Technology

Audi suspends air taxi plans – report

Audi’s flying taxi partnership with Airbus has been grounded, according to new reports from Europe.
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It looks like Audi’s air taxi is no longer cleared for take-off.

Automotive News reports Audi has stopped all work on its Pop.Up Next air taxi project and is setting a new flight plan for its urban air mobility development.

The company had partnered with Airbus to develop the air taxi. The Pop.Up Next consisted of a flying passenger capsule atop a car chassis, idea being you would drive to a heliport and connect with a flight module.

Audi released a statement walking back its earlier plans to have a flightworthy prototype by the end of 2020.

"We believe it will be a very long time before an air taxi can be serially produced that does not require passengers to change vehicles. In the modular concept of Pop.Up, we were working on a solution with the highest complexity," it said.

Airbus declined to comment to Automotive News on its ongoing involvement with the project.

Audi subsidiary Italdesign and Airbus started the Pop.Up project and a concept premiered at the 2017 Geneva motor show. Shortly thereafter, Audi itself officially joined the project.

Audi’s withdrawal doesn’t spell the end of urban air mobility efforts within the Volkswagen Group empire. Porsche announced this month it’s working with aerospace giant Boeing to develop a concept electric flying vehicle.

A study by Porsche found the “urban air mobility market will pick up speed after 2025”. The prospect of growth has led Hyundai to form an urban air mobility division, for Geely to buy Terrafugia, and for Daimler to acquire a stake in Volocopter.

Last month, Volocopter completed a successful test flight of its prototype. Conversely, last year’s trial flight of Audi’s now defunct project consisted only of a ¼-scale model.

Although Volocopter appears to be ahead of the curve, a viable urban air production vehicle may still be a long way off. The lack of a regulatory framework for such vehicles is perhaps the biggest obstacle, as is the need for electric motors that provide sufficient power and range.

And as Audi’s withdrawal proves, even for a well-resourced automaker, it can be challenging to develop a vehicle that can both drive and fly autonomously, especially one with a complex coupling system to switch between the two.