Virgin’s Hyperloop to carry passengers in levitating pods at 600mph

Virgin’s Hyperloop may one day have commuters flying through vacuum tubes in levitating pods at over 600mph. It’s safe to say Branson’s dreaming big.

Remember the Futurama opening sequence that depicted commuters whizzing around cities inside giant tubes? Well Richard Branson’s vision for the future of human and cargo transportation isn’t all that different.

At the forefront of this concept is the Virgin Hyperloop, a bullet shaped pod which aims to completely slash travel times, congestion, and environmental impact linked to petrol-fuelled machines.

Hurtling through city long vacuum tubes, each autonomous pod will either be carrying around 28 passengers (with ‘light luggage’) or typical freight cargo at speeds up to 600mph – that’s twice that of a commercial flight and three times faster than a high-speed train. It’s probably best you hold the bar then.

Inside what’s known as a hyperloop system, hence the project name, a magnetic force imparted on the pod will cause it to levitate (yes, really) off the floor of the tube making these rapid journeys near silent, aside from all the whooping from city bigwigs on their way to conferences. Combined with a sustainable electric propulsion unit, this baby is able to achieve some serious thrust.

By virtually eliminating the aerodynamic drag of typical trains and making sharp turns with near-zero lateral acceleration, the Virgin Hyperloop is capable of completing lengthy journeys like New York to Washington in under 30 minutes.

The official website also claims that this bold new mode of transportation isn’t planning to have set timetables like today’s underground and rail networks, meaning several pods can depart per minute, and that each journey won’t require mandatory stops at all stations. The dream.

With plans to install hyperlink routes between Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and Mumbai and Pune before 2030, Virgin has trialled more than 400 unmanned journeys already, and completed its first human trial this week.

Two seniors of the project, Josh Giegel and Sara Luchian travelled just one-third of a mile in under 15 seconds at a test track in the Nevada desert, and judging by the video it looks like they had a whale of a time. Granted, it didn’t surpass speeds of 107mph in its first manned outing, but engineers are confident that 600mph remains a feasible target – having reached a record of 670mph in previous tests.

If you keep up to date with tech news, it won’t come as a surprise to hear that Tesla and SpaceX boss Elon Musk is planning to rival Branson with his own garish and futuristic tunnel transportation system headed up by The Boring Company. If there’s billionaire beef to be had, Musk is never one to turn it down.

The eccentric billionaires of today really are changing the parameters of what constitutes a ‘pie in the sky’ ambition, but if the Hyperloop can streamline today’s gruelling standard of travel whilst mitigating harmful emissions then kudos, I’m here for it.

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