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Audi and Airbus working on flying taxi concept

Wednesday, 19th December, 2018 4:56pm

There have been quite a few concepts and ideas for a flying car hovering about (‘scuse the pun) these past few years, but Audi may have just come up with one of the more realistic ideas.

Most recent ‘flying car’ ideas have been nothing of the sort, and are instead really down-sized, electric helicopters.

Audi, teaming up with Airbus and famed design firm Italdesign, seems to have come up with a better way of combining the ideas of driving and flying - by actually separating them.

Being shown off at the Amsterdam Drone Week is the Pop.Up Next concept. Still only a quarter-scale model, it nonetheless quite sensibly separates the two halves of driving and flying, rather than trying to combine these mutually exclusive concepts in one vehicle.

The idea is that the car bit is actually an electric, autonomous chassis, which takes care of the driving bit.

On top of that is a glass ‘gondola’ where the passengers sit. The chassis, with gondola attached, drives up to a separate flying section — similar to a quadcopter drone — where the gondola separates, and is attached to the flying section. Which then, obviously, flies off.

“Flying taxis are on the way. We at Audi are convinced of that,” said Dr Bernd Martens, Audi board member for sourcing and IT, and President of Italdesign (which is owned by Audi).

“More and more people are moving to cities. And more and more people will be mobile thanks to automation. In 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.”

Already, Audi is working with Airbus subsidiary Voom on a simpler service which does at least link flying and driving. Voom provides personalised helicopter taxi services in Mexico City and Sao Paulo, and Audi will now provide wheeled transport at either end of the airborne journey.

“Services like this help us to understand our customers’ needs better. Because in the future flying taxis will appeal to a wide range of city dwellers. With Pop.Up Next we are simultaneously exploring the boundaries of what is technically possible. The next step is for a full-size prototype to fly and drive,” said Dr Martens.

Audi’s also involved with the Urban Air Mobility flying taxi project in Ingolstadt. The project is working on preparing a flying taxi test area near Audi’s headquarters there, as part of the European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities — which has been set up to work on public education of such new technology, and answer questions concerning battery technology, regulation, certification, and infrastructure.

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