PRESS RELEASE: A British company, Podaris Ltd., has announced the first public release of their online transport-planning software, which includes support for Personal Rapid Transit systems. It is freely available at app.podaris.com.
Podaris was founded by former transport planner Nathan Koren, who previously led PRT feasibility and engineering studies in the UK, India, and elsewhere. “I started Podaris because I was frustrated with how transport projects are planned,” says Koren. “They are developed in a very slow, cumbersome, and rigid way. Historically, there’s an important reason for this: transport projects involve so many experts and stakeholders — planners, engineers, technology vendors, architects, property developers, historic and environmental preservation groups, neighbors, regulators, insurers, and many more — that the only way to manage them all has been with lot of process and paperwork. Times have changed, and there are better ways to do collaboration now. But planning processes haven’t changed for decades.”
Koren thinks that this is a major problem. “The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that the world could save $200 billion dollars every year with better early-stage planning and design practices,” he says. “And they’re just talking about the status quo. If you’re trying to do totally conventional infrastructure, then all those gaps and frictions between disciplines and stakeholders lead to enormous delays and cost overruns. But if you’re trying to do something that is actually innovative — like a PRT system — then those gaps and frictions become fundamental barriers to innovation.”
Podaris is attempting to solve the problem. Borrowing techniques from online collaboration platforms like Github or Google Docs, Podaris is meant to put all the collaborators on the same page. “It’s a totally different paradigm for planning infrastructure,” says Koren. “You’re not passing paper between desks or even files between computers. Instead, everybody is working on a single shared model which lives in the cloud and is always up-to-date.”
Koren believes that this will improve the collaboration process, saving time and money and improving the capacity for innovation. But he emphasizes that these are early days for the platform. “We’ve just launched our initial product, and still have a long way to go,” he says. “We don’t even have any documentation yet, although we’re always happy to tutor people as they learn the software. We still need to build capabilities for 3D engineering, demand-modelling, capacity-modelling, costing, and so forth. There’s also lot of additional functionality we can build now that the plans live in the cloud — integration with 3rd-party transport networks and demographic datasets, for example. And eventually we’ll provide a way for Podaris’ real-time collaboration capabilities to be extended to existing platforms like AutoCAD and ArcGIS”.
Podaris is not only borrowing technology from other online collaboration tools, it is borrowing business models as well. It will always be free for non-professional users. “We felt it was important that individual students and enthusiasts be able to have access to this at no cost,” says Koren. “Ultimately, by making Podaris cheap and easy to adopt, and by making it play well with other planning and engineering platforms, we’re hoping to make Podaris a universal synchronization layer for infrastructure planning. We think this will literally change the way cities are designed — ultimately making it possible to bring forward innovations like Automated Transit Networks”. See Website: http://www.podaris.com