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Audi, Italdesign and Airbus update Pop.Up Next, the self-driving-car - flying-drone combo

When you're finished driving, just call out a lift from a drone

Solving the flying-car conundrum with a simple solution: just make the cabin mobile and use two distinct powertrains for land and air. This year, Italdesign returned with an updated version of this system

Many car makers toy with the idea of flying cars, but the Audi, Italdesign and Airbus collaboration has perhaps the most interesting solution. Neither a car, neither a drone, but a combination between the two that offers all the comfort and safety of an electric car drivetrain with the mobility of a drone: its passenger cabin can be transported on land by an Audi chassis, and up in the air with an Airbus drone. Design and engineering are provided by Italdesign, and we can expect to see this solution work somewhere towards the middle of the next decade.

Italdesign Pop.Up Next: what's new?

Well, the three teams started with the last year project and upgraded it in every respect. The capsule was redesigned, is now much lighter and streamlined, and the interior is more spacious and updated with the latest interactive technology. There has been an increase in range and speed, too.

The Pop.Up Next system is comprised of an air capsule, a cabin, and a ground module.  The self-flying air module, provided by Airbus, is 4403 mm long, 847 mm tall, and 5000 mm wide. It comprises eight (4+4) rotors with a 1780 mm propeller diameter, activated by 8 motors with a total power of 160 kW (each motor has 20 kW). Without payload, the air module has a range of 50 km and can reach a top speed of 150 m/s (540 km/h). Its maximum payload is two passengers, that come with the attachable cabin. Its 70 kWh battery can be recharged in 15 minutes, according to Italdesign, because we're talking about a concept, not a functioning prototype.

The ground module is basically a self-driving chassis onto which the passenger capsule can be attached. It's 3115 mm long, 681 mm tall, 1900 mm wide and weighs 200 kg. It's powered by two motorwheels at the back and can reach a top speed of 100 km/h. The total power of the system is 60 kW, and the 15 kW batteries provide a maximum range of 130 km, also needing only 15 minutes to fully recharge.

Finally, the capsule accommodates two passengers, being 2647 mm long, 1415 mm tall and 1540 mm wide. It also weighs 200 kilos, so the entire system, when on the ground, has a kerb weight of 400 kilos. 

Depending on the transport needs, the Pop.Up Next can travel on the ground or summon the drone from the air. The upgraded titanium coupling system is integrated with the onboard sensors and allows safe and precise automatic connection of the modules. Inside the capsule, work focused on the HMI system based on face recognition, eye tracking technology for activating and operating onboard services, as well as feedback systems for activating controls so as to achieve instinctive and natural human-machine interaction with the vehicle. 

It remains to be seen if Italdesign's idea will eventually result in a commercial vehicle. From what we're seeing, it really promises to change things for the cities of 2030. Unless some of the competitors don't come first with completely different solutions.

READ MORE: SkyRunner flying car takes off, immediately crashes into a building

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