Saturday, February 10, 2018

Taxi 2000 Exits

©MMXVIII The PRT NewsCenter
Long time pod transit company Taxi 2000 closed in mid-2017, exiting the business without achieving a demonstration facility or system in fare service. A shareholder letter obtained in January by the NewsCenter revealed that in 2016 Taxi 2000 lost an angel investor who held 49% of the company's shares.

Taxi 2000's demo in 2005. Ed Anderson is at left.

With no new investors, no contracts in the offing, and running out of funds, the decision was made to close its Minneapolis-area office and shut down.

"While we still believe that it is a superior technology, in the history of inventions that has often proven to be insufficient to bring an idea to the marketplace," wrote Taxi 2000 chairman Morrie Anderson.

Taxi 2000 was perhaps the seminal Personal Rapid Transit company. Founded in the 1980s by leading PRT thinker J. Edward Anderson, Taxi 2000 went through several iterations. Spun off from work begun at the University of Minnesota, Ed Anderson (no relation to Morrie Anderson) developed what is now a familiar supported-vehicle concept with dual redundancy components, and a patented mechanical switch.

Convinced that a Taxi 2000 system would pay for itself, Anderson spent years trying to cultivate the interest of municipalities as well as private companies, such as resorts, interested in campus transit.

In the 1990s Taxi 2000's technology was temporarily controlled by Raytheon, resulting in the PRT2000 demonstration in Massachusetts. It was a Clinton era "peace dividend" product which was well financed until it wasn't.

In 2003 the company reached its apex, unveiling a functioning prototype, dubbed Skyweb Express, on 60 feet of guideway. The demo spent a summer at the Minnesota State Fair, giving free rides to the public and generating a lot of publicity.

During this time Taxi 2000 became a lightning rod for a few pro-transit activists who saw PRT as a threat to conventional systems like light rail and modern streetcars. The internet enabled some of these opponents to shadow Taxi 2000's efforts internationally, dogging their efforts with negative publicity.

Anderson left Taxi 2000 in 2005 and was briefly embroiled in an opaque controversy with his old company, manifesting in an IP lawsuit brought against him by Taxi 2000, which was eventually settled.

Under the leadership of new CEO Mike Lester, Taxi 2000 then broadened its scope beyond the US, submitting unsuccessful bids for installations in Dubai, Masdar, and Heathrow Airport. The only product that emerged may have been Alpha, a scale model network with multiple vehicles that was supposed to demonstrate the vehicle and network control system.

In recent years Taxi 2000 attempted to create opportunities for its technology in Greenville, South Carolina and Jacksonville, Florida.

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