A SeaBubbles river taxi © DR
By Alexandre Missoffe, Managing director at Greater Paris Investment Agency
Greater Paris is not all about heavy investment in metro infrastructures and tunnel boring machines. For sure, the future Grand Paris Express automated lines will become the backbone of tomorrow’s mobility in and beyond the city of Paris, re-shaping entire neighbourhoods and further connecting competitive clusters to each other. Yet, plenty of initiatives are already emerging in and out of redeveloped districts, plugging into the existing network and getting valuable feedback from users.
You’re still not aware that Greater Paris is the living lab for new urban mobility? Here is a sneak peek of the countless experiments for ground-breaking sustainable transport solutions that are taking place here at the heart of France’s capital region!
One remembers last fall these striking images of a flying man zipping through the air, a few meters above the Seine, on what one calls a “hoverboard” -of his own creation. An innovation, close to a science-fiction gear turned into reality… that quickly drove the attention of the French Army, which decided to support the development of the flying device, at first designed for civilians, yet that could serve military’s mobility.
Franky Zapata, the maker of the surprising “Flyboard®”, had thus opted for Paris, the floating capital on the Seine, to demonstrate his prototype, soon to flood the market.
Because the future of mobility is also to be tracked in the air, Paris Aéroport, the group in charge of the capital’s airports management, in association with RATP (Paris historic metro operator) and Airbus group, is planning to deliver electric flying taxis in Greater Paris’ sky as soon as 2024, in line with Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games to be celebrated at that time.
Back in the water, the river Seine has lately been the playing field for another tech gem. Two watermen, Alain Thébault, ship architect, and Anders Bringdal, former sailing champion, came out with a means of transport of a new kind: silent, electric boats… which fly on water. The project got the green light to take off last month, exceeding usual speed limit on the river: the Seine played as the testing bed for what could become the taxis of the future and potential leaders in “river” mobility. After these successful trials, commercial rollout is expected by spring 2020.
Building on tech and habits to move towards sustainable mobility
In the quest for alternative means of transport, car-free days as the one scheduled every year by the City of Paris (and that has now spread to main urban areas all over Europe) are a tremendous opportunity to test new modes. All free-floating, scooters, bikes or electric motorbike suppliers have come to launch their services in Paris and have diversified the mobility offer as never before. On a broader note, Greater Paris attracts the newest players, those who want to try by “do and learn” in supporting brand new habits and provide people with different ways to move into the city.
And when tech reaches –for the moment– its limits, influencing behaviours becomes the key! As Europe’s busiest line (you might have heard of RER A) and other transportation modes connecting to Europe’s first business district get all congested at peak hours, an experiment of another kind takes over. Major companies operating in Paris La Défense CBD committed barely one year ago, with Paris region transport authority, SNCF and RATP (the train and metro main operators) to adjust their employees’ office hours with flexible working schedules and telework options. A shift that benefits all: travellers who do not suffer (much) from buses and trains’ congestion and bosses who do not have to worry (too much) about the consequences of travelling conditions for their colleagues.
From public authorities to SMEs and startups, a culture of mobility testing pervades all of Greater Paris
Logistics too is getting its splash of innovation: let’s briefly mention the startup Fludis which is conducting an experiment of zero carbon delivery service. Thanks to an electricity-powered « floating warehouse » operating from Greater Paris main harbour (located in Gennevilliers), Fludis is already closely working for big businesses like Paprec or Ikea!
Last but not least, the retail chain Franprix is currently experimenting autonomous grocery delivery with the help of robots in Paris XIIIth arrondissement. Nurtured within the Urban Lab (powered by the City of Paris), the project could soon be extended to other districts…and even other cities.
Not to mention Paris region transport authority (Ile-de-France Mobilités), catching up with the best metropolitan areas to commute as it implements a variety of means to ride (credit card, smartphones, e-wallet).
All these initiatives, public and private, metropolitan and local, strengthen Greater Paris as the leading living lab for new urban mobility, where any seed of idea can grow and thrive in the field of sustainable transport.
To mention just a few possible reasons: a top-tier travellers’ “market”, looking for the latest trends in mobility, a strong community of ambitious entrepreneurs driven by the “French Tech” ecosystem, a coordinated scheme of supportive public and private institutions – including dedicated business incubators for product experimentation and service deployment, still-expanding and ever-modernising transport networks…
They all contribute to making Greater Paris, the ultimate place to devise, start and test your urban mobility business. Hosting Autonomy & The Urban Mobility Summit in Paris builds upon this international recognition and brings even more reputation to it.