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The Hyperloop Comes to Life

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Feb. 10, 2021—Automakers and technology companies are all racing to develop the first fully-autonomous vehicle, but Virgin Hyperloop is taking a different approach to autonomous transportation, a high speed vacuum train variant. 

During this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, Joann Muller, a transportation correspondent for Axios, talked with Sara Luchian, director of passenger experience for Virgin Hyperloop, about the company’s new mode of transportation and how it stands to benefit the masses. 

Born from a few sketches, the hyperloop boarded its first two passengers for the first run just last November. Luchian, who was lucky enough to experience the landmark journey at the company’s Las Vegas testing site, DevLoop, said, “it was such a thrill.”   

 

What is the hyperloop?

To put it simply, Luchian said the hyperloop is a “new mode of transportation that uses magnetic levitation to lift and propel vehicles in low pressure environments, basically a tube that’s been brought to near vacuum.” 

The hyperloop is often associated with Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, but Luchian said the concept did not begin with him, but rather as an idea. In 2013, Musk released his white paper on the hyperloop, popularizing the new mode of transportation. 

Luchian said Musk’s paper, while not the dawn of the hyperloop, did “ignite the public imagination.” 

Now, Virgin Hyperloop has given the necessary money, time and talent, to bring the hyperloop technology to a deployable level of development, Luchian said. 

 

How does it work?

The hyperloop creates a near vacuum with very little aerodynamic drag to deliver airlines speeds while operating using the same G-force as traditional rail travel. 

With its propulsion power system, the Virgin Hyperloop can climb grades six times better than high-speed rail. The hyperloop also has a turn radius that is nearly five times tighter than traditional transportation methods. 

Luchian, who was one of the first two people to experience the hyperloop said “it was a surprisingly smooth and quieter ride than I was expecting.” She said there wasn’t any turbulence, like on an airplane, because the hyperloop controls everything in its environment. 

“Hopefully you’ll all be able to join me on a ride in a few years,” Luchian said.  

 

Quality or quantity? 

One apparent drawback to the hyperloop is the size of the pods, which Luchian said only hold between 20-25 people at a time. Whereas traditional transportation methods such as planes and trains hold significantly more people, Muller said, during the presentation. 

But what the hyperloop provides is speed, said Luchian. With top speeds around 670 miles per hour, the hyperloop is three times faster than any high-speed rail, and 10 times faster than traditional rail travel. 

As if that wasn’t enough, Luchian said the pods can cluster together in the hyperloop, via autonomous controls. “You can cluster them together and have them move as if they were a train, without the connecting piece,” she said. 

The ability to move hordes of people at once is certainly a draw, but the hyperloop also stands out for its environmental efforts, creating zero emissions. 

 

Image: Virgin Hyperloop

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