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TAXIS

Taxis versus Uber battle turns ugly in France

The conflict between taxi drivers and Uber in France is increasingly turning ugly with one client of Uber allegedly beaten by cabbies at the weekend. More strife could be on its way.

Taxis versus Uber battle turns ugly in France
Alexandre,26, claims he was beaten by taxi drivers for supporting Uber. Photo Screengrab Twitter/20 minutes

Tensions have been rising in recent weeks between Uber and French taxi drivers, who are increasingly taking the battle against the Californian-based firm into their hands.

Their anger is focused on the UberPop service, which allows ordinary drivers to effectively become taxi drivers by connecting them to customers through a smartphone app.

Taxi drivers have a long list of grievances against the UberPop app, but chief among them currently is that despite the government ruling it illegal, the service has been allowed to continue.

At the weekend their frustrations boiled over in the city of Lyon when a client of UberPop was allegedly beaten up by a mob of cabbies.

The 26-year-old, named Alexandre, was attacked after saying to a taxi driver that “it wasn’t surprising that clients preferred Uber” after being told he could not get in the cabbie’s car because he was on strike – against Uber.

As he tried to use the UberPop app to find a driver, the young man says he was punched by at least two different people and was left with fractures to his jaw and nose.

He posted a photo of himself on Twitter to show the damage done by the taxi drivers.

The taxi drivers’ union has insisted however that there is no proof that any of its drivers were involved in the assault.

That same night an UberPop driver was also surrounded by taxi drivers, abused, and had his car vandalised.

The local prefecture in Lyon had banned the UberPop service on Thursday to avoid any outbreak of trouble and to ensure the safety of passengers.

As French newspaper Liberation pointed out, the move failed on both accounts.

The incident in Lyon is just the latest and most graphic evidence of how tensions are escalating. Five taxi drivers are being held in the southern city of Nice after reportedly attacking an UberPop driver.

IN PICTURES: French taxi drivers' anti-Uber protest turns violent

 

After UberPop launched its service in Marseille earlier this month, taxi drivers immediately blockaded the firm's HQ in the city.

Drivers were reportedly spat at and abused and surrounded in their cars, some of which were covered in paint or eggs.

There have been reports of taxi drivers organizing traps to catch UberPop drivers by signing up to the app and ordering a ride.

Andre Chiguian, from the National Federation of Taxi Drivers has called for calm: “We are not in Afghanistan or Iraq, we are in France and we reject violence” he told BFM TV.

But Uber shows no sign of backing down. By rolling out its service in Marseille, Strasbourg and Nantes, after already having set up in other cities like Paris and Lyon, the firm wants to put pressure on French authorities to allow it to continue.

UberPop is technically illegal in France, thanks to a new raft of laws brought in last year.

However the company is appealing a €100,000 ($113,000) fine it received last year.

The court of appeal has put back its decision until September meaning parent company Uber is still permitted to run the app. The court of appeal may decide to transfer the decision to France's Constitutional Council.

Under the Thévenoud law introduced on January 1st, French police are allowed to hand out fines if they catch the Uberpop drivers – hundreds of whom have been penalised.

But an UberPop driver was recently cleared of any wrongdoing in a French court, adding further frustration for taxi drivers.

Tensions show no sign of easing anytime soon with taxi drivers planning more protests and strikes across the country on Thursday.

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TAXI

Paris aims to beat Olympic traffic with flying taxis

Paris aims to give visitors to the 2024 Paris Olympics a flying start by offering airborne taxis to tournament sites straight from the airport.

Paris aims to beat Olympic traffic with flying taxis
An Airbus image showing what the taxis might look like. Photo: Airbus
Arrivals in the City of Light currently face an hour-long haul by train or bus into town from Charles de Gaulle airport to the north of Paris.
   
But if Aeroports de Paris (ADP), Airbus and the RATP regional transport have their way passengers, right after their jets have taxied to a halt on the runway, will be able to take to the air once again with a self-flying urban taxi of the future.
   
The firms used this past week's Paris Air Show to say the Olympics afforded the perfect opportunity to bring into service futuristic Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL) machines, and that they would launch a feasibility study.
   
“In 2010, for the first time, more than half of humanity was living in urban zones and we think we shall surpass 60 percent by 2030,” said Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury.
   
The time had now come to vault up to “the third dimension” of local commutes — air, he said.
 
“If we have the conviction that in the next five, 10, 15, 20 or 30 years low altitude is a space to be conquered we have to put in place the conditions today,” said ADP Group's executive director general Edward Arkwright.
   
VTOL converts are already sprouting in number as the world looks to move beyond — or rather, above — today's saturated motorways and growing environmental concerns.
   
Back on the ground, the view has been muddied by a delay beyond the Games, to 2025, of the express fast train designed to cut congestion and travel time between Charles de Gaulle airport and the city centre. 
   
For aircraft manufacturer Airbus, airport manager ADP and RATP, which manages Parisian public transport services, the Games are a chance to showcase French savoir-faire in urban mobility.
 
Multitude of projects
 
ADP has until the end of the year to choose a site for a “Vertiport” capable of hosting taxis from one of 10 aerodromes in the region around Paris.
   
The idea is to have the venue ready in 18 months, requiring infrastructure investment of some ten million euros ($11.3 million), says Arkwright. He adds the project will test out the link “via an existing helicopter corridor”.
   
Ideally, the service would see the taxis take off every six minutes.
   
In order to make VTOL a reality by 2024, ADP is working alongside Airbus, which has for some years been involved in full electric propulsion urban mobility schemes.
   
The manufacturer already has two prototype models — the single-seater “Vahana” and the four-seater variant “CityAirbus”.
   
Faury explained that “the two projects will converge towards a vehicle that will respond to first cases of use.”
   
“This partnership is a unique opportunity to develop technological solutions, a product, a regulatory framework, an economic model,” Faury added.
 
'Important stage'
 
“This project reduces constraints not only in terms of infrastructure but also concerning air traffic as it involves experimenting in a specific (air) corridor,” said Jean-Louis Rassineux, head of aeronautics and defence issues for Deloitte. “It is large scale rollout which is going to be complicated,” Rassineux told AFP.
   
Along with required progress on battery power and anti-collision detection he said there were “constraints regarding compatibility and traffic regulation.” 
   
But there is also the issue of the extent to which the concept will gain widespread public acceptance.
   
Rassineux warned there would need to be “security levels as stringent as those for air traffic” as well as “real value added to existing transport” systems.
   
Deloitte estimates the size of the airborne taxi market at some $17 billion for the United States alone through to 2040.
   
Yet “there remains some way to go before a flying vehicle becomes integrated into urban transport,” cautioned France's transport minister, Elisabeth Borne.
   
Borne nonetheless sees moves towards creating an embryonic service in time for the 2024 games as “one of the important stages” towards “the emergence of a complete transport offering” which would be “integrated and which respects the environment”.  
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