Pop.Up transitions from car to plane and beyond

As driverless cars creep ever closer to reality, Airbus is thinking even further ahead with a new concept car that images the future of travel in the world's megacities.

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Created in collaboration with Italian design firm Italdesign, Pop.Up is a multi-functional vehicle centered around a singular passenger capsule that is able to hook up to other components to change the mode of travel from car to plane.

The three main components consist of a carbon-fibre passenger capsule, a battery-powered ground module and an air module electrically propelled by eight counter-rotating rotors.

Powered by artificial intelligence, passengers would use an app to summon Pop.Up, which would automatically work out the best route based on destination and current travel conditions. A concept video shows this in action, as a woman is transported first by road via a ground module. An air module then attaches to the top of the capsule and transforms into a self-piloted air vehicle for the rest of her journey. Later in the video, we see a row of capsules nestled inside a train.

Pop.Up is part of Airbus' mission to develop innovative solutions to problems facing modern-day and future megacities, which are defined as having populations of 10 million or more.

While the concept looks on the surface like an amalgamation of futuristic clichés, the company emphasized that Pop.Up is not meant to be a “flying car” but rather a “multi-modal” vehicle that tackles many issues at once, taking into account sustainable and intelligent infrastructure, apps, integration, power systems, urban planning, and other factors.

According to Airbus, Pop.Up could be incorporated into some cities' existing mass transportation networks—or into networks of the future—such as hyperloop.

“We wanted to look beyond current technological limitations and stretch our imaginations to what might make sense in the future for urban transportation,” said Mathias Thomsen, Airbus general manager of urban air mobility. “If a ‘modular’ vehicle makes sense, it might attract urban developers to create the necessary ground infrastructure ahead of launch, which in turn could help determine the way we build the vehicle in the end.”

A real-life model of Pop.Up was recently exhibited at the Geneva Motor Show. Airbus said it is keen to work with external partners who could come up with innovative ideas to engineer travel beyond cars, although for now Pop.Up remains just a concept.

Airbus

As driverless cars creep ever closer to reality, Airbus is thinking even further ahead with a new concept car that images the future of travel in the world's megacities.

Created in collaboration with Italian design firm Italdesign, Pop.Up is a multi-functional vehicle centered around a singular passenger capsule that is able to hook up to other components to change the mode of travel from car to plane.

The three main components consist of a carbon-fibre passenger capsule, a battery-powered ground module and an air module electrically propelled by eight counter-rotating rotors.