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Toyota is taking to the skies with a flying car. As first reported by AutoGuide, the normally safe and stolid Japanese automaker has apparently filed a patent for a flying machine that can run on terra firma, but also high above the clouds. Well, exactly how high this thing might go is still relative since, for the moment, it only exists in sketches.

To be clear, the 2020 Camry is not going to have a push-to-fly button. And no, the 2021 model probably won't either.

There is a very good chance Toyota is simply letting its engineers have some fun, because the logistics and legal hurdles involved in creating and selling a flying car are fairly massive. It's a concept being studied by others, most notably Uber, Porsche, along with the Massachusetts-based firm of Terrafuggia. The latter of these three has actually built a vehicle that works, though it looks more like a Cessna with collapsible wings than it does an actual car.

So what is Toyota up to?

Looking at the drawings and reading the patent application, it appears this car/plane can stop and quickly transform itself for flying duty. The wheels are mounted on what appear to be two substantial struts, which are connected at the top of the car's round-shaped passenger compartment. These struts, along with the wheels attached to them, first lower the car and bring it to rest on small appendages on the bottom of the car. Then the true magic act: the transformation into a plane (or whatever the heck you want to call it).

The struts and wheels raise upward, with the wheels tilting from a vertical to a horizontal position high above the car. Sprouting from each wheel are rotor blades, which give the Toyota vertical take-off ability. It looks awfully similar to a scaled-up drone, especially in full-flight mode. According to the patent filing, the car would be electric-powered, though it could run on anything from a battery-pack to a gas turbine generator or a fuel cell.

Another strange feature about this flying car — other than the whole "car that flies" thing — is that the patent says the car drives and steers like a tank, or a similar vehicle that rides on tracks instead of wheels. Basically, to turn, one track slows while the other turns faster, and the car pivots in the chosen direction of travel. We guess Toyota needed a little more of an engineering challenge by adding in this extra detail.

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