The Moller Skycar

Thailand does have a lot of corruption, and much of it is fairly “over the table” –  i.e., they don’t really try to hide it.  What about in the U.S.?

The U.S. ranks 19th on the Corruption Perceptions Index by Transparency International. In all, I think this isn’t a bad ranking, though it is still lower than many western industrial nations.  (Again, this index has flaws because it is based on perceptions.)

I think that there is nearly as much corruption in the U.S. as in Thailand, though it is “under the table” as opposed to over it.

I think that public sector and private sector corruption are viewed differently in the states.  Public sector corruption is more likely to be disparaged, which is not a bad thing.

But people who engage in private sector corruption often seem to be admired for their wits, cleverness, or ability to outsmart the system.

The Moller Skycar was developed by Paul Moller of Moller International.  There have been several iterations, each one based on vertical-take-off-and-landing technology.  It was conceived as a type of personal aircraft transportation that one could take off or land at his own home.

If you Google “Moller Skycar” you will see a bunch of photoshopped and computer-generated pictures of which conjure up an emotional response.  “Jetsons”-like vehicles hovering above cites.  Cars that bring up visions of “Tomorrowland.”   They look like something from every little boy’s dreams.

But there is a problem.  Paul Moller (and Moller International) have never built a working vehicle.

The company has had a couple of “test flights” where the vehicle flew up perhaps 20 feet into the air and then came down shortly thereafter.  But the vehicle was tethered to a crane (supposedly for insurance reasons) and didn’t fly to another destination.

Paul Moller has been working on this idea for 40 years and has received millions of dollars in investment money (some sources claim up to 100 million), but has never brought a working vehicle to production.  He always claims he is “just a couple of months/years away” from perfecting the vehicle and then it will be ready.

So here is a man with enough technical expertise to build prototypes that look good and can take off and land.  He does seem to have some engineering talent.  But the fact is, his vehicles won’t do what he claims and never have.  He hasn’t been able to prove that they will fly anywhere.

He has had different companies with different names.  He has been sued by the SEC for fraud (he paid a $50,000 fine.)  He has filed for personal bankruptcy and claims he has 46 million dollars in assets.

To this day he and his company continue their operation.  Some people think he should be in prison, that he has taken a lot of money from investors and hasn’t produced anything.  But he still lives in his house in Davis, California.

He was even on 60 Minutes talking about his wares, at:

http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=688695n

There he is, smiling.  Talking about how this machine with four motors has “no vibration” and feels like a “magic carpet.”

Corruption in Thailand

I have been disappointed and surprised regarding corruption in Thailand. There is bribery and embezzlement everywhere you turn.  Thailand ranked 88th out of 176 countries on the Corruption Perceptions Index from Transparency International.  (Admittedly, there are problems with that index because it is based on perceptions rather than actual corrupt transactions.  But there are no actual records kept of corrupt transactions.  And people aren’t usually jailed for it in corrupt countries, either.)

People bribe the government to get contracts.  They bribe companies to get jobs.  They bribe police officers to get out of jail (or whatever punishment).  Not only this, but often those in power EXPECT a bribe.  They are part of the problem. 

A friend of mine recently applied for a job.  They were told they were at the “top of the list” of candidates to get hired.  About a week later, they were told that they were “third on the list.”  My friend suspects that there was only one way that that happened:  two people bribed their way to the top of the list.  

Imagine the disappointment that someone feels when they didn’t get a job because they couldn’t pay a bribe!  It’s completely unfair.  I think there are a lot of people from rich, unscrupulous families that are in power.  

People sometimes get away with murder in Thailand.  Last August, a Swede named Andreas Ringvall killed a New Zealander with a knife.  The Swede was arrested.  Within a couple of months,  he was granted permission to leave Thailand for “family reasons” and, of course, he never returned.  It is widely assumed that he was “granted” permission to leave because of a huge bribe.