Airbus, Italdesign show PopUp modular flying car concept

Some technologies are not yet \'mature\' enough for production, but the idea is said to be technically feasible.

AirBus and Italdesign recently unveiled a unique flying car concept, known as the Pop.Up.

Shown publicly for the first time in Geneva, the Pop.Up takes a modular approach rather than combining all driving and flying hardware into a single vehicle. It appears to take inspiration from intermodal freight transportation, containing passengers in a small two-seat capsule that connects either to wheels or a multi-rotor system.

An artificial intelligence platform helps determine the fastest travel method to reach a destination, choosing either the ground or air module depending on traffic, costs, ridesharing demands or other considerations. Piloting and driving is handled entirely autonomously, achieving Level 5 operation that never requires the human passengers to take over.

When congestion is high, the carbon-fiber capsule is automatically attached to a 5x44-meter air module powered by eight counter-rotating rotors. In other situations, the capsule is simply attached to a set of wheels for trips around a city. Both drive modules are powered by onboard batteries.

Battery energy density is not quite ready to make such vehicles a production reality in the near term. Automakers are also years away from achieving Level 5 autonomy on the road, while a multi-rotor VTOL aircraft will require a higher level of development than traditional autopilot systems to handle complex urban environments.

"While Pop.Up relies on future technologies that are not yet mature enough, such as electric propulsion and sense-and-avoid technology, the basic idea of the vehicle is feasible," Airbus project contributor Marius Bebesel told Electric Vehicle Research.

Airbus is working on actual demonstrator vehicles that are expected to be flying in the next few years.

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