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Audi/Airbus

Audi and Airbus show off flying car prototype - but not all is at it seems

Pop.up Next partnership with Airbus takes to the skies, in a small way

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Back at the Geneva Motor Show in March this year, Audi, Italdesign and Airbus announced a partnership with plans to create a self-driving and self-flying autonomous vehicle.

The vehicle would include a driverless car, which could be detached from its chassis and lifted into the air with a pilotless drone.

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Called Pop. Up Next, the concept seemed about as far away from reality as it was possible to get - and that's saying something, given the far-out concepts it shared the Geneva exhibition center with.

But then, in June, the project took an important and credible step forward when the German government laid out foundations to begin testing the vehicle. It is hoped that the vehicle will be tested in the skies above the city of Ingolstadt, home of Audi, with the goal of easing road congestion below.

Now, Audi has released footage of a prototype being tested, showing how the autonomous car can drove up to the drone, park beneath its four rotors, attach, and be flown to its destination.

But there's a catch - the vehicle you see here is a quarter-size model, to be shown off at Amsterdam Drone Week this week.

Car manufacturers regularly use smaller-scale models of new vehicles before building the first full-size prototypes, usually for wind tunnel testing to work on the aerodynamics, so flying car fans shouldn't be too disheartened by this first, tentative step by Audi and Airbus.

Dr. Bernd Martens, Audi board member for sourcing and IT, said in a statement: "Flying taxis are on the way. We are Audi are convinced of that. 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."

In June, German transport minister Andreas Scheuer said: "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."

Inside the concept shown off at Geneva, there were no driving or flying controls at all. Instead, passengers are presented with a giant 49-inch touchscreen which stretches the entire width of the cabin. The infotainment system also includes speech and face recognition and eye-tracking.

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