The homepage of Seabubbles.fr says just one thing, “flying on water… more coming soon.” This sums up the ethos of French startup SeaBubbles quite accurately. The company is aiming to build literal flying river taxis, aimed to hover inches above the water and transport passengers around some of the world’s largest cities.
After securing a third round of funding, SeaBubbles has started catering to the city of Paris, the San Francisco Bay and elsewhere as potential locations for its service.
San Francisco is especially perfect given its geography, given the bay which starts at the edge of the Silicon Valley and stretches all the way north to downtown San Francisco. With commutes consistently getting worse each year, this would shave precious minutes off the long drive time for workers throughout the region. SeaBubbles has been working closely with businesses in the region, discussing ideas about how to make the project work. Some of the brainstorming includes building rechargeable docks along the shore and constructing an app similar to that of Uber or Lyft. In other words, they are REALLY emphasizing the taxi angle of their product. And why not? People are always looking for solutions to driving long distances.
SeaBubbles is talking about running some trials in New York City and London to see how the product fares on a smaller scale. Some prototypes will be tested in Paris this spring on (or above) the Seine.
The river taxis were invented by a yachtsman named Alain Thebault. He was in search of a solution to modern traffic congestion, and discovered he could build a product fairly cheaply that would traverse large waterways, avoiding roads altogether. Thebault claims the idea was presented to him by his daughters after they sailed from LA to Hawaii. Thebault then started brainstorming designs and drawing mock-ups.
Technically Thebault isn’t the first entrepreneur to put this idea into motion. Uber beat him to it in early 2016, with UberBOAT. From March 31st through April 3rd, Baltimore harbor was home to a ridesharing water taxi service. Together with sponsors Sagamore and Under Armour, the app offered trips between the Science Center and Harbor East. No, these boats didn’t fly like what SeaBubbles is trying to do. But still, it’s a step towards the future of local travel.
I suppose by 2040 we will have boat trips at the speed of sound across oceans, right? At this rate, anything is possible.