When it comes to lightning-speed travel, hyperloop is the word on every engineer’s lips. Now, Virgin is aiming to bring its take on the novel concept to life––and it could have a massive impact on everything from long-distance journeys to your daily commute.
Branded as the Hyperloop One, Virgin’s concept will be capable of whipping through space at a breakneck 670 mph. For perspective, that means passengers could travel the majority of the distance between New York City and Chicago in as much time as it takes to watch an episode of Succession. The very idea could transform what suburban life means, as the distance to the office becomes radically less important.
Founded by investor Shervin Pishevar along with space engineers Josh Giegel from Virgin Galactic and Brogan BamBrogan from SpaceX, Hyperloop One was first proposed by Elon Musk. So far, the concept for the zero-emissions mass transit system of tubes has raised $368.4 million from a group of more than 80 investors. Virgin’s founder, Richard Branson, chaired the company from December 2017 through October 2018 but has subsequently relinquished that duty.
Though different iterations of the hyperloop have been percolating for the past few years, the Covid-19 pandemic has created renewed interest in the technology. As companies have seen their employees scattered and working from home––with some like Twitter and Facebook encouraging theirs to work remotely through the end of 2020 and perhaps beyond––the idea of an intelligent transportation system that makes reassembling a disparate workforce becomes a necessity. Plus, it’s far more energy- and cost-effective than standard airline travel.
The Hyperloop One team is collaborating with Bjarke Ingels’s architecture group, BIG, on a detailed physical prototype that can be showcased at the Dubai World’s Fair, which was rescheduled for October of 2021 amid the Covid-19 crisis. Indeed, the design will take the pandemic into account.
“Some of the system’s features already have the ability to ensure social distancing,” Sara Luchian, director of passenger experience, told Forbes. “Being on-demand and direct-to-destination means the pod arrives as scheduled. There are no wait times so there’s less congregating and more spacing.” Luchian also told the financial publication that the company is going so far as to consider “antimicrobial copper and silver surfaces” capable of killing pathogens, coupled with ultra-violet lighting to immediately disinfect pods.