Sea Bubbles is the name of the company, founded by Thebault and Andres Bigdal, that will produce the prototype for this new form of transportation: an egg-shaped river shuttle that will essentially fly above the Seine, which will be summoned by a smartphone and piloted by a robot.
Each shuttle will carry five people, including a pilot, but the goal is to forgo the pilot and make the system fully autonomous in a few years once regulation allows it, Thebault said. Currently, navigation rules on the Seine don’t permit the operation of vessels that lack a skipper. Carmakers, battery vendors and software engineering companies have expressed interest in helping develop upgrades and scale production, he said, declining to cite any names.
At the moment, Thébault is working on some design tweaks to make the vehicle easier to use. Then, anyone with a spare €30,000 can call themselves a proud owner of the Sea Bubble, if all goes to plan, and Mayor Anne Hidalgo can proudly boast that Paris was the first city in the world with the little bubble cabs. But she’d better be quick: Thébault has said that London Mayor Boris Johnson has already called, asking him about the idea.
Paris is not the only city trying to change the way it uses its river: here are 10 cities that are reinventing the relationship with their rivers.