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 an operate both on the ground and in the air, and Airbus thinks it’s one potential answer to the growing problem of urban traffic congestion.
As you can see, it’s suitably sci-fi in its design sensibilities, but it’s designed with practicality in mind. The concept vehicle is intended to work with others to form a network that can be summoned on demand, with passengers hailing a ride form an app on their mobile device. The capsule-based design can connect to either ground or air conveyance modules, letting customers specific their preferred method of transit. It’s also designed to be used in concert with other, existing transportation methods for maximum efficiency.
Airbus and Italdesign call their creation the ‘Pop.Up System,’ which includes the artificial intelligence platform that uses what it knows about any individual user, and available routes and transit options to determine the best travel options. The main vehicle itself is a passenger capsule, which holds the rider and which can be paired with either ground and air modules, as well as, Airbus suggests, with hyperloop systems down the line once that tech becomes more widely available.
There’s a third part of Pop.Up that ensures this whole project touches all bases when it comes to current tech hype – an interface that will respond and interact with the user in a “fully virtual environment” while in transit. They’ve thought of everything.
Well, except making this thing real: It’s very much still a concept, though its 8.5-foot long monocoque carbon-fibre passenger pod is built-to scale and on the show floor at Geneva, as are the wheeled ground module and quadcopter drone air transit system.
It’s unlikely to ever be ferrying passengers around, at least in this state, and in the near future, but it’s a very cool design that can at least make us want to work a bit harder to get to a place where it is a viable, everyday option for navigating our expanding and increasingly dense cities.