The flying car is the holy grail of futurism. For decades, the cover of Popular Mechanics has claimed we'd one day be able to leave traffic jams and potholes behind and soar through the skies in our own personal conveyances. But so far, marrying car and aircraft hasn't gone well despite the best efforts of companies like Terrafugia.

Toyota's patent filing is for car with adjustable body panels. It's a sleek thing, almost teardrop shaped, with the world's most adorable little propeller on its butt. But underneath that shape-shifting skin is a creative means of hiding the wings. Rather than folding them onto the body for road driving, like a Terrafugia, Toyota wants to stow flight surfaces underneath the actual body panels. The wings pop out and provide roll control, while canards ahead of the front axle are like what you'd find on a Eurofighter Typhoon – they provide the pitch, and possibly yaw control (there's no obvious rudder or tailfin).

According to the patent, which Toyota filed in December 2014 but the US Patent and Trademark Office just published, "The fuselage includes a plurality of flexible frame members and tensile skin extending between the plurality of flexible frame members as well as an actuation system configured to bend the plurality of flexible frame members between a contracted configuration associated with a flight mode and an expanded configuration associated with a land mode."

The fact that Toyota is messing around with this concept with enough seriousness to file a patent is telling. Then again, automakers file patents for just about anything, whether it came from a janitor scribbling on a napkin or an executive brainstorming session. In other words, this patent is cool, but we doubt Toyota's going to offer a flying Prius in the near future.


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