I just learned that Martin Lowson died peacefully in his sleep of a stroke on Friday evening. I am told he was never in any pain.
Martin was a very capable inventor with patents for helicopter rotor blades (which I understand still hold the world speed record), PRT vehicle doors and PRT station design. Many people have many patents but few can claim to have inventions that are so diverse and have been put into such successful practice.
Martin was an entrepreneur who was capable of wearing many different hats which enabled him to raise funds, plan, design, test and develop the Ultra PRT system. In my opinion, two keys to success were his initial focus on finding out what people really want in transportation systems and then focusing on delivering that result using off-the-shelf technology wherever possible.
I met Martin in 2001 and he and his work at Heathrow Airport inspired me to devote the rest of my career to PRT. I regret having never told him this. Our families got to know each other and we spent some enjoyable times together in England, the Smoky Mountains and the Rocky Mountains (where we used skis to undertake “winter weather friction testing studies”).
I consider Martin to have been the most intelligent person I have ever met. In addition to his brilliant analytical side he had a modesty that enabled him to draw on the strengths of others and the common sense to focus on key parameters and avoid being distracted by non-essential bells and whistles. At the recent conference in Phoenix he asked one key question which will, I am sure, soon be the one thing I clearly remember about that conference.
Martin saw his role of inventor and entrepreneur coming to an end with the role out of the Heathrow PRT system and he started a transition process introducing new leaders more focused on marketing and production who could carry the company forward. While he was still a key contributor, this maneuver has, I believe, helped ensure that Ultra will long remain a key legacy of his.
Martin will be sorely missed by the personal rapid transit industry. I will sorely miss him too.