Italdesign and Airbus have presented the first first modular, fully electric, zero emission concept vehicle system designed to relieve traffic congestion in crowded megacities.
The Pop Up modular system was presented to the 87th Geneva International Motor Show on 7th March. It envisages a modular system for multi-modal transportation that makes full use of both ground space and airspace. The concept was developed by a partnership between Italdesign and Airbus which investigated the problem of how to address the mobility challenges of megacities, particularly traffic congestion, which is expected to increase hugely by 2030.
The two companies decided to combine their engineering expertise to develop a sustainable, modular and multimodal urban mobility system. The Pop Up consists of a three layers concept – an artificial intelligence (AI) platform to manage travel complexity, a vehicle based on a passenger capsule designed to be coupled with two different and independent electric propelled modules (the ground module and the air module) and an interface module that communicates with users in a fully virtual environment.
Other public means of transportation, such as trains and hyperloops, could also integrate the Pop Up capsule. The system system aims to give time back to commuters through a flexible, shared and adaptable new way of moving through and within cities, combining 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.
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 CEO Jörg Astalosch added that it is deeply rooted in the company’s DNA to search for future state-of-the-art solutions. Automobiles are currently part of a much wider eco-system but Italdesign believes that the urban vehicle of the future cannot be based on the traditional car cannot alone as the solution for megacities. The sustainable and intelligent infrastructure, apps, integration, power systems, urban planning, social aspects and so on also need to be thought about. In the coming 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.