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Airbus has been talking about its Vahana flying autonomous vehicle project for a while now, but at this year’s Geneva Motor Show, it’s showing off a concept design created in partnership with Italdesign. The demonstration vehicle offers modular functionality, meaning it can operate both on the ground and in the air, and Airbus thinks it’s one potential solution to the growing problem of urban traffic congestion.
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The feasible concept is the result of Italdesign and Airbus’ joint reflection on how to address the mobility challenges of mega-cities achievable for a majority, which has become one of the most pressing issues for commuters in mega-cities worldwide. With traffic congestion projected to hugely increase by 2030, the companies decided to combine their engineering expertise to tackle how to best achieve a sustainable, modular and multimodal urban mobility system – giving rise to the Pop.Up concept.
Pop.Up System consists of a three layers concept:
- An Artificial Intelligence platform that, based on its user knowledge, manages the travel complexity offering alternative usage scenarios and assuring a seamless travel experience;
- A vehicle shaped as a passenger capsule designed to be coupled with two different and independent electric propelled modules, the ground module and the air module. Other public means of transportation (e.g. trains or hyperloop) could also integrate the Pop.Up capsule;
- An interface module that dialogues with users in a fully virtual environment.
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 (VTOL) air vehicle, thus bridging the automotive and aerospace domains.
At the heart of the concept is a capsule: designed to accommodate passengers. This high-tech, monocoque carbon-fibre cocoon measures 2.6 meters long, 1.4 meters high, and 1.5 meters wide. 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.
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For mega-city journeys with high congested traffic, the capsule disconnects from the ground module and is carried by a 5 by 4.4-meter air module propelled by eight counter-rotating rotors. In this configuration, Pop.Up becomes an urban self-piloted/self-driving air vehicle, taking advantage of the third dimension to get from A to B efficiently whilst avoiding traffic congestion on the ground.
Once passengers reach their destination, the air and ground modules with the capsule autonomously return to dedicated recharge stations to wait for their next customers.