Airbus and Italdesign have designed a concept vehicle that will allow passengers to travel by both air and ground. Credit: Airbus/Italdesign

The best way to beat a traffic jam? Fly over the gridlocked roads.

A new concept car, released at the 87th Geneva International Motor Show March 7, might make that concept a reality.

Italdesign and Airbus premiered Pop.Up, the first modular, full electric, zero emission concept vehicle system designed to relieve traffic congestion in cities by utilizing a modular system for multi-modal transportation that makes use of both ground and airspace.

With traffic congestion projected to significantly increase by 2030, the companies opted to combine their engineering expertise to tackle how to better achieve a sustainable, modular and multimodal urban mobility system.

The Pop.Up system consists of an artificial intelligence platform that manages the travel complexity by offering alternative usage scenarios based on its use knowledge. The vehicle is shaped as a passenger capsule designed to be coupled with two different and independent electric propelled modules and an interface module that dialogues with users in a fully virtual environment.

The vehicle combines the flexibility of a small two-seater ground vehicle with the freedom and speed of a vertical take-off and landing air vehicle, bridging the automotive and aerospace domains.

To use the new vehicle, passengers plan their trip using an app. The system automatically suggests the best transport route according to user knowledge, timing, traffic congestion, costs, ridesharing demands and the passengers’ preferences and needs.

The concept vehicle has a capsule designed to accommodate passengers. The high-tech, monocoque carbon fiber cocoon is 2.6 meters long, 1.4 meters high and 1.5 meters wide. The capsule transforms itself into a city car by coupling to the ground module, which features a carbon-fiber chassis and is battery powered.

For highly congested trips, 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. This configuration allows the vehicle to become an urban self-piloted air vehicle.

Once the passengers reach their destination, the air and ground modules with the capsule autonomously return to dedicated recharge stations to wait for their next customers.

Mathias Thomsen, general manager for Urban Air Mobility at Airbus, explained how the concept vehicle will help travelers.

“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,” Thomsen said in a statement. “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,” he added.

Italdesign CEO Jörg Astalosch said the vehicle is the future of urban traveling.

“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,” Astalosch said in a statement. “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.

“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 added.