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Audi, Airbus and Italdesign test flying taxi concept

December 5, 2018  - By

Audi, Airbus and Italdesign presented for the first time a flying and driving prototype of Pop.Up Next, a flying taxi. The companies demonstrated the concept at Drone Week, held Nov. 27-29 in Amsterdam.

The concept combines a self-driving electric car with a passenger drone. In the first public test flight, the flight module accurately placed a passenger capsule on the ground module, which then drove from the test grounds autonomously.

Photo: Audi

Photo: Audi

The demonstration was done with a 1:4 scale model. But as soon as the coming decade, Audi customers could use the flying taxi service in large cities — in multi-modal operation, in the air and on the road, without changing vehicles.

“Flying taxis are on the way. We at Audi are convinced of that,” said Bernd Martens, Audi board member for sourcing and IT and president of the Audi subsidiary 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.”

To see what an on-demand service of this kind could be like, Audi is conducting tests in South America in cooperation with the Airbus subsidiary Voom. Customers book helicopter flights in Mexico City or Sao Paulo, while an Audi is at the ready for the journey to or from the landing site.

“Services like this help us to understand our customers’ needs better,” 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.

The project aims to convince the public of the benefits of the new technology and answer questions concerning battery technology, regulation, certification and infrastructure.