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Weird Commerce: Airbus Takes Urban Transportation To New Heights

“Where we’re going, we don’t need … roads.” These were the infamous lines spoken by Christopher Lloyd’s portrayal of Dr. Emmett Brown in the 1985 classic movie, “Back to the Future.”

Like hover boards and self-drying vests, many predictions from this movie didn’t come true in 2015, but technology is slowly working its way toward innovative products and services. One area where there has been some advancement is when it comes to flying cars. At the Geneva Motor Show in Switzerland, Airbus unveiled its new flying car concept that it is working on with Italdesign.

Known as the Pop.Up System, Airbus is making strides toward making flying cars a reality. While there are various auto manufacturers on the market now working toward autonomous driving, this may be the first step toward helping to significantly move the needle for cars becoming airborne. An Airbus spokesperson described the system to us in a recent conversation: “Pop.Up is a concept vehicle project aimed to investigate future innovative solutions for transportation.”

Through the Pop.Up System concept, Airbus and Italdesign have co-developed a car system that helps alleviate vehicle congestion on the road through essentially air lifting vehicles via four very large drones. Upon entering this new transportation unit, consumers would have the ability to program where they want to go and be transported by electronic means.

To learn more about what inspired this partnership’s decision to proceed in its innovation, the Airbus spokesperson highlighted the significant issues facing urban areas in terms of traffic on the roads: “Innovation has always been a part of Airbus’ DNA, and Airbus is investigating many possible visions for the future of flight. With traffic congestion projected to hugely increase by 2030, the topic is becoming a more pressing issue for commuters in cities worldwide. With this concept vehicle, Airbus and Italdesign want to spark imagination and conversations on the future of urban mobility and raise public awareness of new transport modes.”

Currently, there are a multitude of traffic issues that are being talked about around the country, but how to best ease traffic congestion seems to be a priority. From administering traffic taxes to conversations about ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft being a hinderance, there’s no shortage of concern when it comes to road travel. Just last week, Los Angeles announced a whopping $5.5 billion plan to help bring traffic congestion to a more manageable level.

For some, being stuck in traffic is a daily occurrence when commuting to and from work, which impacts the rest of consumers’ daily lives. It takes away time that could be otherwise spent on more productive activities, such as finishing up work on time to spend more time with family or on hobbies. We saw evidence of this at last year’s CES in Las Vegas when HARMAN announced its partnership with Microsoft to rollout the software giant’s suite of office tools in vehicle infotainment systems.

Moving into 2017, Airbus’ spokesperson shared how the company will continue to make strides toward its ultimate goal of ensuring the Pop.Up System is available to the public. “This is a concept vehicle project aimed to investigate future innovative solutions for transportation. It is feasible and is the starting point for future analysis by both Italdesign and Airbus in future mobility solutions. The expectations in launching Pop.Up are to stimulate urban transportation analysis about future issues in megacities, providing original, smart and feasible speculative solutions to work on in the future.”

The spokesperson commented on the possibilities of this transportation concept car’s reality and how far off it is with implementation: “This is a project to investigate future scenarios for the next seven to ten years. We believe that, thanks to the rapid evolution of technologies, this time frame is realistic and driven mainly by regulatory and urban compatibility constraints,” she said.

It seems as though the regulatory issues Airbus is referring to may be loosened up as a result of current autonomous vehicle efforts. In September of last year, the U.S. government unveiled its first steps toward this with a new policy to help regulate self-driving cars.

The U.S. Department of Transportation issued a four-part policy that included a “15-point safety standard for the design and development of autonomous vehicles; called for states to come up with uniform policies applying to driverless cars; clarified how current regulations can be applied to driverless cars and opened the door for new regulations on the technology,” according to The New York Times.

As far as expanding the business beyond the Pop.Up System’s future, the Airbus spokesperson assured us that we’re just at the beginning in seeing what this partnership is truly capable of. She elaborated: “Both Italdesign and Airbus are evaluating possible future development of the Pop.Up project. The Geneva Motor Show reveal was a starting point for the evaluation of the future development of the common project.”

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