Tuesday 17 January 2017 8:21 am

Want to skip congestion? Airbus is working on it with its flying car prototype

Gridlocked roads and congestion might be a signature of busy cities, but Airbus hopes it'll have a way to circumvent that – sooner rather than later.

The aerospace giant has said it's got plans to test a prototype of a self-piloted flying car by the end of the year.

It got the wheels – or wings – in motion last year, forming a division called Urban Air Mobility to explore a range of concepts, including a helicopter-style vehicle to carry multiple riders. And it could, eventually, serve as a rival to the raft of car-hailing apps out there, with the aim being to get people booking for said vehicle using an app.

Read more: This European flying car maker just raised €10m

Speaking at the DLD digital tech conference in Munich on Monday, Airbus chief executive Tom Enders, said: "One hundred years ago, urban transport went underground, now we have the technological wherewithal to go above ground."

Although the development is currently in "an experimentation phase", Enders said Airbus took it "very seriously" and making more use of the skies could help trim costs for city planners too, in terms of bridges and roads.

Read more: Flying cars? Uber's working on it

The design process is also examining what'll be the cleanest way of operating – Airbus is focusing on using electric motors, so that when the time comes to get the vehicles in action, they won't have a worse pollution impact than what's currently out on the roads.

Enders said his company wanted to invest in new technologies like autonomous driving and AI, saying if it was to ignore those developments Airbus will "be pushed out of important segments of the business".

It's not the only one, of course. In September, Uber said it was looking at technology which could produce vertical take-off and landing

Head of product Jeff Holden told a conference, his firm wants to "some day offer customers as many options as possible to move around".