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Airbus unveils its concept for a flying car

Aerospace company's space-age Pop.Up pod is closer than you might think

13 March 2017
By Justin Postlethwaite

French aerospace company Airbus has unveiled its vision for the future of urban travel at the Geneva Car Show: a zero-emission, driverless flying vehicle that is part taxi, part drone.

The Pop.Up is a collaboration between the ‘Urban Air Mobility’ division of Airbus and Italian design and engineering company Italdesign and looks like a small electric car, with four wheels and a carbon cabin.

It would be able to run on the ground thanks to an electric battery, while the ‘pods’ can also be linked with others to form a train.

But when the traffic is bad, the passenger in this autonomous, driverless vehicle can use an app to summon a ‘quadcopter’, which looks like an oversized drone, to attach itself to the pod before taking off and flying to the desired destination – within a maximum range of 60 miles. Once arrived, the Pop.Up heads for a recharging station.

There is more to it: before setting off, an integrated system of artificial intelligence will choose the best way to reach the desired destination using real time traffic information to select the mode for travelling.

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The space-age concept of Pop.Up might seem wacky but Airbus is taking the project very seriously.

“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.

While final testing is being done elsewhere on autonomous driving software (including at French car manufacturer PSA Group), electric air propulsion, which could transform the aviation industry, will present huge regulation challenges.

With this in mind, Airbus and Italdesign had no ‘launch’ timeframe in mind at the unveiling of Pop.Up in Geneva.

In Dubai, however, they are keen to introduce air taxis by this summer.

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