Germany to Test Flying Cars with Audi and Airbus
Germany wants to make flying cars a reality. Although it may take some time for regulations and technology to catch up with such goals, the country is already taking the necessary steps to move forward with rolling out new forms of transporation.
Last month, German Chancellor Angela Merkel signed a letter of intent with Audi and Airbus, which set forth the testing of flying cars in public locations. Hamburg, the second-largest city in Germany, also intends on building local testing grounds for flying cars. Airbus is an active participant in both projects.
Letter of Intent for Public Trials
Flying-car operations in the country will reduce traffic and congestion in public roadways. Interestingly, the Bavarian city of Ingolstadt was selected for the trials – Audi's hometown. The details of the project have not been fully revealed. An upcoming presentation during the European Smart Cities initiative will provide more information about the public trials.
In the program, Airbus is expected to contribute autonomous air modules. Ground modules will be provided by Audi. Various local establishments, from universities to hospitals, will also take part in the project. The locations will likely serve as pick up and drop off points for the operation.
"Flying taxis aren't a vision any longer. They can take us off into a new dimension of mobility. They're a huge opportunity for companies and young startups that already develop this technology very concretely and successfully," said German transport minister Andreas Scheuer.
"They open completely new possibilities, including medical transport in cities and urban areas."
The type of flying cars to be used during the public trials could be the same modules previewed by Audi and Airbus at the Geneva Motor Show. Called Pop.Up Next, the concepts for the modern vehicles came to fruition with Volkswagen's Italdesign.
Although nonfunctional, the concepts were very impressive. On land, an Audi pod shuttles passengers wherever they need to go – like a regular ride-hailing service. In the event the commute is held back by road congestion, a quadcopter scoops up the pod, allowing it to fly in the air (both units are electric and autonomous).
The combination of vehicles is determined by the selected route and the level of congestion on the road. The concept requires support from VTOL takeoff and landing pads, as well as electric charging stations for docking. According to Airbus manager Mathias Thomsen, the flying vehicles must be capable of clearing the height of buildings in the surrounding area.
"Creativity is needed where new mobility concepts for cities and people's diverse needs are concerned...Pop.Up Next is an ambitious vision that could permanently change our urban life in the future," said Dr. Bernd Martens, an Audi board member.
A year before Pop.Up Next was showcased at the Geneva Motor Show, the project was unveiled by Airbus (before the partnership with Audi was formed). Notably, the latest design of the vehicles is lighter and equipped with cutting-edge features. The cabin features a 49-inch panel, with seamless interfaces that respond to touch, common facial features (facial recognition) and basic gestures.
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