Audi, in conjunction with Airbus and Italdesign has presented an operational prototype of Pop.Up Next, its flying taxi concept.
Pop.Up Next is essentially a hybrid between a drone and an autonomous car. The idea is the system has a ground module and a drone module. A separate passenger compartment can be transported by, and passed between, both transport modules.
You can probably see where this is heading: a pod is transported to a helipad (or should that be drone-pad?) by the Audi vehicle, where it's attached to a drone and whisked to another location, before being transferred to another ground module and driven to its final destination.
Audi claims this multi-modal system will allow passengers greater flexibility and comfort, as they can transition between driving and flying without needing to change vehicles.
The drone module is capable of taking off from and landing on the ground module autonomously, as demonstrated by the functional 1:4 scale model concept at the Amsterdam Drone Week.
Bernd Martens, Italdesign president and Audi board member, is convinced flying taxis are the way of the future, saying “more and more people are moving to cities and more and more people will be mobile thanks to automation".
"In the future senior citizens, children, and people without a driver’s licence 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.”
Audi is demonstrating a version of the concept in Mexico City and Sao Paulo, as part of a pairing with an Airbus subsidiary. Customers can book a helicopter flight, and have an Audi transport them to/from the takeoff and landing sites.
It's more a demonstration of the concept than anything else at this point. Audi is currently planning a full-size prototype of the concept demonstrated in Amsterdam.