Remember that cool traffic-straddling bus that came out of China last year? Well, we’ve got some bad news for you – it was probably a scam.
As reported by Quartz, the police are investigating the company behind the Transit Elevated Bus (TEB) for illegal fundraising. Thirty people from the company behind the project, Huaying Kailai, are now being held, including the person who runs the project, named as Bai Zhiming.
The TEB was unveiled in August 2016 as a way to alleviate China’s traffic problems. The large vehicle would house passengers above cars, able to move through traffic by being raised above on tracks.
Cars would be able to move through in the gap 8 meters (26 feet) wide underneath. The bus measured 22 meters (72 feet) long and 5 meters (16 feet) high. Inside the TEB was a carriage with a spacious seating area. The bus was billed as having a top speed of 65 kilometers (40 miles) per hour.
After it was unveiled though, suspicions were raised. At the time, Jalopnik noted that the design seemed to be extremely shoddy, even for a prototype. It had seemingly been hurriedly built, with some weird shortcuts taken like a home air conditioner unit and peeling paint.
Now the police are apparently working to recover funds the firm has collected from investors. Although the exact sum hasn’t been released, the firm reportedly raised about $1.3 billion by October 2016. The initial investment offering was said to have a starting price of $150,000, with an annual return of 12 percent.
The TEB was erected in the northeastern port city of Qinghuangdao. Since its unveiling, it has mostly sat idle, and the local authority has now said it will remove the 300-meter (980 feet) test tracks it runs on by the end of July. The original plan was to remove the test site where it is currently located by the end of August 2016.
In December 2016, CNN reported that the TEB was essentially now a “giant roadblock”. They added that after a test run in August, Chinese state media had begun to question how legitimate the project was. Investors had supposedly been offered “overly ambitious returns”, too.
Bai, for his part, has said he will relocate the bus to another city – leading some like Ars Technica to suggest this may not be a complete scam. But the signs certainly don’t look too good at the moment, and it seems this innovative form of travel may not be the revolution it was claimed to be.