What’s hyperloop, you may ask? It’s a new mode of transport heralded by advocates as the future of cross-country travel, which involves travelling in a pod-like capsule propelled through a low-pressure tube at speeds of up to 1,000 kilometres per hour. That’s three times faster than a high-speed rail and 10 times faster than traditional rail.
This system will seriously challenge short haul flights and will be a welcome development.
Sounds like science fiction? Well the concept has appeared in many SciFi movies from the past. As with many things portrayed in SciFi productions many become reality – some may remember automatic opening doors on the Starship enterprise in Star Trek. You see them everywhere now.
In November 2020, Virgin tested out human travel in a hyperloop pod for the first time in the Nevada desert, and now it’s unveiled its vision for the future of the product’ from arriving at the portal to boarding the pod. “Designing a new mode of transportation from scratch is both an opportunity and a responsibility,” said Sara Luchian, Virgin Hyperloop’s director of passenger experience and one of the first people to ride the hyperloop in November. “Hyperloop technology, and what it enables, is paradigm-shifting. It follows that the passenger experience should be nothing short of extraordinary.”
Virgin Hyperloop worked with a number of world-class partners across disparate industries – including Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) for the portal designs, Teague for the pod designs, SeeThree for the video and animation, and Man Made Music for the score and sonic identity – to design a comprehensive, multi-sensory passenger experience..
A key pillar of Virgin Hyperloop’s passenger experience is accessibility, ensuring that this new form of transportation is available for the masses. While ticket prices will vary depending on the exact route, a recent study in Ohio found that hyperloop fares would be more akin to the cost of driving, rather than flying.
“It’s simple. If it’s not affordable, people won’t use it,” said Jay Walder, CEO of Virgin Hyperloop. “Daily high-speed transport is currently not feasible for most people, but we want to change that notion. Imagine being able to commute between cities that are currently hours apart in minutes – and the endless possibilities that opens up.”
The hyperloop system would be able to transport thousands of passengers per hour, despite the fact that each vehicle carries up to 28 passengers. This high throughput is achieved by convoying, where vehicles are able to travel behind one another in the tube within milliseconds, controlled by Virgin Hyperloop’s machine intelligence software. Following successful passenger testing, Virgin Hyperloop is currently working on the regulation and certification of hyperloop systems around the world.
The company aims to achieve safety certification by 2025, with commercial operations beginning in 2030. The big question – who will invest in high speed rail with this new concept on the horizon. That fast link between Melbourne and Sydney will be further delayed!