It was a quarter-scale model, but still, it flew and drove by itself.
Audi hasn’t given up on its driverless Pop.Up Next flying taxi concept just yet. In fact, the German automaker just completed a successful test of the modular system, which uses a quadcopter to carry a small two-passenger electric vehicle through the air. Once on the ground, the quadcopter detaches the car which then autonomously carries passengers to their destination. There is a slight catch, however – the test was carried out using a 1:4 scale model of the system, so it’s not quite the real deal just yet.
Audi is working on this Jetsons-esque project with partners Airbus and Italdesign, and as you can see from the links above, it’s making steady progress. This recent quarter-scale test took place at Drone Week in Amsterdam, and it is rather significant as a proof-of-concept. Up to this point we’ve only seen concepts and interpretations of the various components and how it all fits up. The flight module is basically a quadcopter with provisions to carry the ground module, better known to us as a car. The model flew as advertised, placing the car on the ground and releasing it. Free from the quadcopter, the small electric car drove autonomously from the testing grounds.
There’s obviously still much work to do, and not just in creating an electric car carried around town by a quadcopter. Autopilot controls in aircraft are commonplace, but dialing in the systems for cars is still a work-in-progress. Add the complexity of the two modules operating together in a three-axis environment and it gets even more complicated.
Still, Audi seems fairly confident that autonomous flying taxis are the future for personal mobility in cities. Previously, Audi said such a system could go live in as little as 10 years, but this time around there aren’t any estimates as to when Pop.Up Next might lead to production versions. We suspect that will depend on how well a full-size prototype performs, which Audi says is the next step in the process.
Audi, Airbus and Italdesign test Flying Taxi Concept
At Drone Week in Amsterdam Audi, Airbus and Italdesign are presenting for the first time a flying and driving prototype of “Pop.Up Next”.
This innovative concept for a flying taxi combines a self-driving electric car with a passenger drone. In the first public test flight, the flight module accurately placed a passenger capsule on the ground module, which then drove from the test grounds autonomously. This is still a 1:4 scale model. But as soon as the coming decade, Audi customers could use a convenient and efficient flying taxi service in large cities – in multi-modal operation, in the air and on the road. Without changing vehicles, passengers will enjoy their leisure time, relax, or work.