Airbus and Italdesign unveil modular smart city transport

Airbus is heavily invested in the notion of flying cars. Its secretive Project Vahana – scheduled for test flights at the end of 2017 – has been in development for some time now. And leading figures at the aviation giant predict these revolutionary vehicles could be on the market within ten years. If that wasn’t enough to whet your appetite for futuristic transport, the company’s latest concept takes the idea of getting around smart cities one step further.

This is Pop.Up, a unique mode of transport that sits on the boundary between car and drone. Revealed at the Geneva Motor Show, Airbus has dubbed Pop.Up a ‘modular vehicle’, designed to strike the balance between mobility, ease of use and autonomy. The system comprises of a car capable of disconnecting from its wheels and being collected by a giant drone. This hardware is backed up by an Uber-like ride platform that harnesses artificial intelligence to act on local information regarding the best route and journey conditions.

Airbus worked on the project with design and engineering company Italdesign. Both organisations believe that, as commuters face ever more daunting struggles through congested cities, the concept’s modularity and resulting ability to take to the skies will be its biggest selling point.

The most important part of the Pop.Up system is the central pod. Its flexibility would give users access to an adaptable way of moving within cities, combining ease of use with the freedom and speed of a vertical take-off and landing drone.

Traditional car not suited to smart cities

By 2030, 60% of the world’s population will live in cities – a 10% rise on today’s total. Italdesign CEO Jörg Astalosch highlighted the widespread revolution across infrastructure and urban planning that’s needed if cities are to cope with this expected influx. “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, 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”.


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