Monday, December 19, 2011

Timid, CYA Response by the Personal Rapid Transit "Industry" to Dubious PRT Systems and Companies Seeking Public and Private $$$

When an entire "industry" is based in whole or part on misrepresentation of facts as would-be PRT vendors have done for decades, how can they possibly rein in PRT companies that are at best questionable. The attempt by some PRT aficionados to differentiate reality from fantasy in the marketing of PRT seems to be at the heart of the recent dispute on their forum.

Nathan "Making the world safe for Personal Rapid Transit" Koren, formerly an ULTra employee who who worked on the Amritsar pod project that recently sparked protests by shopkeepers, has drawn a timid line in the sand:

...In my view, it's perfectly appropriate for PRT developers to make PowerPoint-based pitches to venture capital /
institutional investors, for the purposes of securing additional R&D funding -- but if you're going to pitch to campuses or (especially) governments, then you need to have already demonstrated that you can build and operate the hardware that you say you can.

This line Koren is drawing in the sand would likely put ULTra, Vectus and 2GetThere, with small demonstration podcar projects (not truly PRT) on one side of the line and and scores of fantasy PRT systems without much more than a model or computer-created visuals and videos on the other side of the line. But how will the PRT "industry" enforce this wimpy edict? Without robust vetting and due diligence, just one fraudulent PRT company could ruin the chances for the other companies.

The PRT-promoting Advanced Transit Association has revamped their website (with the mushiest definition of PRT ever). On the "Vendors" page there are only three vendors listed. Taxi 2000, Skytran, Jpods, PRT International, Maglev Movers and more are not listed. This is what ATRA says:

When considering advanced transit systems it should be clear what capabilities have been proven today and what potential a system has towards the (long term) future. ATRA represents both: providing a platform for all who share its vision towards the future, while uniting corporate members with proven experience and applications in the industry.

The corporate members of ATRA are parties active in the various disciplines within the field of advanced transit. The vendors that are corporate members are listed below ( ULTra, Vectus, 2getthere).

On the "History" page Taxi 2000 is mentioned only once and does not have a link to its website. ULTra, Vectus, 2getthere have links. Skytran is not mentioned, nor is Jpods. J. Edward Anderson is mentioned only once and his company PRT International gets no link or mention. On the "Systems" page Taxi 2000. Jpods and Skytran are relegated to lesser categories ("Conceptual", "Testing") and do not have links to their websites. It will be interesting to see how these new distinctions will effect efforts to shovel more taxpayers' dollars to PRT consultants and vendors who are NOT on ATRA's preferred vendor list.

Also, some advice to PRT promoters; posting a bunch of tweets when you suspect something fishy is going on is not due diligence, at best it's CYA.

UPDATE: More about Maglev Movers via Seattle PRT promoter David Gow:

Cockroft has unsavory incidents in his background. He had a business run-in with the law in Cyprus, which deported him in 2001. In 2003 the deportation was upheld by the Cyprus Supreme Court:

I think David Gow has enough there for ATRA and other's in the PRT "industry" to notify the authorities, will they? Or will they just continue to CYA?

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