According to the INRIX Global Traffic Scorecard, two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities by 2030. By that time, traffic congestion, in both the U.S. and the EU, is projected to cost $350 billion per year. With the UN predicting 41 megacities (more than 10 million inhabitants) worldwide by 2030, it’s safe to say a zero emission solution would be more than welcomed in cities like Los Angeles, New York, Beijing, Tokyo, Mexico City, Mumbai, etc. Even better: a revolutionary concept that disrupts mobility altogether and uses the airspace above the gridlocked highways.

Pop.Up: Arbus’ Urban Mobility Vehicle

Introducing Pop.Up – a fully electric, modular land-to-air capsule capable of “affixing to drone propellers or fitting into wheels.” Created by aviation juggernaut Airbus in collaboration with Italian automotive design firm Italdesign, Pop.Up can easily transition from self-driving electric car to autonomous flying Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) vehicle.

“When roads are congested, the capsule disconnects from the ground module and is carried by the air module, becoming a self-piloted urban air vehicle.”

Backed by a powerful self-piloting software system and controlled via an intuitive companion app, Pop.Up can detect traffic patterns and suggest the quickest means of transport. In other words, if you’re sitting in bumper-to-bumper Los Angeles traffic, Pop.Up can seamlessly transform into its VTOL air module and rise above the highway and take you to your final destination. One you’ve been flown to your destination, the Pop.Up capsule returns autonomously to its respected charging station awaiting its next mission.

The Airbus & Italdesign Partnership

When two worlds collide, something magical happens. Airbus and Italdesign’s concept has the duo-pronged effect of alleviating traffic congestion in megacities and at the same time, reduce the harmful impact of carbon emissions on the environment. Since Pop.Up gives passengers the option of ground transport or autonomous flight, you make full use of the urban transportation space. The end result: seamless urban mobility. According to Mathias Thompsen, GM, Urban Air Mobility at Airbus: “The design exercise with Italdesign combined with our ongoing technology demonstrator projects are all helping us move forward to converge on the ultimate – and potentially modular – urban vehicle.”

“With the technical experts at Airbus, we aimed for a realistic and scalable system that would democratize the availability of the city sky.”

With Los Angeles commuters, according to Cool Hunting, “spending a whopping 104 hours a year in traffic hell, trudging along day in and day out at less than 65% of free-flow speed,” Airbus’ concept could not come fast enough. According to Italdesign CEO Jörg Astalosch, “The beauty of Pop.Up is that it could be an integral part of cities’ existing public metro or tram transport system or integrate seamlessly into a future one.” With the U.S. home to 10 out of the 20 slowest cities in the world, American are spending a significant portion of their days sitting inside their vehicles contributing to highway congestion.

The Urban Vehicle of the Future

Unveiled during the 87th Geneva International Motor Show, Pop.Up is an action-packed urban transport vehicle that features three primary components: a carbon-fiber passenger capsule, a battery-powered ground module, and an air module with eight counter-rotating rotors. Even though displayed at the Show, the electric propulsion and sense-and-avoid technology have yet to be invented – thus Airbus’ 7-10 year estimated launch date.

“If you want to design the urban vehicle of the future, the traditional car is not the solution for megacities. You also have to think about sustainable and intelligent infrastructure, apps, integration, power systems, urban planning, sociology and so on,” Astalosch explained.

Source: Airbus, Cool Hunting, INRIX