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Trading  | March 12, 2018

Considerable improvements in battery technologies and technological advances in manned electric flight have spurred established automakers to begin examining the feasibility of flying automobiles, as both Audi and Porsche have mentioned their plans to develop flying cars to avoid congested highways.

During the 87th Geneva International Motor Show, Audi and Airbus partnered with Italdesign to premiere Pop.Up Next, the first modular, fully electric, zero-emission concept vehicle system designed to alleviate traffic congestion in large populated areas.

Pop.Up Next is a modular system for multi-modal transportation that can travel on roadways and across the skies.

Audi, Airbus, and Italdesign developed the unmanned drone system that attaches itself to an electric vehicle – turning it into a flying passenger aircraft, as a joint reflection on how to address mobility challenges of large cities.

With traffic congestion projected to hugely increase by 2030, the companies decided to combine their engineering expertise to tackle how to best achieve a sustainable, modular and multimodal urban mobility system – giving rise to the Pop.Up concept.

Pop.Up Next consists of a three layers concept:

  • an Artificial Intelligence platform that, based on its user knowledge, manages the travel complexity offering alternative usage scenarios and assuring a seamless travel experience;

  • a vehicle shaped as a passenger capsule designed to be coupled with two different and independent electric propelled modules, the ground module and the air module. Other public means of transportation (e.g. trains or hyperloops) could also integrate the Pop.Up capsule;

  • – an interface module that dialogues with users in an entirely virtual environment.

The vehicle is a two-seat pod that can quickly snap into a chassis with four wheels and autonomous driving technology for roadway travel, or easily converts to a quadcopter drone for flying. While Audi has yet to release details on speed, altitude or range, the overall progress of flying cars seems to be a reality in the not too distant future.

Dr. Bernd Martens, Audi board member and president of Italdesign, said in a statement: “Creativity is needed where new mobility concepts for cities and people’s diverse needs are concerned. Italdesign is an incubator for innovative technologies and radical prototyping.”

“Pop.Up Next is an ambitious vision that could permanently change our urban life in the future,” his statement added.

Here are a few illustrations of the vehicle concept displayed at the Geneva Auto Show:

Jörg Astalosch, CEO of Italdesign, said: “Various players will define the rules of urban mobility in the future. We are proud to collaborate with Airbus, the leading company in the aerospace industry, to investigate solutions for future mobility.”

Here is how Italdesign’s Official YouTube channel describes the flying car:

Pop.Up Next reflects the philosophy driving Italdesign’s 50th anniversary celebrations, anticipating the challenges that the next fifty years will bring. It represents a vision of the potential offered by future technologies, the new concept of transportation and the new solutions for resolving the problems linked to city planning and traffic in large urban centres that are increasingly becoming one of the priority aspects for safeguarding our planet. Next is evidence of the success achieved by Pop.Up over the past year amongst the main players in the transportation world, the municipalities and institutions worldwide.

Earlier this week, Porsche R&D chief Michael Steiner told Reuters at the Geneva show that his team of researchers are in the process of developing flying taxis for urban use. Interesting to note, Audi and Porsche, are both owned by the Volkswagen Group, which it seems, the European automobile manufacturer is pushing their brands into the flying car space.

Meanwhile, in the United States, Boeing and Uber are developing a flying taxi which could be zipping around the skies of America within the next ten years.

That is according to Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenberg, who said, “it [flying taxis] will happen faster than any of us understand,” in a Bloomberg interview.

According to the latest research by Deloitte, more than a dozen drone and flying automobile manufacturers have already passed conceptualization/design phase, and a majority of the manufacturers are currently exiting the prototype stage into the testing phase, with most manufactures targeting launch/delivery by 2020.

“If safety and regulatory hurdles are cleared, passenger drones are expected to get wings by 2018–2020, and traditional flying cars by 2020–2022, while revolutionary vehicles could be a reality only by 2025,” Deloitte reported.  

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