Audi's Pop.Up Next is an ambitious concept dreamt up in collaboration with subsidiary Italdesign and Airbus, seeking to marry a pair of yet-to-exist vehicles as one forward-thinking transport solution. Part-drone, part-self-driving electric car, the automaker is this week carrying out the first public demonstrations of Pop.Up Next, albeit at just a quarter of the size the finished product.
The concept first appeared at the Geneva Motor Show in 2017 and then again at the 2018 edition. There, attendees were treated to an audacious full-sized prototype that was as eye-catching as it was intriguing, with a massive quadcopter hovering over some kind of compact two-seater vehicle.
The concept actually consists of three separate components. First comes a 60-kW (80-hp) electric sled, which attaches to the passenger cabin to form a zero-emission self-driving car. But let's say those inside get stuck in gridlock. Passengers inside can use the Pop.Up Next app to hail one of the system's air modules to pluck them out of the traffic and fly them to their destination.
These aircraft would take-off from a charging station nearby, zero in on the vehicle and latch onto its roof. At the same time, the passenger cabin would detach from the sled to be carried freely by the jumbo-sized quadcopter over distances of up to 50 km (31 mi), thanks to its 70-kWh battery pack.
Audi said earlier in 2018 it doesn't expect such a system to take flight for seven to 10 years, and there would still be huge technological and regulatory hurdles to overcome. These are the same obstacles faced by competing flying taxi projects from Uber, Aston Martin, Daimler, Bell Helicopter, plus a raft of lesser-known names.
The carmaker continues to explore the possibilities of this kind of end-to-end service, however. At Drone Week in Amsterdam, which runs November 27 to 30, Audi is performing demonstration flights using a 1:4 scale model of the Pop.Up Next concept in fully autonomous mode inside an arena.
That entails the passenger cabin riding aboard the sled in a simulated ground trip to rendezvous with the air module. That air module then carries the cabin across a distance of 80 m (260 ft) and places it onto another ground module to be whisked away. Italdesign says this model was developed as a way of validating the modular design of Pop.Up Next and the docking capabilities of the various components.
Audi also revealed today that it is conducting tests in Latin America where customers can book helicopter flights in combination with Audi transport services on the ground.
"Flying taxis are on the way. We at Audi are convinced of that," says Dr. Bernd Martens, president Italdesign. "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."
You can check out a video demonstration of the Pop.Up Next concept in the video below.
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