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'Flying carpet' taxi makes Seine debut

Planned new Paris river taxi, the SeaBubbles flying carpet style boat, has had its first tests on the Seine with mayor Anne Hidalgo saying it was “silent, comfortable and fun”.

Skimming 50cm above the surface on its hydrofoils, Sea­Bubbles is aimed to be a new type of water taxi, car-shaped and capable of driverless operation.

Designer Alain Thébault, who created the Hydro-ptère trimaran that took the world speed record in 2009, said there were three aims: “zero CO2 emissions, zero noise and zero waves”.

Heavy wake from passing vessels can cause considerable damage to riverside equipment as well as disrupting other vessels and, although the SeaBubbles left a wake behind it in the tests, it was noticeably less than others for its speed and did not spread so far.

Made in La Ciotat, Bouches-du-Rhône, of biodegradable materials and powered by an electric motor, first tests in the Mediterranean there led to several changes to the boat.

The tests on the Seine will be followed by a public demonstration in September.

Aimed to be a type of Uber for water taxis, with the autonomous mode being a key feature to allow users to call a water taxi, the company is also creating a smartphone app and developing a special riverside dock and charging station where electricity would be created by the water movement.

SeaBubbles is targeting Euro­pean riverside capitals and, having raised €10million in funding from the insurance firm MAIF, hopes to have working operations in 18 cities worldwide by 2018 and 50 by 2024.

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