Bloomberg was the first, but in no time this story hit the columns of many papers and magazines: To unclog the busy streets of Paris, two entrepreneurs are building an egg-shaped river shuttle that will essentially fly above the Seine, the next iteration of which will be summoned by a smartphone and (eventually) be piloted by a robot. The idea is to go for a fully autonomous system.
If that’s not incredible enough, a founder of SeaBubbles told Bloomberg on Thursday the company raised 500,000 euros ($555,000) to do just that, “with backers including the founder of drone-maker Parrot SA, Partech Ventures and the French government-backed BPI fund. Another funding round will take place by the end of August to develop a taxi app and docking stations around the pod.”
The company wants to build battery-powered bubble-shaped ships that hover a few inches above water and transport as many as five people at a time. The founders intend to be operating by the summer of 2017. As it seeks more cash to turn its bubbles into cabs, the startup says it’s reached out to car-hailing company Uber Technologies Inc. as well as construction company Vinci SA and luxury-goods maker LVMH. There are discussions but no commitments have been made.
“You’ve got packed roads and empty waterways in a lot of cities — there’s an obvious opportunity,” co-founder Alain Thebault said in an interview in Bloomberg. “We want to build water taxis.” Founders Anders Bringdal and Thebault, a surfer and a math-loving sailor respectively, together broke the record for speed on a floating sailboat they’d designed in 2009. They said SeaBubbles has the support of Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who has pledged to cut pollution in the city.