Audi and Airbus Take Flight

“Flying taxis are on the way.” Which sounds like a statement that one might hear from some futurist who is standing on a podium wearing a jumpsuit that appears as though it was sourced from Starfleet Command.

“Flying taxis are on the way.” Which sounds like a statement that one might hear from some futurist who is standing on a podium wearing a jumpsuit that appears as though it was sourced from Starfleet Command. But the quote continues: “We at Audi are convinced of that.” And the person who said those words in relation to what is called “Pop.Up Next,” a combination of a self-driving electric car and a passenger drone, an undertaking that includes Audi, Airbus and Italdesign, was Dr. Bernd Martens, Audi board member for sourcing and IT, and president of Italdesign (an Audi subsidiary).

Audi, Airbus and Italdesign test Flying Taxi Concept

Martens’ rationale: “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 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.”

The companies have developed a 1:4 scale model of Pop.Up Next. In a demonstration at Week in Amsterdam, the flight module deposited a “passenger capsule” on a ground module (a.k.a., car), which then drove way autonomously.

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Determining the usefulness of something of this type in the full-size world, Audi is working with Voom, an Airbus subsidiary, in South America on a program that involves people booking trips on a helicopter and are picked up in an Audi upon arrival . Explained Martens: “Services like this help us to understand our customers’ needs better.”

Martens added: “The next step is for a full-size prototype to fly and drive.”