THIS year, Amsterdam’s Drone Week (2-6 December) saw Audi, Airbus and Italdesign present their prototype for a flying taxi, for the first time.

The concept, titled “Pop.Up Next” is the combination of a passenger drone and a self-driving electric car. While the prototype is still a 1:4 scale model, the first public test flight was a success, with the flight module placing a passenger capsule on the ground module, which was then autonomously driven from the test grounds.

Audi has claimed that customers could be able to use a flying taxi within large cities as soon as the coming decade.

“Flying taxis are on the way. We at Audi are convinced of that,” Audi board member for sourcing and IT, and president of the Audi subsidiary Italdesign Dr Bernd Martens said “More and more people are moving to cities. And more and more people will be mobile thanks to automation. In future senior citizens, children, and people without a driver’s license will want to use convenient robot taxis. If we succeed in making a smart allocation of traffic between roads and airspace, people and cities can benefit in equal measure”

Audi is currently conducting tests of an on-demand service in South America, in conjunction with Airbus subsidiary Voom.

“Services like this help us to understand our customers’ needs better. Because in the future, flying taxis will appeal to a wide range of city dwellers,” Dr. Martens said. “With Pop.Up Next we are simultaneously exploring the boundaries of what is technically possible. The next step is for a full-size prototype to fly and drive.”

The Urban Mobility flying taxi initiative in Ingolstadt is also being supported by Aldi. This project has the aim of answering questions regarding battery technology, certification, regulation and infrastructure, as well as convincing the public of the benefits of the new technology.