IT COULD be the answer to the congestion crisis gripping our biggest cities: a car that can take to the skies to avoid rush-hour gridlock.
Airbus has drawn up a concept vehicle — part car, part drone — designed to adapt to roads or airspace depending on traffic levels. The design, dubbed “Pop.Up”, consists of a two-seater pod that can be fitted to a chassis to run as an electric car.
In heavy traffic the capsule disconnects from the ground module to be carried by an eight-rotor drone at speeds of up to 62mph, it was claimed.
The vehicle was unveiled at the Geneva International Motor Show yesterday amid rising concerns over traffic levels in cities.
A study last month said that Britain’s roads were the most gridlocked in western Europe, with drivers spending an average of 32 hours a year stuck in traffic. London was the world’s seventh-worst city for traffic.
The Pop.Up concept is being developed with the design company Italdesign. They hope that passengers will book the vehicle using a smartphone app.
The vehicle’s specification said that the pod could also be coupled with other forms of public transport – such as futuristic trains – for a “seamless travel experience”. It said that, once passengers reached their destination, the air or ground module with the capsule could “autonomously return to dedicated recharge stations to wait for their next customers”. Both would take 15 minutes to recharge.
The system is unlikely to reach production soon, although Airbus insisted that similar technology represented the future of transport in congested cities. It has said that it hopes to put some form of “vertical take-off and landing” technology into production by 2021.
Larry Page, the Google founder, has invested millions of dollars in two flying car start-up companies, while the Chinese company EHang has unveiled plans for a “taxi drone” that can transport single passengers.
Graeme Paton, Transport Correspondent
This article first appeared in The Times