Future of mobility: a personal capsule which drives, flies and hops on train

Imagine ordering a capsule which can drive and fly on its own taking you across the city. The concept, called “Pop.Up”, was unveiled at the Geneva car show and is a big leap into the future.

PARIS, FRANCE (REUTERS) – Traffic congestion, pollution, and constantly expanding city populations are pushing innovators to imagine new transport systems which will shape the world’s capitals in the future.

Two companies, European plane maker Airbus and car design company Italdesign, have joined forces to come up with a new vision of how to move around the city. The concept they presented at the Geneva Autoshow on Tuesday (March 7) is called Pop.Up.

It’s a simple concept. The passenger will be able to jump into a capsule sitting in the frame of an autonomous car, which will automatically take them to their destination via both road and the air without the need to change vehicles.

The vehicle, shaped as a passenger capsule, is designed to be coupled with two different and independent electric propelled modules.

The capsule transforms itself into a city car by simply coupling to the ground module, which features a carbon-fibre chassis and is battery powered. For journeys in high congested traffic, passengers can call a drone via smartphone. A future artificial intelligence platform would allow users to disconnect the capsule from the ground module and be carried into the sky by a 5 by 4.4 metre air module propelled by eight counter-rotating rotors.

“Pop.Up is a new mobility concept,” said Airbus Urban Air Mobility Mathias Thomsen. “It’s multi-modal, it combines the ground with the air. It allows passengers a seamless and faster way of getting from A to B using the city sky. It’s a partnership between the aerospace and the automotive sector, two powerful sectors that that come together to develop new technology, new concepts for the future of smart cities.”

It’s a modular concept which can both fly autonomously using electricity and travel on the city’s roads, or even connected to other modes of transports such as trains or hyperloops.

The Pop.Up vehicle combines the flexibility of a small two-seater ground vehicle with the freedom and speed of a vertical take-off and landing air vehicle.

Pop.Up’s designers argue that using the sky in big cities is the way forward for avoiding traffic gridlock.

“I think right now the urban sky is quite under-utilised and that’s exactly the proposition the grid-like layout of road doesn’t actually do for us. We think that by combining air and ground we will get a much better use of the space that we have in our cities,” Thomsen said.

This multi-modal system will not be around for several years but its creators believe a system like it could be functional within a decade.

“To make this really happen it is really important that this system is modular,” said Italdesign CEO Jorg Astalosch. “Only when the system is modular, in this case when it can de-couple from the air module for example, or the ground module for example it’s sure that we can always find the optimal solution and it is very important that the capsule is always the same so that the passenger and our customers so to speak is always in the same environment, feeling well and doesn’t have the hassle with the change of the traffic system.”

The Geneva Autoshow runs until March 19.