VIDEO: ‘Flying’ water taxis tested for first time on River Seine in Paris

The seemingly madcap image of 'flying' water taxis ferrying Parisians up and the down the River Seine took a step closer to becoming reality this week when the futuristic vehicles called SeaBubbles were tested for the first time.

VIDEO: 'Flying' water taxis tested for first time on River Seine in Paris
Photo: AFP

On Wednesday the first prototype of a SeaBubble was tested on the River Seine before it was to be presented on Thursday at the tech fair VivaTech at the Porte de Versailles.

The idea is that the SeaBubbles can one day be used as taxis along the river which cuts through the heart of Paris and help reduce traffic congestion in the city. They would be ordered by members of the public through a mobile phone app, in the way that Uber taxis are.

“We have requests from all over the world,” said French creator Alain Thébault, a former yachtsman.

“The problem is the same in all cities. In Paris, we cannot continue to have all these cars on the quays, we must take back the river. There is room for the cruise boats and also for the SeaBubbles,” Thébault said.  

The “SeaBubble” – “a bubble with four wings” – floats above the water, and can reach 18km/hr thanks to two small electric motors.

It floats 70 centimetres above the river, only making contact with the water via its four “marine wings”, or foils, which reduces the resistance by 30 to 40 percent compared to a boat of a similar size.

Like cars the boats can fit five people, essentially four passengers and a pilot.

“The idea actually came from my daughters after I sailed from LA to Hawaii recently,” the inventor, Alain Thébault, a former French Yachtsman told The Local previously. 

“They told me to invent a zero-emission cab because they were sick of seeing the pollution in Paris, London, and in the US.”

After this week's first tests, demonstrations with the public will take place in September. A dock where the electric powered boats can be recharged will be installed on the river bank next to the Musée d’Orsay.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has up until now supported the project but it remains to be seen whether she will sanction it. However with so many cities apparently interested Hidalgo will want to be first, if the tests go as planned.

(Previous image of what the River Seine could look like in the future. AFP)


Google to appeal €500m French fine in copyright row

Google's legal tussle with French regulators continues.

Google to appeal €500m French fine in copyright row
Google to appeal €500m French fine in copyright row (Photo by ALAIN JOCARD / AFP)

Google on Wednesday said it is appealing a decision by France’s competition watchdog to hand it a €500m fine in a row with news outlets over the use of their content under EU copyright rules.

“We disagree with some of the legal elements, and consider the amount of the fine to be disproportionate compared to the efforts we have put in place to reach a deal and respect the new law,” Sebastien Missoffe, head of Google France, said in a statement.

The fine, issued by the French Competition Authority in July, was the biggest in the agency’s history for a failure to comply with one of its rulings.

Head of Google France, Sebastien Missoffe, has hit back against French regulators (Photo by JACQUES DEMARTHON / AFP)

The watchdog said Google had failed to negotiate “in good faith” with media companies in a long-running legal battle over the internet giant’s use of snippets of articles, photos and videos in search results.

The row has centred on claims that Google has used this content in its search results without adequate compensation, despite the seismic shift of global advertising revenues towards the search giant over the past two decades.

In April last year, the French competition authority ordered Google to negotiate “in good faith” with media groups after it refused to comply with a 2019 European Union law governing digital copyright.

The so-called “neighbouring rights” aim to ensure that news publishers are compensated when their work is shown on websites, search engines and social media platforms.

Last September, French news publishers including Agence France-Presse (AFP) filed a complaint with regulators, saying Google was refusing to move forward on paying to display content in web searches.

While Google insists it has made progress, the French regulator said the company’s behaviour “indicates a deliberate, elaborate and systematic lack of respect” for its order to negotiate in good faith.

The Competition Authority rebuked Google for failing to “have a specific discussion” with media companies about neighbouring rights during negotiations over its Google Showcase news service, which launched late last year.

Missoffe insisted Wednesday that Google “recognises neighbouring rights, and we remain committed to signing agreements in France”.

“We have extended our offers to nearly 1,200 publishers and modified aspects of our contracts,” he said, adding that the company has “shared data demanded of us in order to conform to the Competition Authority’s decision”.