Audi, Airbus and Italdesign finally test flying taxi concept

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Awhile back, Audi teamed up with Airbus and Italdesign to create a wild flying taxi concept. When the joint effort was first shown, it was met with a lot of optimism, actually, because it was a really unique way of creating a flying car of sorts.

The idea was to basically create different autonomous modules that would connect to a passenger cell. So you’d drive around on the road in your passenger cell connected to a ground module. Then, you’d take your “car” to a heli-pad of sorts where a flying module would connect to your passenger cell, which would then disconnect from the ground module, and then take off.

Audi, Airbus and Italdesign have just successfully tested the concept, now dubbed “Pop.Up Next”, in the real world. Admittedly, it was under extremely controlled conditions and at a 1:4 scale, so they weren’t the size of real cars. But still, it’s impressive.

In the test, the flying drone module successfully placed its passenger cell onto the ground module and disconnected, all on its own. Then, the ground module drove the passenger cell away autonomously. Pretty wild stuff.

“Flying taxis are on the way. We at Audi are convinced of that,” says Dr. 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 give a test run of whether or not customers will really like this sort of service, Audi is doing some experimenting in South America. So when customers take taxi rides in either Mexico City or Sao Paulo, there will be an Audi waiting for them when they land to act as their taxi.

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