Airbus unveils an autonomous, modular flying car concept

Pop.Up can turn into a car or quadcopter depending on where you need to go.

Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

Flying cars face many obstacles, but one of the biggest is accommodating all the parts needed to both drive and fly -- their designs amount to big, heavy compromises. Airbus and Italdesign want to try something different. They've just unveiled the Pop.Up, an autonomous concept that uses a modular passenger capsule to switch between four-wheeled ground transport and quadcopter flight. All you do is tell the vehicle's AI where to go -- it'll snap on air or ground modules based on both the available routes and your habits. Airbus even floats the possibility of shuttling your capsule through hyperloop tubes when they're available.

This wouldn't sit in your driveway. Airbus foresees Pop.Up vehicles forming an on-demand transportation network that isn't hampered by the limitations of ground-based options. It could dramatically reduce traffic congestion, too. Why drive on a packed bridge when you can simply fly over the river?

The gotcha, as you might guess, is that this is just a concept. There are life-size examples of Pop.Up at the Geneva Motor Show, but there's a big difference between that and showing off a working prototype, let alone something ready to handle your commute. If Airbus is committed to making this a real product, any practical use is going to be years away.