“A cross between a Concorde, a railgun and an air hockey table”

We are all interested in innovation. Jonathan Morrison provided a good article in The Times about the hyperloop. EiD remembers when this was raised a few years ago. Now a Danish company is building an ultra-high-speed transportation system in the Middle East that could transform our approach to mobility.

 

Forget high-speed rail, hyperloop will carry commuters at 760 mph

It is home to the world’s tallest skyscraper, the only seven-star hotel, the largest artificial island even the world’s most sizeable indoor theme park. Now Dubai has taken a commanding lead in the race to build the world’s first “hyperloop.”

When it is completed in 2020, enabling workers to commute at near supersonic speeds, the journey time between downtown Dubai and Abu Dhabi, its neighbour, will be cut from over an hour to 12 minutes.

After revealing its first detailed plans for the revolutionary ultra-high-speed transportation system, the Danish company behind the scheme, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) went on to predict that the 76-mile (122 km) line between the emirates would be merely the first of many. It added that, in the near future, workers would be able to commute to city centres from suburbs up to 370 miles (595 km) away.

Final testing of the concept, which will propel passengers or cargo through a vacuum tube at up to 760 mph (1223 kph), is due to be completed in the next three months at a track near Las Vegas. Work on the world’s first route, financed by the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority, will begin immediately afterwards. The scheme designed by BIG, which is part of a consortium developing the technology called Hyperloop One, envisages a range of self-driving pods that would take passengers from their front door to a “portal” – a central station – where they would be loaded into a levitating capsule and fired down the airless tube.

The first portal is to be built at the foot of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, in Dubai, with security provided by facial recognition systems and devices that sniff the contents of the pods. “Using pneumatic tubes for transport is something that has been envisaged for a hundred years,” Jakob Lange, a partner at BIG and the head of BIG Ideas, said. “But today we have everything that is needed: highly efficient vacuum pumps, precise robotic welders, sophisticated levitation devices and software that has taken a giant leap forwards. There’s really no part of this that can’t be done right now.

“The potential is huge and there are ambitions for hyperloops to cross the world in all directions, to cross even Siberia. If we look a bit further ahead at its potential, city planning can happen as far as 370 miles and 30 minutes’ commute from city centres as physical distances are virtually eliminated. It will transform the way we live and the way cities are built, giving us much more freedom.”

The concept was first proposed by Elon Musk, a founder of PayPal and the chief executive of Tesla Motors in 2013. He described it as “a cross between a Concorde, a railgun and an air hockey table.” He initially proposed a line between Los Angeles and San Francisco, which would allow the 400-mile trip to be covered in half an hour.

As the tube is supported by stilts, it does not require terrain to be flattened. After funding the initial research, Mr Musk made the technology openly available, encouraging others to develop the concept.

Hyperloop One has just held talks with Britain about bringing the technology to the UK and invited representatives to tests. Alan James, a vice-president of Hyperloop One, argued that the system would be much cheaper and faster way to link the north of England to the capital than high-speed rail.

“High-speed rail could reduce the journey time from London to Stoke from one hour 24 minutes to around one hour,” he said. “With hyperloop, we can reduce it to around 14 minutes. London to Manchester would be 18 minutes.”

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