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GROUND TRANSPORT The road ahead


are now becoming more widely utilised by companies, both to save money and cut down on CO2 emissions. Chris Morris, managing director of


car club brand Ubeeqo, which is part of Europcar, says: “These services are now an important part of the transport mix for many organisations looking to reduce travel costs and emissions. The potential reduction varies depending on existing solutions, but it is usually most significant where there has been a historical reliance on pool cars or reimbursement for miles driven by employees in their own vehicles, where savings can exceed 30 per cent.” Morris also argues that car clubs are


complementary to other ground transport options, such as taxi services and car rental, as they work best with journeys ranging from 30 to 160 km.


THE WAY FORWARD With so many working parts, it’s not surprising that buyers can struggle to get a grip on their ground transport programme (if they have one) and spending. But if there’s one major positive impact from the emergence of Uber and others, it has been in forcing providers in this once unheralded sector of business travel to up their game – particularly in the technology they offer. So what can buyers expect over the next


12 months? Groundscope’s McCallion says the big development will be online booking tools enabling the integration of ground transport with flight and hotel bookings. “These tools will be better at prompting


travellers to book ground transport when they book a flight, and the technology will remember their preferences in the same way that retail systems remember,” he adds. “Taxi booking and payment solutions will


be more fully integrated to make expense reclaim easy for travellers, and tracking travellers’ location for security reasons will become more prevalent.” This technology will perhaps be the game-


changer that enables buyers to fully manage the “door-to-door” travel experience. It’s been tantalisingly promised for many years, but the trick is making sure it can deliver.


80 BBT July/August 2018


Seabubbles flying taxis have been trialled on the river Seine in Paris Caption copy in here


BUYINGBUSINESSTRAVEL.COM An artist’s impression of an Uber flying car taxi service in Dubai


WHILE MUCH OF THE CURRENT ATTENTIONis on the development of self-driving, there are other eye-catching alternatives on the drawing board. Uber has released plans for a flying car taxi service, known as Uber Air, using vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) vehicles, which could be in service within five years. The ride-sharing specialist has already selected three launch cities – Dallas, Los Angeles and Paris – for its Uber Elevate programme. The initiative may sound more like science fiction, but Uber says it hopes to start operating “demonstrator flights” by 2020, followed by commercial service from 2023. As part of the project, Uber is to open a new European technology research centre in Paris this autumn. The firm plans to spend US$20 million on this facility over the next five years in partnership with Ecole Polytechnique. Uber says the new European centre will allow it to work more closely with aviation regulators, such as the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), to develop the flying taxis. Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s chief executive, explains: “With world-class engineers and a leading role in global aviation, France is the perfect place to advance our Uber Elevate programme and new technology initiatives.” Paris could become the epicentre of new modes of taxi transport over the next few years, with French start-up Seabubbles proposing to offer another type of “flying” vehicle that can operate across water.


These electric vehicles, which can cater for up to four passengers and a driver,


have already been tested on Lake Geneva, with further trials on the Seine in Paris in recent months.


The Seabubbles flying taxi, which could start service in 2019, hovers around 70cms (just over 2ft) from the surface of the water.


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