Pop.Up Next is a flight of fantasy that combines the attributes of EV, drone, flying car and self-drive ride share.
Or perhaps it more than just fantasy? Perhaps the German carmaker Audi has a bigger and better crystal ball than the rest of us?
The innovative concept, shown at Drone Week in Amsterdam, is the work of Audi, Airbus and Italdesign.
In the first public test flight, the flight module was able to accurately place a passenger capsule on the ground module, which then drove from the test grounds autonomously.
The model is only 25 per cent of the real size, but in the coming decade, Audi says customers could use a convenient and efficient flying taxi service in large cities – in multi-modal operation, in the air and on the road.
“Flying taxis are on the way. We at Audi are convinced of that,” Audi board member for sourcing and IT, and president of the Audi subsidiary Italdesign, Dr Bernd Martens, said.
“More and more people are moving to cities. And more and more people will be mobile thanks to automation. In future, senior citizens, children, and people without a driver’s license will want to use convenient robot taxis.
“If we succeed in making a smart allocation of traffic between roads and airspace, people and cities can benefit in equal measure.”
To see what an on-demand service of this kind could be like, Audi is conducting tests in South America in co-operation with the Airbus subsidiary Voom.
Customers book helicopter flights in the congested cities of Mexico City or Sao Paulo, while an Audi picks them up at either end of the flight.
“Services like this help us to understand our customers’ needs better,” Dr Martens said.
“Because in the future, flying taxis will appeal to a wide range of city dwellers. With Pop.Up Next we are simultaneously exploring the boundaries of what is technically possible. The next step is for a full-size prototype to fly and drive.”
Audi is also supporting the Urban Air Mobility flying taxi project in Ingolstadt.
This initiative is preparing test operations for a flying taxi at Audi’s site, and is part of a joint project of the European Union in the framework of the marketplace for the European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities.
This project aims to convince the public of the benefits of the new technology and answer questions concerning battery technology, regulation, certification, and infrastructure.