If you haven’t heard of Virgin Hyperloop One by now, pay attention; The company is making huge advancements in the race to develop the future of transportation.
Imagine traveling between cities that are hundreds of miles apart in just a matter of minutes. The company says not only are they close to making it a reality, they're closer to doing it than you might think.
In May, Virgin Hyperloop One orchestrated a test track, called DevLoop, in the middle of a desert miles outside of Las Vegas. It was the first full-scale test of the hyperloop concept, which was first introduced by Elon Musk in 2014.
Dr. Anita Sengupta, senior vice president at Hyperloop One, leads the team in charge of making this technology come together. Prior to joining Virgin Hyperloop One, Dr. Sengupta spent most of her career at NASA and was a member of the team that helped land a rover on Mars.
“I spent most of my career working at NASA. I'm used to working with vacuum chambers; I'm used to working with electromagnetic propulsion systems," says Dr. Sengupta.
Working on hyperloop reminds her of working on spacecraft, traveling hundreds of miles per hour through a vacuum tube in a magnetically levitating pod. Each pod is designed to fit 9 to 12 people. She believes it will remind passengers of a plane, but better.
"You don't have the traditional experiences you have in aircraft,” she explains. “There's no such thing as turbulence, right, because you actually have no air around you on the outside of the pod, so the ride is actually going to be a lot smoother. You're not even going to be able to tell that you're going that fast."
Their last speed test reached 240 miles per hour, only limited, she says, by the length of the track. At full speed, they want to see pods travel about 700 miles per hour.
"Faster than a commercial airplane," says Dr. Sengupta.
Hyperloop One hopes to have tracks operating within the next two to three years.
"I think it’s fair to say by 2023, we could have an operational hyperloop," she says.
Right now, the company is working on feasibility studies in several states, to see where they could build their first routes.
"This would be a service that everyday people can use,” says Dr. Sengupta. “Otherwise, it doesn't make sense to build it. "
Hyperloop One isn’t the only company working to make the hyperloop concept a reality. Musk and SpaceX have been explicit that the concept be open-sourced, encouraging others to develop the transportation. The tech mogul, as well as another company called Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, are in the race and working on their own hyperloop plans.
So, how much will this cost? Who will pay for it? Virgin Hyperloop One anticipates a public-private partnership.
"When it comes to infrastructure projects, you need to have a strong coalition of government, business community, and local community," says Dr. Sengupta.
In the meantime, she and her team will keep working.
"This is high time to come up with a new mode of mass transportation, she says.
"We are reinventing transportation and doing it out here in the desert."
Earlier this month, the company announced plans to build a $500 million research center in Bobadilla, a tiny village in southern Spain. It will be the Los Angeles-based company’s first off-site location in Europe.
The site is slated to open in 2020 and will be used to test, develop and certify components to improve safety and reliability of their systems. The company plans to hire 200 to 300 high-tech workers for the center.
Last week, it was reported Virgin Hyperloop One would open their first office outside the U.S. in Dubai.
Learn more about Virgin Hyperloop One here.