Interior of a hyperloop pod

Hyperloop pod designs unveiled at Dubai exhibition

Image credit: REUTERS/Christopher Pike

A full-scale design model of a component of the proposed transportation system connecting Dubai and Abu Dhabi has been revealed. Virgin Hyperloop One, which will build the system, has announced similar plans for India.

The concept of the hyperloop was conceived by billionaire technologist Elon Musk while stuck in a traffic jam and watching aeroplanes flying undisrupted overhead. In a White Paper, Musk proposed a form of autonomous transport in which airtight pods containing passengers, cargo or vehicles are catapulted through a vacuum tube at aircraft speeds.

Hyperloop pods are initially accelerated with a linear motor, and then glide through the tube unaffected by drag (due to being contained inside a vacuum) and friction (due to hovering above the tracks using magnetic levitation). The tracks could be built underground, at ground level, or above ground.

Too busy with work involving his other companies, Musk open-sourced the idea in 2013.

Since then, a number of companies have been developing their own hyperloop systems. Notably, Virgin Hyperloop One (formerly Hyperloop One) became the first company to hold a full-scale hyperloop test, using a test track built in Las Vegas. The arrival of hyperloops, Hyperloop One executives have said, could be as revolutionary as the birth of the internet.

Backed with hundreds of millions of investment dollars, the company is aiming to build hyperloop routes in the Middle East, North America and North Europe.

Abu Dhabi and Dubai – among the wealthiest cities in the world – are separated by 140km. This distance takes 90 minutes to drive by car, although a hyperloop journey could take just 12 minutes. Virgin Hyperloop One is planning to build its first full-sized hyperloop system between these cities.

At the UAE Innovation exhibition in Dubai – where innovations by government agencies, including the Dubai Police and Electricity and Water Authority, went on show – a full-scale design model of a hyperloop pod was displayed by the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA).

Exterior of a hyperloop pod

REUTERS/Christopher Pike

Image credit: REUTERS/Christopher Pike

The model suggests a modern, comfortable and spacious pod with ambient lighting and well-spaced seating; a far cry from the cramped, claustrophobic interior we may imagine of a pod being blasted through a vacuum tube. As there is nothing to see outside, there are no windows.

Each pod will have five first-class (“gold class”) seats and 14 standard-class (“silver class”) seats. This system could transport 10,000 passengers per hour in both directions.

Interior of a hyperloop pod

REUTERS/Christopher Pike

Image credit: REUTERS/Christopher Pike

At the presentation of the model, Abdul Reda Abu Al Hassan, executive director of the RTA, said that the project could be operational within the next five years.

Dubai’s RTA is aiming for a quarter of all journeys to be driverless by 2030.

“Every time we do any major announcement, the largest audience around the world for our communications on Virgin Hyperloop One is in the UAE,” said Rob Lloyd, chief executive of Virgin Hyperloop One, in an interview with Gulf News.

“[This represents a] young population that is hopeful, and also reflects the fact that there is a true belief that this would make people’s lives better, and allow the country to continue to grow at the rate and scale that it’s growing.”

Earlier this week, Virgin Hyperloop One announced a similar project, which could connect the Indian cities of Mumbai and Pune, separated by 150km. This journey takes more than three hours in a car.

The company plans to begin with a six-month feasibility study for a Mumbai-Pune hyperloop, before building a demonstration track.

“I believe Virgin Hyperloop One could have the same impact upon India in the 21st century as trains did in the 20th century,” said Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group.

“The Pune-Mumbai route is an ideal first corridor as part of a national hyperloop network that could dramatically reduce travel times between India’s major cities to as little as two hours. Virgin Hyperloop One can help India become a global transportation pioneer and forge a new world-changing industry.”

UK government advisers have estimated that a hyperloop in the UK – such as to connect London and Edinburgh – is at least 20 years away.

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