Airbus Unveils Modular Flying Car Concept

Revealed at the Geneva International Motor Show, Pop.Up combines ground and air transport.

(Image courtesy of Airbus.)

(Image courtesy of Airbus/Italdesign.)

During the 87th Geneva International Motor Show, Italdesign and Airbus premiered Pop.Up, a modular, electric concept vehicle system designed to relieve traffic congestion in crowded megacities.

The concept is the result of Italdesign and Airbus’ joint reflection on how to address the mobility challenges of megacities, which has become one of the most pressing issues for commuters worldwide. With traffic congestion projected to hugely increase by 2030, the companies decided to combine their engineering expertise to create a sustainable, modular and multimodal urban mobility system.

The Pop.Up system consists of three components:

  • An Artificial Intelligence platform that, based on its user knowledge, manages travel and offers alternative usage scenarios;
  • 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 a fully virtual environment.

The Pop.Up system aims to combine the flexibility of a small two seater ground vehicle with the freedom and speed of a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) air vehicle, bridging the automotive and aerospace domains.

Pop.Up’s modus operandi is simple: passengers plan their journey and book their trip via an app. The system automatically suggests the best transport solution – according to user knowledge, timing, traffic congestion, costs, ridesharing demands, etc. – joining either the air or ground module or other means of transportation to the passenger capsule and following passengers’ preferences and needs.

At the heart of the concept is a capsule designed to accommodate passengers. The monocoque carbon-fibre cocoon measures 2.6 meters long, 1.4 meters high, and 1.5 meters wide (8.5 ft x 4.6 ft x 4.9 ft). The capsule transforms itself into a city car by coupling to the ground module, which features a carbon-fibre chassis and is battery powered.

(Image courtesy of Airbus/Italdesign.)

(Image courtesy of Airbus/Italdesign.)

For megacity journeys with highly congested traffic, the capsule disconnects from the ground module and is carried by a 5 x 4.4 meter (16.4 ft x 14.4 ft) air module propelled by eight counter-rotating rotors. In this configuration, Pop.Up becomes a urban self-piloted air vehicle.

Pop.Up Technical Specifications

Air Module

Ground Module

Relieving Urban Congestion

Once passengers reach their destination, the air and ground modules with the capsule autonomously return to dedicated recharge stations to wait for their next customers.

(Image courtesy of Airbus/Italdesign.)

(Image courtesy of Airbus/Italdesign.)

Airbus is harnessing its expertise to actively develop a number of concepts aimed at relieving urban congestion.

“Adding the third dimension to seamless multi-modal transportation networks will without a doubt improve the way we live and how we get from A to B,” said Mathias Thomsen, general manager for urban air mobility at Airbus. “Successfully designing and implementing solutions that will work both in the air and on the ground requires a joint reflection on the part of both aerospace and automotive sectors, alongside collaboration with local government bodies for infrastructure and regulatory frameworks. Italdesign, with its long track record of exceptional vehicle design was an exciting partner for Airbus for this unique concept project.”

(Image courtesy of Airbus/Italdesign.)

(Image courtesy of Airbus/Italdesign.)

“Italdesign is a service company, created to provide services and mobility solutions to interested parties worldwide,” said Italdesign CEO Jörg Astalosch. “Today, automobiles are part of a much wider eco-system: if you want to design the urban vehicle of the future, the traditional car cannot alone be the solution for megacities, you also have to think about sustainable and intelligent infrastructure, apps, integration, power systems, urban planning, social aspects and so on.”

“In the next years ground transportation will move to the next level and from being shared, connected and autonomous it will also go multimodal and moving into the third dimension” continued Astalosch. “We found in Airbus, the leader in aerospace, the perfect partner who shares this modern vision for the future of megacities to develop a sustainable multi-modal vision of megacity transportation.”

For more on the future of transportation, check out our feature on face scans, autonomous buses and flying taxis in Singapore.