Fantasy becomes reality as flying cars launch at Geneva Motor Show

The “Pop.up next” concept flying car, a hybrid vehicle that blends a self-driving car and passenger drone by Audi, Italdesign and Airbus is seen during the Geneva International Motor Show. (AFP)
Updated 08 March 2018
0

Fantasy becomes reality as flying cars launch at Geneva Motor Show

GENEVA: Flying cars — which have graced cinema screens for decades — are about to be launched for real, with the unveiling of a commercial model in Geneva this week.
From James Bond to The Jetsons, flying cars have long captured our imaginations. Now Dutch company Pal-V said they are almost ready to take to the streets, and the skies.
It unveiled its Liberty Flying Car — a sleek, red three-wheeled gyrocopter-type vehicle — at the Geneva Motor Show and said client deliveries could start next year.
The vehicles allow drivers to zip through traffic on the ground or simply fly above it.
An alliance between Airbus, Audi and Italdesign also presented a concept flying vehicle, “Pop.Up Next” at the Geneva show.
That modular system, made up of an electric car with a huge quadcopter fastened to the roof, is expected to be commercialized from 2025, the companies said.
“Frustration” sparked the idea for Liberty for Pal-V (Personal Air and Land Vehicle).
In a plane, “you start at a point where you don’t want to start and you end up in a place where you don’t want to be,” company chief Robert Dingemanse told AFP.
“The Pal-V is the perfect product for city-to-city mobility,” he said, as “outside the cities you fly, inside the city you drive.”
The two-seater vehicle has retractable helicopter blades and is powered by a gasoline-fueled engine.
It can fly 500 km (310 miles), or drive nearly four times that distance without refueling, reaching a maximum speed of 160 km an hour.
Buyers are already lining up: For now the expected waiting time for delivery is around two years.
There are 10,000 strips in Europe available for take-off. “Because you can drive, that’s already enough,” Dingemanse said, adding that “every German will have a small airport within 10 or 20 km of his home.”
The modular Pop.Up Next has a radically different design — its passenger capsule resembles a futuristic gondola lift, with a giant quadcopter attached to the roof. Fully electric, it was conceived for mass transport in an urban setting.
The motorized base of the vehicle, which drives, and the upper part, which flies, can be detached to move autonomously.
Volkswagen’s Italdesign unit developed the passenger capsule while the motorized underbelly of the vehicle is based on Audi technology.
“I don’t know if you would use it every day,” Cousin said, adding that it would be good for “going to the airport (at a price) hardly more expensive than a taxi,” without the worry of traffic jams.
Airbus wants to launch the first urban trials by 2022, and is also looking into other uses, including transferring patients between hospitals and transporting goods at night.
“The convergence of certain technologies, especially in batteries and electric engines, is making it possible to develop this kind of vehicle — something that was impossible five or 10 years ago,” Cousin said.


Saudi-backed SoftBank to ramp up tech investment

Updated 20 June 2018
0

Saudi-backed SoftBank to ramp up tech investment

  • SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son to step up company's "unicorn hunting" investment strategy
  • Saudi Arabia's PIF has contributed $45 billion to SoftBank's Vision Fund

LONDON: Japanese conglomerate SoftBank will double down on its ambitious tech investment strategy, in a move that could create opportunities for further collaboration with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF).
SoftBank — which owns Japan’s third-largest telecoms operator — has emerged in recent years as one of the world’s largest tech investors, acquiring stakes in companies including Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, and UK chipmaker ARM Holdings.
It last year launched the $100 billion Vision Fund, boosted by a $45 billion investment from PIF. It attracted $93 billion in funds last year, aided by contributions from Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Investment Company, Apple, Foxconn and others, making it the world’s largest buyout fund.
The Vision Fund has invested in disruptive firms, especially those in the technology space, including Swiss pharmaceuticals startup Roivant, office space company WeWork, and enterprise messaging service Slack.
CEO Masayoshi Son signaled that such dealmaking will become even more of a focus for SoftBank.
“I have spent 97 percent of my time on managing the telecoms business and only 3 percent on investing,” he told investors at the group’s annual meeting on Wednesday, Reuters reported.
Reversing that balance will allow SoftBank to grow faster, he said.
Son’s comments fit with a transformation underway at SoftBank from a domestic telecoms firm to “unicorn hunter” — as Son termed it — focusing on late-stage startups around the world.
Last month, SoftBank invested $2.25 billion in GM Cruise, the carmaker’s autonomous vehicle unit, complementing its shareholdings in China’s Didi Chuxing, the world’s largest ride-sharing app, as well as rivals Uber, Grab and Ola.
The Vision Fund will initially invest $900 million in GM Cruise Holdings, investing the remaining $1.35 billion when GM’s Cruise AVs are ready for commercial deployment. The investment gives the Vision Fund a 19.6 percent stake in GM Cruise.
Saudi Arabia’s PIF has been key to SoftBank’s tech investment strategy with its contribution to the Vision Fund, with the Kingdom also benefiting directly from partnerships with SoftBank.
Son said in November that SoftBank planned to invest as much as $25 billion in the Kingdom in the next three to four years, and aimed to deploy up to $15 billion in Neom, a futuristic city to be built on the Red Sea coast.
PIF and the Vision Fund in March announced a partnership to build the world’s largest solar project in Saudi Arabia, with a capacity of up to 200 gigawatts, in line with the Kingdom’s solar ambitions as set out in Vision 2030.
The agreement will establish an electricity generation company in Saudi Arabia, and will commission two solar plants with a capacity of 3GW and 4.2GW by the end of next year. It envisages localizing a significant portion of the renewable energy value chain in the Saudi economy, including research and development and the manufacturing of solar panels.
SoftBank shareholders on Wednesday approved the appointment of three executive vice presidents — SoftBank unit Sprint Corp’s former chief executive, Marcelo Claure, and former bankers Katsunori Sago and Rajeev Misra.
Bolivian-born billionaire Claure was appointed SoftBank’s chief operating officer in May, tasked with driving cooperation between the group’s portfolio companies. Former Goldman Sachs executive Sago became chief strategy officer on Wednesday and will focus on group investment. Misra runs the Vision Fund.
Son yesterday bemoaned the so-called conglomerate discount weighing on SoftBank’s shares at its investor meeting.
He said when the market value of stakes the firm holds in companies such as Alibaba Group Holding and ARM Holdings are taken into account, SoftBank’s shares should be trading above 14,000 yen ($127), rather than about 8,000 yen currently.