Just catching the headlines, it would be easy to think the only companies out there bringing technology into the space-age are associated with Elon Musk. Today, our very first passengers took a ride in a Hyperloop and it wasn’t operated by SpaceX or Tesla. The Virgin Hyperloop proved to be safe for human transport on its Las Vegas track on November 8th, 2020.
The first Hyperloop passenger test took place at the DevLoop site. There, the levitating capsule traveled at 100 miles per hour through a 500-meter long concrete tube. Travel through the nearly airless tunnel took about 15 seconds. The lucky first passengers were Sara Luchian, Virgin Hyperloop’s director of passenger experience, and John Giegell, CTO and co-founder of the company. As the company’s YouTube video shows, the ride is still a bit shaky.
This is a far cry from where Elon Musk, Virgin Hyperloop, and today’s engineers say Hyperloop technology will go. The first passenger test follows over 400 tests at the DevLoop site, proving their models to be safe. Eventually, the company will hope to reach speeds traveling up to 760 MPH (1,223 KM/H). This will take place in a much larger pod capable of seating 28 people, unlike the XP-2 shown in the video which carries two passengers at a time.
This future stage will require a much longer track, something Virgin Hyperloop recently announced they are working on at their new Hyperloop Certification Center (HCC) facility in West Virginia. There, they are constructing a six-mile-long tube for testing. The company aims to reach safety certification by 2025 and be ready for public transport in 2030. A decade from now, the trip from Washington DC to NYC could take 30 minutes on a Virgin Hyperloop.
Virgin Hyperloop is owned by Richard Brandon and technically has nothing to do with Elon Musk. However, it is difficult to talk about Hyperloop transport without mentioning the man who got the conversation started.
It’s no easy task keeping track of all the things Elon Musk says he is going to be doing to bring us into the future of technology. Today, Elon Musk’s focus is more on Starlink and the SpaceX Starship. Six years ago, Elon Musk promised he’d be building us a Hyperloop transit system, aiming to launch in Texas. When his companies became busy on other projects, he open-sourced the technology. Part of this event was the release of Elon Musk’s white paper where he explained his vision for Hyperloop. The white paper starts off with plain language and then may require some technical background about halfway through. While he is no longer directly involved in its development, he is always still pushing its advancement forward.
One way that Elon Musk has stayed involved is through SpaceX’s competitions. Each year, engineers have pushed speed possibilities faster. The competition has also worked to make the course more challenging with each go. As the Hyperloop competition gets tougher, the technology continues to grow further. Groups of passionate engineers continue to come up with new ideas on what is possible for the pods that may someday travel through concrete tunnels.
What Elon Musk Thinks Hyperloop Technology Can Do
While some may call Hyperloop a train, Elon Musk calls it a “fifth mode of transport”. It’s something new. With Hyperloop, we’re looking at transportation that won’t be affected by weather conditions. It should be safer than other modes of transport and should be able to operate 24 hours a day. He sees Hyperloop as an environmentally-friendly mode of transport. Musk wanted to see a 382-mile track from Los Angeles to San Francisco that took 30 minutes.
While Virgin Hyperloop is currently moving its focus to the east coast with a goal of 2030 for commercial transport, there is plenty of competition out there. Surely, over the next decade, more competitors will enter the game. Right now, the company’s main competition is Hyperloop Transportation Technologies. They unveiled an interesting passenger prototype back in 2018. Unseen, are all the engineering students creating plans for Elon Musk’s Hyperloop competitions and any other billionaires with tech-fueled dreams who may follow Musk’s lead and jump on the scene with big promises any day now.