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Two Uber bosses ‘held by police’ in France

Two of the bosses of Uber France have been arrested by police and taken into questioning, reports claim on Monday. It comes after France declared war on the UberPop ride-sharing app.

Two Uber bosses 'held by police' in France

The two leaders of Uber in France were taken into custody Monday as part of a probe into their ride-booking app which has sparked violent protests from regular taxi drivers, AFP claimed, citing various sources.

The pair are believed to be Thibault Simphal,the director general of Uber France and Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty,the directorgeneral of Uber Europe.

According to BFM TV the pair are being investigated for “inciting illegal employment”, with the Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve having already suggested that the pair's insistence on rolling out UberPop was effectively encouraging individuals to break the law.

An investigation was opened in 2014 into the application used to put paying clients in contact with cheaper, private drivers who do not face the same regulations as cabbies.

The probe is focused on whether UberApp equates to “illegal organisation” of a system that allows drivers to transport clients for money, but who don't have to pay social contributions.

Sources also claim the investigation is looking into whether Uber are illegally collecting data on clients

Last week saw nationwide protests by French taxi drivers against UberPop across the country after which the French government vowed to crack down on the app.

Officially UberPop is illegal in France but it has been allowed to continue until France's constitutional court makes a final decision in September.

But regional authorities in France and the government are not willing to wait and have effectively declared war on the app, which counts more than 400,000 users in France.

Earlier on Monday Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve announced  that 200 extra officers would patrol the streets looking for UberPop drivers.
 
The specialist taxi police brigade, known as “Boers” will be specifically tasked with finding and apprehending anyone transporting paying customers without a licence, and UberPop drivers risk having their vehicles seized.
 
Last week Cazeneuve tried to calm tensions by asking authorities in the French capital to impose a ban on UberPop. 
 
“UberPop is an illegal service and it must be closed,” he said.
 
“I have given instructions, considering the grave problems with public order and the development of this illegal activity, to the police prefecture in Paris to ban UberPop activities,” said Cazeneuve last Thursday.

Cazeneuve also pointed out that Uber could be guilty of the crime of “illicit transportation of people” under article 40 of the penal code, that could be punished by two years in prison and a €300,000.

It's not the first time authorities in France have acted against Uber.

In March this year the headquarters of the French branch of the US-based firm was raided at the request of the Paris prosecutor's office.

The company called the raid an “attempt at intimidation”.

Uber has filed complaints with the EU against France, Germany and Spain over their efforts to prevent the UberPop app.

Uber's American founder Travis Kalanick has said the system will create 50,000 new jobs in Europe this year, and help take 400,000 cars off the road by encouraging drivers to use taxis instead of their own vehicle.

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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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