The 2018 Geneva Motor Show is all about cars, but Italdesign has teamed up with Audi and Airbus to offer up something a bit different. Did we just say Airbus, as in the company that builds gigantic airplanes? Yes we did, because the Pop.Up Next modular system includes a gigantic quadcopter to take car and passengers to the skies.
Specifically, Italdesign calls Pop.Up Next a “fully electric and zero-emission modular system, designed to help resolve traffic congestion in large urban areas." As you can see, the crux of this setup is an electric car that can detach from its motorized base and fly around town courtesy of a quadcopter. The idea actually debuted last year at the Geneva Motor Show, but Audi is now on-board and the components have been further refined to bring this whole crazy idea a bit closer to reality.
Specifically, Audi is bringing its experience in autonomous driving and battery-electric propulsion to the project, seen in the motorized base of the modular system. Airbus is obviously the driving force behind the air module, and over the last year the aerospace company has made refinements to the design and rotor ducts that would improve efficiency. Airbus and Italdesign are both working on several other technical systems for the two-seat capsule, including the coupling system that would secure it to the quadcopter for flight.
In theory, the entire system would function in a ride share capacity. Fully autonomous capsules on electric bases could ferry passengers via ground, with rotor modules coming in for a pick-up to get people across town quicker.
It’s certainly a novel approach to the flying car we’ve all dreamed of, but a viable mode of transportation is certainly many years away at the very least. Autonomous automotive systems are still in infancy, never mind the challenges of car-sized autonomous drones flying around a city. Still, it offers an interesting solution to traffic congestion and could well be a glimpse into the distant future of motoring.
Gallery: Italdesign Pop.Up Next Modular Concept
ITALDESIGN AND AIRBUS UNVEIL THE EVOLUTION OF POP.UP,
A MODULAR SYSTEM FOR FUTURE MOBILITY
• In 2017, Italdesign continued to develop the Pop.Up concept for future mobility
in the areas of HMI, UX, E-traction and docking system
• Airbus further developed the flight systems and docking system
• Audi supports in technology for Autonomous Drive and Battery Electric
Propulsion, system architecture and charging system
Geneva, 6 March 2018
Italdesign unveils Pop.Up Next, the first fully electric and zero-emission modular system, designed to help
resolve traffic congestion in large urban areas. Pop.Up Next consists of a modular, multi-modal system that
enables transportation to enter into the third dimension by exploiting both urban ground and airspace.
Italdesign is unveiling Pop.Up Next exactly one year after its Geneva world premiere in 2017.
Pop.Up Next reflects the philosophy driving Italdesign’s 50th anniversary celebrations, anticipating the
challenges that the next fifty years will bring. It represents a vision of the potential offered by future
technologies, the new concept of transportation and the new solutions for resolving the problems linked to
city planning and traffic in large urban centres that are increasingly becoming one of the priority aspects for
safeguarding our planet. Next is evidence of the success achieved by Pop.Up over the past year amongst the
main players in the transportation world, the municipalities and institutions worldwide.
As the 2017 original project, the Pop.Up Next system aims to give time back to commuters, freeing them
from the need to drive, through a flexible, shared and adaptable new way of moving within cities introducing
a new user-focused transportation system concept.
Pop.Up combines the flexibility of a small two seater ground vehicle with the freedom and speed of a vertical
take-off and landing (VTOL) air vehicle, thus bridging the automotive and aerospace domains. The core of
the product is therefore the Intermodality and making it modular.
“Last year Pop.Up marked a new — and as we believe highly significant — chapter in the transportation
sector by bringing together two worlds, road mobility and air transport, which had never previously met,”
commented Jörg Astalosch, CEO of Italdesign. “The close cooperation with the premium brand Audi confirms
that the project could become the standard bearer for future mobility, based on new technologies,
sustainability, digitalisation and urbanization; all sectors in which Audi is a leading company. These are also
the pillars that underpin Audi’s strategy and are fully embodied in Pop.Up Next. So we are proud having been
asked to show this idea as Audi – engineered by Italdesign, following our Human Centred Design and
During 2017, Italdesign continued to work on developing the Pop.Up project on several fronts.
From the corporate/relational standpoint, Italdesign is investing in increasingly becoming a key player in the
global development of future mobility, consolidating its own function as a development hub for new and
innovative ideas and as a meeting point for the various sectors and stakeholders involved. Future mobility
will be an all-round challenge that will increasingly involve not only vehicle manufacturers — whether these
be cars, aircraft, trains to name but a few — but entities that to date have primarily played a statutory and
regulatory role: from now on, they will increasingly become an integral part of the development process.
Municipalities, institutions, urban planners, sociologists and developing countries will take on an everincreasing
active role in defining future mobility in the large urban areas. With this in mind, in 2017 Italdesign
created, a network of contacts with municipalities, universities and other stakeholders on various continents,
starting to identify typical and unique issues of each entity and defining a wealth of knowledge that will be
essential for the next stages of the Pop.Up Next project’s development.
