Pop.Up Next passenger drone in flight

Airbus and Audi unveil design for autonomous electric flying car

Image credit: Airbus

Airbus, Audi and Italdesign have joined forces to develop a modular passenger drone and electric car hybrid named “Pop.Up Next”. The companies revealed concept art and a model of the vehicle at the Geneva Motor Show this week.

Pop.Up Next is intended as the lighter, faster successor to Pop.Up, a similar vehicle concept revealed at the Geneva Motor Show last year.

Airbus has been working on a number of projects involving electric aircraft. In February, it tested a full-scale version of its flying taxi, ‘Vahana’, which is also autonomous and fully electric. Airbus’ partnerships with Audi and Italdesign, however, have allowed its previous concepts to be combined with electric cars with the engineering expertise of its collaborators.

“Pop.Up Next consists of a modular, multi-modal system that enables transportation to enter into the third dimension by exploiting both urban ground and airspace,” an Italdesign statement explained.

Pop.Up Next is a two-seat vehicle capable of driving on ordinary roads and flying to dodge traffic jams on the ground. In order to travel on the road, the cabin is attached to an electric ‘sled’. This enables it to drive itself at up to 100km/h using a 15kWh battery. The cabin incorporates a wide 49" touchscreen for control, also using eye-tracking and speech and facial recognition.

Pop.Up Next cabin


Image credit: Airbus

When the rider is trapped in traffic or wants to travel considerably more quickly, they may use an app to hail a Pop.Up Next ‘air module’ from a nearby charging station. This large drone attaches itself to the roof of the cabin with a titanium locking mechanism that pairs with the cabin at three different points and lifts it vertically into the air. It can then carry the carry for 50km on a single charge of its 70kWh battery, using eight electric motors. The cabin is kept as light as possible using aluminium framing and ultralight mesh.

Pop.Up Next concept art


Image credit: Airbus

Earlier this week, it was suggested by Automobilwoche that Porsche (which, like Audi, belongs to Volkswagen) was also working on a passenger drone concept. Meanwhile, Uber is working with Nasa on a “flying taxi” service which could launch as early as 2020.

A similarly futuristic means of transport, the Hyperloop, could also allow drivers to bypass traffic by breaking out of two-dimensional transport infrastructure and travelling at aircraft speeds through vacuum tubes. Recently, concept art and models for a proposed Hyperloop system to connect Abu Dhabi and Dubai were unveiled at an exhibition in Dubai.

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