Plane, Train and Automobile: This Concept Car Transforms into All Three

The passenger capsule can be driven like a car, flown by a drone or integrated into a transit system like a hyperloop. (Image credit: Italdesign/Airbus)

George Jetson can eat his heart out. A new flying-car concept can do more than just take to the skies. In fact, the futuristic vehicle takes more cues from "Transformers" than "The Jetsons" in imagining how humans might get around in the future.

Meet the Pop.Up.

This "multimodal transportation concept" is a passenger capsule that can transform into different modes of transit, by attaching to wheels for driving, connecting to propellers for flying or joining a train-like transit system such as the high-speed transit concept known as the Hyperloop.

The futuristic capsule was envisioned by aerospace company Airbus and design and engineering firm Italdesign. The companies say the Pop.Up could unite aerospace and automotive technologies for a new kind of urban mobility. [Hyperloop, Jetpacks & More: 9 Futuristic Transit Ideas]

Airbus and Italdesign revealed their transforming-car concept March 7 at the Geneva International Motor Show, and described it as entering the "third dimension" of transportation systems.

"Today, automobiles are part of a much wider ecosystem: If you want to design the urban vehicle of the future, the traditional car cannot alone be the solution for megacities; you also have to think about sustainable and intelligent infrastructure, apps, integration, power systems, urban planning, social aspects, and so on," Italdesign CEO Jörg Astalosch said in a statement. "In the next years, ground transportation will move to the next level — and from being shared, connected and autonomous, it will also go multimodal and moving into the third dimension."

There are three layers to the Pop.Up concept system, according to Airbus. The passenger capsule is one layer, with its ability to be coupled with electrically propelled ground and air transport (such as a car base or a drone top). The capsule can also be linked to a public transit system (such as trains or a Hyperloop).

The passenger capsule can be driven like a car, flown by a drone or integrated into a transit system like a hyperloop. (Image credit: Italdesign/Airbus)

The Pop.Up is designed to run on an artificial-intelligence platform, the second layer, that can choose the best route — by ground or air — to the passenger's destination. The capsule will then autonomously travel the selected route, according to Airbus.

A video of the Pop.Up in action shows the system's user interface, or the third layer, which offers passengers an interactive virtual environment. For instance, in one clip, a display in the capsule offers information regarding a museum the passenger is flying over.

The companies did not announce a time frame for developing the project, but they did note that traffic congestion is expected to become increasingly worse. The companies say Pop.Up offers a solution to growing transportation challenges for urban commuters.

Original article on Live Science.

Kacey Deamer
Staff Writer
Kacey Deamer is a journalist for Live Science, covering planet earth and innovation. She has previously reported for Mother Jones, the Reporter's Committee for Freedom of the Press, Neon Tommy and more. After completing her undergraduate degree in journalism and environmental studies at Ithaca College, Kacey pursued her master's in Specialized Journalism: Climate Change at USC Annenberg. Follow Kacey on Twitter.