Paris to trial ‘flying taxis’ ahead of Olympics

'Flying taxis' will start taking off from an aerodrome north of Paris from June, operators said, in a trial ahead of a vast tourist influx for the 2024 Olympics.

Paris to trial 'flying taxis' ahead of Olympics
The taxis are known as vertical take-off and landing vehicles (VOTL). Photo: AFP

The experiment will take place at the Pontoise-Cormeilles-en-Vexin aerodrome some 90 minutes northwest of the capital, according to a joint announcement by the Île-de-France region, airports operator Groupe ADP and the RATP public transport agency.

A drone-like, fully-electric vertical take-off and landing vehicle (VTOL) dubbed VoloCity, produced by German company Volocopter, was chosen for the innovative trial with flying taxis in a peri-urban area, they said.

The partners said in a statement they had “decided to bring together all the conditions to make the emergence of this new mode of transport possible to complement the existing modes, whether for the public or for goods.

“Furthermore, the prospect of the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games provides an exceptional opportunity to involve an entire industry in order to make the Paris region a leader in the global market of urban air mobility.”

The experiment will depend on the approval of residents, security protocols and air traffic regulations, said the companies.

In the first half of 2021, arrangements will be made for parking areas, recharging stations and ground markings for the demonstration.

Working with aviation safety agencies, the partners said “parking, takeoff and landing operations as well as operations around the vehicle, whether maintenance or electrical recharging, will be tested in a real aeronautical environment in June 2021.”

VoloCity is equipped with 18 rotors and nine battery packs. Each can carry two passengers with hand luggage, for a maximum payload of 200kg.

It flies at 110km per hour, at an altitude of 400 to 500 metres, with a range of 35km.

Volocopter executive Fabien Nestmann said the craft’s makers hoped for full certification from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency within two to three years.

“We want a demo for the 2024 Olympic Games,” Valérie Pécresse, president of the Île-de-France region, added at the launch news conference.

But it could take a decade for the project to be rolled out at scale.

“The day that you can buy a ticket (for a flying taxi) on the internet and take one, is more towards 2030,” RATP CEO Catherine Guillouard told journalists.

In the long term, “we will be able to integrate mini take-off and landing zones into the urban fabric, which will require (public) acceptance, and the issue of noise will be key,” she added.

In the quest to limit traffic pollution and ease congestion, the idea of flying taxis has taken root worldwide.

Volocopter has already tested its airborne taxi in different parts of the world, and last October chose Singapore for the first test in the heart of a city.

Several other companies are working on similar projects, including Boeing, Airbus, Toyota and Hyundai.

Earlier this month, Japanese firm SkyDrive showed its eight-propeller, manned compact vehicle flying around a test field.

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‘Città 30’: Which Italian cities will bring in new speed limits?

Bologna has faced heavy criticism - including from the Italian government - after introducing a speed limit of 30km/h, but it's not the only city to approve these rules.

'Città 30': Which Italian cities will bring in new speed limits?

Bologna on January 17th became Italy’s first major city to introduce a speed limit of 30km/h on 70 percent of roads in the city centre under its ‘Città 30’ plan, first announced in 2022, and initially set to come into force by June 2023.

The move made Bologna one of a growing number of European cities, including Paris, Madrid, Brussels, and Bilbao, to bring in a 30km/h limit aimed at improving air quality and road safety.

But the change was met last week with a go-slow protest by Bologna’s taxi drivers and, perhaps more surprisingly, criticism from the Italian transport ministry, which financed the measure.

Matteo Salvini, who is currently serving as Italy’s transport minister, this week pledged to bring in new nationwide rules dictating speed limits in cities that would reverse Bologna’s new rule.

Salvini’s League party has long criticised Bologna’s ‘Città 30’ plan, claiming it would make life harder for residents as well as people working in the city and would create “more traffic and fines”.

OPINION: Italians and their cars are inseparable – will this ever change?

Bologna’s speed limit has sparked a heated debate across Italy, despite the increasingly widespread adoption of such measures in many other cities in Europe and worldwide in recent years.

While Bologna is the biggest Italian city to bring in the measure, it’s not the first – and many more local authorities, including in Rome, are now looking to follow their example in the next few years.

Some 60 smaller cities and towns in Italy have adopted the measure so far, according to Sky TG24, though there is no complete list.

This compares to around 200 French towns and cities to adopt the rule, while in Spain the same limit has applied to 70 percent of all the country’s roads since since May 2021 under nationwide rules, reports LA7.

The first Italian town to experiment with a 30 km/h speed limit was Cesena, south of Bologna, which introduced it in 1998. Since then, the local authority has found that serious accidents have halved, while the number of non-serious ones has remained unchanged.

Olbia, in Sardinia, also famously introduced the speed limit in 2021.

The city of Parma is planning to bring in the same rules from 2024, while the Tuscan capital of Florence approved five 30km/h zones in the city centre earlier this month.

Turin is set to bring in its first 30km/h limits this year as part of its broader plan to improve transport infrastructure, aimed at reducing smog and increasing livability.

READ ALSO: Why electric cars aren’t more popular in Italy

Meanwhile, the mayor of Rome, Roberto Gualtieri, has promised to introduce the limit on 70 percent of the capital’s roads by the end of his mandate, which expires in 2026.

In Milan, while the city council has voted in favour of lower speed limits and other traffic limitations on central roads, it’s not clear when these could come into force.

Milan mayor Beppe Sala this week said a 30 km/h limit would be “impossible” to implement in the Lombardy capital.

And it’s notable that almost all of the cities looking at slowing down traffic are in the north or centre-north of Italy.

There has been little interest reported in the measures further south, where statistics have shown there are a higher number of serious road accidents – though the total number of accidents is in fact higher in the north.

According to the World Health Organisation the risk of death to a pedestrian hit by a car driven at 50 km/h is 80 percent. The risk drops to 10 percent at 30 km/h.

The speed limit on roads in Italian towns and cities is generally 50, and on the autostrade (motorways) it’s up to 130.

Many Italian residents are heavily dependent on cars as their primary mode of transport: Italy has the second-highest rate of car ownership in Europe, with 670 vehicles per 1,000 residents, second only to Luxembourg with 682, according to statistics agency Eurostat.