Another day, another startup with its own plans for the future of transportation bursts onto the scene. This time it's a French company called SeaBubbles which hopes to become the autonomous Uber of water taxis.
The company, which was founded in early 2016, has just revealed the first images of its latest all-electric prototype, which it claims is partly production-ready and will be shown off at the Viva Technology conference in Paris in June. The new prototype comes just weeks after the company raised €10m (£8.4m) in funding from the French insurance company MAIF.
Other investors include the French drone maker Parrot and the French government-backed BPI fund.
SeaBubbles' vision is to produce and run a fleet of autonomous river taxis which help reduce road traffic by giving customers the option of getting from A to B via a city's rivers. Paris and London, with the rivers Seine and Thames (and mostly gridlock on the roads) are obvious candidates for launch locations.
Instead of the timetabled riverboats currently in use, such as the Thames Clipper, SeaBubbles imagines a future where an armada of smaller boats are available on-demand like Uber cars. Sharing Uber's future vision, SeaBubbles hopes its boats will one day be autonomous and require no skipper.
The boats are currently designed to carry five passengers and travel at up to 30mph. Boats would be summoned by a smartphone app, and co-founders Alain Thebault and Anders Bringdal say they have already spoken to Uber about a potential partnership.
A hydrofoil design means that, once up to speed, the boats rise up almost entirely out of the water. Skimming along its service, they make less noise and create less of a wake than boats with regular hulls. SeaBubbles claims its boats are "silent", have a range of between 80 and 100km per charge (up to 62 miles), produce 40% less drag than regular boats, and generate no waves.
Although it is still at the prototype stage, SeaBubbles has an aggressive roadmap in place for making the service a reality. This starts with demonstrations in Paris this summer, before launching the on-demand service in a dozen cities in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and the US by 2018, before covering 50 cities by 2024. For each location SeaBubbles will need to build boats, convince local authorities to let them operate there, and install a charging network.