The wildly uncertain and exciting future of personal transportation is making for some strange bedfellows. The latest example? Audi and Airbus, who have teamed up with the VW-owned design company Italdesign to debut a drone-like flying taxi/electric city car twofer at the Geneva Motor Show.
Dubbed "Pop.Up Next," the duo consists of a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) quadcopter module and a small two-door city car pod, both of which are electric and fully autonomous. The idea is that you can summon a ride using your phone, walk outside and have the Audi pod taxi you away. For traffic choked routes, the Airbus-sourced drone will come and literally pick you up in the pod, leaving your wheel and chassis module parked for later retrieval.
The nonfunctional concept features a cabin with a 49-inch screen, and the machine interface uses touch and voice controls, facial recognition, as well as eye and gesture tracking.
Audi and Airbus present mind-blowing flying drone-car hybrid in Geneva
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Not much detail has been provided on the hardware that (at least theoretically) powers the Power.Up Next, but the goal is to create a solution to the globe's growing urban congestion issues. According to Audi, the duo are a "flexible on-demand concept that could open up mobility in the third dimension to people in cities."
If some of this looks and sounds familiar, that's because it Airbus showed off an earlier version of Pop.Up Next at last year's Geneva auto show, though it didn't then have an affiliation with Audi. This time out, the new version is said to be "significantly lighter than its predecessor," and the interior has been redesigned.
How far Audi, Airbus and Italdesign plan to push this idea is unclear, but it definitely represents a radical approach to future mobility and congestion relief. As Bernd Martens, president of Italdesign, says, "Pop.Up Next is an ambitious vision that could permanently change our urban life in the future." On that, he will get no argument.