London may have lost out to Paris in the race to become the first city in the world to be served by high-tech and environmentally-friendly “flying” river taxis.
The futuristic egg-shaped river shuttles, the creation of French yachtsman Alain Thébault and Swedish windsurfer Anders Bringdal, are due to be tried out in the French capital next spring at the request of the environmentally conscious city hall.
Made of fiberglass and high-density foam, the solar energy-powered vessels can carry five people and, with the help of foils fixed to the hulls that reduce drag and cause the shuttle to “float” about two foot above water, can reach speeds of up to 30kmh.
“If London had helped us out I think we would have started out there,” he told the Telegraph, adding that city authorities and private firms around the world had been in touch with him to find out more about the project but that he had had no contact from London officials.
Mr Thébault hopes that eventually Sea Bubbles will be able to be hailed on apps such as Uber, and he estimates that fares in Paris will be around €10 when the project gets the final green light.
The yachtsman has pulled in around €500,000 (£445,000) in investment to develop the prototype which he plans to exhibit at the high-profile Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January.
“Next spring, we will hold a public demonstration on the Seine in front of the National Assembly (parliament) in Paris with five Sea Bubbles,” he said.
Mr Thébault has just returned from New York, where he met with officials interested in having hundreds of Sea Bubbles working the Hudson River, and he says he has been told of other potential plans to buy a fleet of 1,500 in Florida.
“But we are taking no orders at the moment. We first have to finish the prototype,” he said, adding that he hopes that the Sea Bubble may eventually become driver-less.
If the vessels are granted licenses to ply their trade on the Seine, the plan is to build specially designed docking stations where passengers can hop on or off and which would also serve as charging stations.
The Paris test will come just a few months after Mayor Hidalgo, as part of her battle to reduce pollution, pedestrianized a two-mile stretch of highway that ran along the northern banks of the Seine.
Source: The Telegraph