Dezeen Magazine

Airbus presents concept for flying car at Geneva Motor Show

Airbus and Italdesign have revealed their plans to help city dwellers beat traffic with a modular vehicle that is part car, part drone.

The concept vehicle, named Pop.Up Next, was unveiled at this year's Geneva Motor Show. It features a "passenger capsule" that can detach from a wheeled base.

Should the passenger get stuck in traffic, the car would disconnect from its wheels before being picked up by a set of motors and taking to the skies.

Airbus, which has imagined the concept alongside Italdesign, believes the vehicle could be a viable solution for easing traffic in overpopulated and crowded cities.

"It combines ground with the air and allows passengers a seamless and faster way of getting from A-to-B using the city sky," said Mathias Thomsen, general manager at Airbus.

"Right now, the urban sky is quite underutilised. The grid-like layout of road doesn't actually do it for us, and we think that by combining air and ground we will get a much better use of the space in our cities."

Both companies predict that the vehicle would be part of a ride-hailing system. Passengers would plan their journey and book their trip via an app, with the system automatically suggesting the best transport solution – either air or ground.

If flight prevails as the favoured method of transport, the capsule would disconnect from the ground module and be carried by an air module propelled by eight counter-rotating rotors. When in the air, it is envisioned that the vehicle will operate autonomously.

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

The news comes soon after Airbus revealed that it is planning to test self-piloted personal aircraft by the end of the year as a way of reducing traffic on inner-city roads.

Italdesign's CEO Jörg Astalosch believes the Pop Up vehicle is a glimpse into the future of transportation, where "the traditional car cannot alone be the solution".

"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," he said. "You also have to think about sustainable and intelligent infrastructure."

"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."

Airbus and Italdesign's announcement appears to support transport designer Paul Priestman's prediction last year that passenger-carrying drones would be the future.

"We've got these electric drones flying around everywhere," he said. "[Electric planes are] just a scaled up version really. I think that's going to get really interesting – it could be the beginning of personalised transportation."

"It's like going back to the idea of jetpacks, but with lots of little drones," he added.

Airbus has filed a number of unusual patents over the years. In 2014 the company applied for a patent on bicycle-style seats that would replace aircraft seat cushions with saddles, and in 2015 filed one for two-storey passenger seating that would make the most of unused cabin space by stacking travellers one on top of another.