MOAPA, Nev. – Hyperloop technology, which promises to transport people and goods at speeds of 600 mph, seems to be right for a long time. But one company says it has taken an important step towards making it commercial by moving its two employees through a testing system.
Virgin Hyperloop became the first company to human-test the technology on a 500-meter test track in the desert north of Las Vegas on Sunday. Two volunteers dressed in casual street clothes were inflated in a pod, which was mounted at 107 mph by magnets inside a vacuum tube in 6.25 seconds.
The riders were all seated on seats covered in white vegan leather, housed inside a white-carbon fiber-clad pod.
While the G-Force airplanes on the pod tripled, “it was a lot smoother than I expected,” said 37-year-old Sarah Sarachian, one of the test riders and the company’s director of passenger experience. He stated that unlike an airplane, there were no lateral forces that would cause the pod to sow.
“It didn’t feel that speeding a sports car is so different than speeding,” said Josh Geigel, 35, the company’s co-founder and other volunteer riders.
Pointing to 20 months of planning, the company’s chief executive, Jay Walder, said, “This is a step of historical importance.” “I don’t think you can overstate it. It’s a moonshot moment. I have no doubt that it will change the world.”
Whether this has become a giant leap for mankind is still unclear.
Virgil’s testing can be symbolically important because it is critical to the ultimate success of the technology. Although the pod traveled too slowly, Hyperloop’s supporters claimed the technology was capable, with company officials describing it as a safety milestone.
“The number 1 question I get from investors is, ‘Is it safe enough to ride?” “We are everyday people, we are not astronauts. This suggests that it is safe, and supervisors can withdraw it to their investors and interested municipalities. “
The test also lends a sense of reality to an otherwise abstract sci-fi-like construction. “You can show the most elegant diagram, but will people ride what is important at the end of the day? This is an example of a picture of a thousand words, ”Ms. Luchian said.
The modern Hyperloop concept was first described in 2012 by Elon Musk, a top executive of Space X and Tesla. He offered the idea to whoever wanted to take advantage of it, and neither he nor his companies are working on hyperloop.
Virgin Hyperloop, which counts Richard Branson’s Virgin Group as a minority investor, is one of several companies commercializing the technology that they hope will eventually lead to cargo between cities and ports and from ports The middle will transfer passengers.
If it serves as an advertisement, travel time can be significantly cut – a trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco, for example, can take less than an hour.
Mr. Walder has an in-depth knowledge of transport systems, having served as head of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority of New York and Transport of London. Mr. Walder claimed that the Hyperloop technology could be the first new mass transit system in a century.
” US Interstate Highway System, Which began in 1956, cannot be the end of our imagination in terms of how we move around. With hyperloop, “we can have a fundamentally different transport system.”
Unlike trains, which run on fixed schedules, hyperloop pods act like a smart lift. Artificial intelligence will accommodate destinations, the number of pods that travel in a convoy and departure times depending on demand.
Many experts doubt that the technology will live up to its grand promises or be economically viable.
Carlo van de Weijer, general manager of the Eindhoven AI Systems Institute in the Netherlands, said a truck closed the tube, which could cause the system to shut down. As an aging system, it will require expensive maintenance. Hyperloops also may not be able to transport as many people or goods as its proponents claim because individual pods have to slow down to enter the spur track.
“Every success starts with a strange idea,” Dr. Van de Weijer said. “But not every strange idea is a success.”
Like high-speed rail systems, hyperloop companies have to acquire expensive rights, said Juan Matute, deputy director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.
The tubes carrying the hyperloop pods must be very straight for high speed travel, and the bend must be very wide. Once the route is determined, acquiring every necessary parcel of land can become a nightmare. “If a route is chosen, there are no alternatives,” Mr. Mute said. “Airlines do not have this problem.”
Nevertheless, some government officials and hyperloop entrepreneurs are determined to advance technology. Virgin Hyperloop, which has doubled its work force over the past two years and raised more than $ 400 million, has selected West Virginia as a certification center and site for a six-mile test track.
It has several projects in the planning stages: a route between Pune and Mumbai in India; Another between Jeddah and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia; And one connects Chicago, Columbus, Ohio and Pittsburgh.
“We are very positive and very comfortable with the possibilities of hyperloop,” said Thea Ewing, a director of the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission.
The council estimates that in 30 years, a hyperloop connecting those cities will displace 1.9 billion car and truck trips, reduce carbon emissions by 2.4 million tons and generate $ 300 billion in economic benefits.
The company Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, based in Los Angeles and Dubai, has built a 320-meter test track in Toulouse, France and is designing a 1,000-meter test track for Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. It has also formed a partnership with a container operator at the port of Hamburg to design a system for moving cargo.
At this stage of technology development, the ability to move people safely is not as important, said the company’s chief executive, Andres de Leon. “We are testing the program from the point of view of an engineer, not a marketer.”
In the Netherlands, Hardt, a 35-employee hyperloop company, has built a 30-meter track that lets the company test its levitation, propulsion and lane-switching technologies. The company has teamed up with Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam to research the feasibility of Hyperloop connecting major airports in the Netherlands, France, Germany, Belgium and the UK.
But it is the movement of cargo that Hardt is developing first. “It’s less risky and it’s easier for stakeholders if we don’t insist on passengers,” said the company’s chief commercial officer, Mangal Geze. “It’s easy to take small steps.”
Two other companies, Transpod in Toronto and Zelros in Valencia, Spain, are also working to develop hyperloop systems.
Hyperloop companies have been encouraged by government findings that technology is possible. In 2019, the US Department of Transportation hired the Federal Railroad Administration to develop standards and regulations for hyperloop.
In Europe, many Hyperloop companies have formed a technical committee to develop standards that they hope will be adopted by the European Union.
After Mr. Geigel and Ms. Luchian entered the capsule, they pushed it into a decomposition chamber to wait for the vacuum to build. At that point, the gate valve opened and entered the pod tube, ready for testing.
Virgil’s successful human trials can provide a psychological boost to technical believers. Company officials believe the system will be commercialized by the end of the decade.
“This technology could be the transition for the future of all of us,” Mr. Geigel said. “Today we went from childhood to adolescence.”