Over the course of the year, Airbus teams worked on refining the aerodynamic design of the air module and
rotor ducts to improve performance and reduce power consumption in cruise flight. They also introduced a
concept for a functional coupling system with locking and latching functionality. Airbus also worked on the
interior design of Pop.Up Next to harmonise the Audi design language with the Airbus Airspace cabin design
language from commmercial aircraft.
The continuation of the research partnership with Airbus is also proof that the aerospace industry’s major
players is very interested in pursuing the common aim of full integration of the various transportation sectors.
Pop.Up Next is “Vorsprung durch Technik”; in this sense Pop.Up Next represents the progress of
technology… and that’s not all.
From a technical standpoint, Airbus and Italdesign engineers have worked on several fronts to optimise the
system’s efficiency, working on weight reduction, aerodynamics, the system for coupling the various modules
and optimisation of the onboard electronic systems.
Italdesign’s engineers have developed an electric modular platform — currently remote steering & breaking
by wire — designed to integrate ADASs for fully autonomous driving in the next prototyping step. Italdesign’s
electronics departments have worked on the set up of the electric driving platform and performend necessary
test to improve the systems capability. The next step is the integration of the autonomous drive system
where Italdesign is closely working with the engineers of Audi and can count on its “state of the art”
techonoligies in autonoumus driving systems.
On board the capsule, work focused on the HMI system based on face recognition, eye tracking technology
for activating and operating on-board services, as well as feedback systems for activating controls so as to
achieve instinctive and natural human-machine interaction with the vehicle. A demonstration of this
sophisticated HMI system will be available onboard the Pop.Up Next exhibited at the Geneva International
The greatest weight reduction was sought throughout the vehicle to ensure maximum efficiency both in flight
and on the road. The seats have been completely redesigned using an approach that combines the aerospace
world with the automotive universe. An extremely light aluminium structure is accompanied by an ultra-light
mesh structure that combines excellent grip and passenger comfort, all weighing far less than the 2017
Airbus and Italdesign have worked jointly to develop the system for coupling the capsule and ground and air
modules. This system validation is particularly complex due to the alignment and coupling requirements. The
objective being pursued is for the system to be the same for connecting the passenger capsule to both the
air and the ground modules, even though responding to completely different operating and safety dynamics.
Based on an extremely light-weighted but ultra-strong titanium structure, with three coupling points and a
central safety module, the system will have to respect the technical dynamics linked to the capsule’s coupling
to the air module; lift resistance, central safety fixing with extendible pins, air module’s automatic alignment
with the capsule in all directions (vertically in z with correct centering in x and y, whilst ensuring a correct
approach angle between the two modules).
This coupling system is integrated with the onboard sensors used for the first approach and alignment of the
air and ground modules with the capsule to allow safe and precise automatic connection of the modules. The
Italdesign system will also have to satisfy all the technical and safety specifications for coupling the capsule to the ground
module. In this way, the self-rotating locking hooks will have to satisfy operating specs. other than aerospace
ones and guarantee the specific locking and safety features found in automotive use.
In both automotive and aerospace operating modes, the coupling system is optimised to ensure maximum
efficiency and safety both in normal and extreme and/or emergency conditions. It is within this context that
both companies have started to work with their respective certification bodies to identify the basic principles
of future regulation.
Next is best
Under this motto, which is partly included in the name of the new concept and is also the standard bearer
for Italdesign’s first 50th anniversary celebrations, the team is working on the future medium/long-term
development of the Pop.Up Next project.
Audi’s four rings bestow an element of prestige on future mobility, witnessed by Pop.Up Next, whilst
maintaining its own democratic approach through shared usage extended to all those living in the megacities
Airbus is strongly commited to the future development of Urban Air Mobility, and believes that it can only
be achieved by collaboration among various transportation sectors. Italdesign will drive this project further
in the future, thus confirming more and more its new function as a hub and an incubator for ideas and
innovative services for mobility.
A special thanks to our technical partners: Sound to Sight, Seeing Machines.
POP.UP NEXT TECHNICAL SPECIFICATION
AIR MODULE DIMENSIONS
Length mm. 4403
Height mm. 847
Width mm. 5000
Rotors n. 4+4
Propeller diameter mm. 1780
Power train Electric
Total power 160 kW
Motor power (each motor) (MCP) 20 kW
Range (without payload) 50 km
Charging time 15 minutes
Empty weight ratio (EW/GW) 43.90 %
Total battery(ies) energy / capacity 70.0 kWh
Disc Loading 30.4 kg/m2
Tip Speed 150 m/s
Number of passengers 2
PERFORMANCE Top Speed (stand-alone module) 120 km/h
Length Mm 3115
Height Mm 681
Width (front/rear) Mm 1848/1900
Front overhang Mm 581
Rear overhang Mm 534
Kerb weight Kg 200
PERFORMANCE Top speed km/h 100
Motorwheels 2 (Rear)
Total Power 60 kW
Range 130 km
Charging time 15 Minutes
Total battery(ies) energy / capacity 15 kWh
Length mm 2647
Height mm 1415
Width mm 1540
Number of Passenger 2
Kerb weight kg 200