The AviAuto was originally conceived, designed and developed by Harvey Miller of Baker City, Oregon. His main objective was to build a roadable that could be changed from ground mode to flying mode at the touch of a button. To do this, components of the airframe were designed to be stored in compartments in the body of the vehicle when required. He was awarded patent rights to the design in 1981.
In 1989 he started colaborating on the development of the design with J. Robert Smurthwaite, also of Baker City. Their most significant change at that time was to incorporate a second engine into the vehicle. The original concept called for one engine for both flying and ground service. It was felt that for FAA certification, the use of an auto engine and front wheel drive when on the ground, along with a certified aircraft engine for flight purposes would be more suitable.
The work on the mode conversion mechanisms at the Universities of California, Iowa State and Florida Tech is an extension of the development of this roadable.