Italdesign and Airbus unveil Pop-Up air and ground transport concept at 2017 Geneva Motor Show

Article by Christian A., on March 13, 2017

For decades, people have been toying with the idea of cars being able to fly in the sky. There have been several concepts presented before, including cars with wings. Now at the 2017 Geneva International Motor Show, a new concept of a flying car is being presented by Italdesign and Airbus – the new Pop.Up modular system for air and ground transport.

The Pop-up Concept is a modular, fully electric zero emission concept that makes use of both ground and air travel, thereby helping relieve traffic congestion that has become one of the challenges in megacities. By offering the flexibility advantage of using both ground and air for moving from place to another, the Pop.up concept could become a user-focused mobility solution of the future.

Actually, the new Pop.Up concept is not just one vehicle – but is a combination of two vehicles covering two different routes (ground and air). Passengers will primarily be carried in a small two seater capsule carried by a ground module, with the availability of vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) air unit. capsule comes in form of a high-tech, carbon-fiber monocoque. Measuring 2.6 meters in length, 1.5 meters in width and 1.4 meters in height, the capsule could be attached to the ground module for land travel, thereby becoming a city car. The capsule could also be attached to the air module for sky transport, thereby becoming a VTOL vehicle.

The all-electric ground module is underpinned by a carbon fiber chassis with four wheels, while the air fully electric module – measuring 5 meters in length and 4.4 meters in width – flies off with eight counter-rotating rotors.

According to the companies, the Pop.Up System concept features three layers. It includes an Artificial Intelligence platform that takes care of managing the travel no matter how complex it is; a passenger capsule with the ground module and the air module; and an interface module that dialogues with its users in a virtual environment.

Essentially, the Pop.Up concept is an autonomous (self-driven and self-propelled) system that is both shared and connected, serving as a door-to-door transportation service in which passengers book a trip through an app. Once a passenger is picked up, the system automatically suggests the best transport solution. Depending on the situation – as assessed by the system considering user knowledge, timing and traffic congestion – the capsule may become a ground vehicle or an air transport unit. Once the passenger reaches the destination and gets off the capsule, the ground and air modules will return to their respective recharging stations.

If implemented and once certain concerns are address, this Pop-up concept by Italdesign and Airbus could prove to be a major breakthrough in future mobility in megacities around the world.

Press Release


During the 87th Geneva International Motor Show, Italdesign and Airbus worldpremiered Pop.Up, the first modular, fully electric, zero emission concept vehicle system designed to relieve traffic congestion in crowded megacities. Pop.Up envisages a modular system for multi-modal transportation that makes full use of both ground and airspace. The feasible concept is the result of Italdesign and Airbus’ joint reflection on how to address the mobility challenges of megacities achievable for a majority, which has become one of the most pressing issues for commuters in megacities 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 hyperloops) could also integrate the Pop.Up capsule; - an interface module that dialogues with users in a fully virtual environment.; The Pop.Up system aims to give time back to commuters through a flexible, shared and adaptable new way of moving within cities introducing a new user-focused transportation system concept. 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.

Pop.Up’s modus operandi is simple: passengers plan their journey and book their trip via an easy-to-use app. The system automatically suggests the best transport solution - according to user knowledge, timing, traffic congestion, costs, ridesharing demands - joining either the air or ground module or other means of transportation to the passenger capsule, and following passengers’ preferences and needs. At the heart of the concept is a capsule: designed to accommodate passengers. This high-tech, monocoque carbon-fibre cocoon measures 2.6 metres long, 1.4 metres high, and 1.5 metres 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. For megacity journeys with high congested traffic, the capsule disconnects from the ground module and is carried by a 5 by 4.4 metre air module propelled by eight counter-rotating rotors. In this configuration, Pop.Up becomes a urban self-piloted 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. Thanks to the possibility of combining the capsule also with other means of public transportation, the Pop.Up offers a seamless travel experience. The user can stay for the entire journey in the same capsule without worrying about switching between different travel modes and enjoy the entire commute time, with real time interaction between the capsule and the surrounding urban environment and communities.

Aerospace leader Airbus is harnessing its expertise to actively develop a number of radical concepts that will contribute to relieving urban congestion. “Adding the third dimension to seamless multi-modal transportation networks will without a doubt improve the way we live and how we get from A to B,” said Mathias Thomsen, General Manager for Urban Air Mobility at Airbus, on the occasion of the unveil.

“Successfully designing and implementing solutions that will work both in the air and on the ground requires a joint reflection on the part of both aerospace and automotive sectors, alongside collaboration with local government bodies for infrastructure and regulatory frameworks. Italdesign, with its long track record of exceptional vehicle design was an exciting partner for Airbus for this unique concept project.” “Italdesign is a service company, created to provide services and mobility solutions to interested parties worldwide. It is deeply rooted in our DNA to search for future state-of-the-art solutions,” said Italdesign CEO Jörg Astalosch.

“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. 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” continued Astalosch. “We found in Airbus, the leader in aerospace, the perfect partner who shares this modern vision for the future of megacities to develop a sustainable multi-modal vision of megacity transportation,” he concluded.

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