Airbus shows off app-controlled ‘flying Uber’ which can drive and fly

REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

Flying cars are a staple of science fiction – but it turns out the real thing might be rather different from Hollywood’s imaginings of it.

The first flying cars might not be ‘driven’ by people at all – and instead, will work like a flying Uber, appearing when summoned by an app.

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Airbus this week unveiled a ‘flying taxi’ known as the Pop.Up system – which consists of a two-seater car which can also be lifted through the air by a drone-style vertical take-off vehicle.

The system, designed with Italdesign, would work with an Uber-style app where customers summon a vehicle – and the app decides whether they require ground or air travel, or a combination of both.

Passengers sit in a 16-foot carbon fibre cocoon, which is either driven through the streets by an electric motor – or lifted through the air by the VTOL capsule.

The concept was shown off by Airbus and Italdesign at the Geneva international Motor Show.

‘Today, automobiles are part of a much wider eco-system: if you want to design the urban vehicle of the future, the traditional car cannot alone be the solution for megacities, you also have to think about sustainable and intelligent infrastructure, apps, integration, power systems, urban planning, social aspects, and so on,’ said Italdesign CEO Jörg Astalosch in a press release.

‘In the next years ground transportation will move to the next level and from being shared, connected and autonomous it will also go multimodal and moving into the third dimension.’

Airbus has previously claimed that a full-sized flying car prototype will take flight by the end of this year, the aerospace group’s chief executive said in January.

Airbus says that the vehicle would be self-piloted, and the aim would be for people to book the vehicle using an app, similar to car-sharing schemes.

It would seat one person, Airbus says.

One hundred years ago, urban transport went underground, now we have the technological wherewithal to go above ground,’ Airbus CEO Tom Enders said,, ‘We are in an experimentation phase, we take this development very seriously.’