a distinct bird-like quality. When it isn’t airborne, the wings fold into the body of the vehicle, not unlike an albatross collapsing its large wings after alighting on the ground. 14 ducted fans, wing, and control surfaces all work in tandem with advanced control software to make for a smooth and unobtrusive transition between air and ground. The vehicle will require a clearance space of just 20 x 20 metres. In fact, the ASKA won’t require special parking spaces, terminals, or charging stations. It could be parked like any other vehicle — on the street, in a garage, etc. You may not want to parallel park this baby, but you definitely could.
While the product may seem like a toy for the 1%, the vision behind the product is not to produce an expensive novelty. The idea is in part an answer to urbanization; with faster modes of transportation, options for housing aren’t so limited by proximity to the workplace. No longer will one be restricted to purchasing an overpriced downtown condo. The ASKA makes it easy for one to live in the country or by the seaside and still commute to the city — without the hassle of cars, trains, buses, etc.
The goal, then, is to create a product with mass market potential. Affordability, of course, will be key. According to their website, the company is hoping to source high quality parts and production methods via partnerships with major players in the automotive industry, which will create a new revenue-generating line of business with these companies as they collaborate in the advent of a transportation sector: Urban Air Mobility, or UAM.
In order to help provide this product with mass market appeal, ASKA will have a two-structured financial model; one will either be able to purchase the vehicle outright or take part in a subscription-based service.
Let’s take a look at the proposed specs. The ASKA will be the size of an SUV. It will offer a range of up to 350 miles, running on rechargeable batteries with a range extender (hybrid) propulsion system. Its maximum speed will be 150 miles per hour, making a commute from Paris to London possible in just shy of two hours. The vehicle will accommodate up to three people.
Like Google Maps, the ASKA will have re-routing capabilities that help to make for a smooth, comfortable journey; when weather, turbulence, traffic, or personal preference are in question, one can adjust the landing heliport with ease. Part of what makes the ASKA so revolutionary — and so realistic — is its vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) capabilities. The company is pioneering the use of breakthrough technology to deliver necessary thrust within a limited space. Think about the clearance needed for airplanes and helicopters — ASKA is trying to circumvent that. All ducted fans, the company explains via its official literature, are within limited asset space, similar to the size of a car.
Perhaps the most notable element of this vehicle, aside from the fact that it will, you know, fly, is the fact that it will do so autonomously. The company intends to integrate existing autonomous driving systems into the ASKA, meaning it will be fully autonomous both on the road and in the air.
The ASKA is being designed with the environment in mind. The company is aiming for a 100% electric propulsion system (and is currently developing said system with select partners). It will even create limited noise pollution thanks to a sophisticated ducted fan geometry and rotor design, making the ASKA nearly as quiet as a bird in flight.
For more information on the next generation of transportation, visit the company’s website.
Images via ASKA