Richard Branson's Virgin Hyperloop has completed the world's first passenger ride on a super high-speed levitating pod system, the company said on 8 November, a key safety test for technology it hopes will transform human and cargo transportation.
Virgin Hyperloop executives Josh Giegel, its chief technology officer, and Sara Luchian, director of passenger experience, reached speeds of up to 107 miles per hour (172kmph) at the company's DevLoop test site in Las Vegas, Nevada, the company said.
“I had the true pleasure of seeing history made before my very eyes,” said Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, chairman of Virgin Hyperloop and group chairman and chief executive of DP World, a multinational logistics company.
Los Angeles-based Hyperloop envisions a future where floating pods packed with passengers and cargo hurtle through vacuum tubes at 966kmph or faster.
In a hyperloop system, which uses magnetic levitation to allow near-silent travel, a trip between New York and Washington would take just 30 minutes. That would be twice as fast as a commercial jet flight and four times faster than a high-speed train. The company has previously run over 400 tests without human passengers at the Nevada site.
The test was conducted on the newly-unveiled XP-2 vehicle. According to the company, while the production vehicle will be larger and seat up to 28 passengers, this two-seater XP-2 vehicle was built to demonstrate that passengers can in fact safely travel in a hyperloop vehicle.
The test comes a month after Reuters first reported that Virgin Hyperloop picked the US state of West Virginia to host a $500-million certification centre and test track that will serve as a proving ground for its technology. The company is working toward safety certification by 2025 and commercial operations by 2030, it has said.
Canada's Transpod and Spain's Zeleros also aim to upend traditional passenger and freight networks with similar technology, which they say will slash travel times, congestion and environmental harm linked with petroleum-fuelled machines.
This successful test also has implications for India as a hyperloop route between Mumbai and Pune is in the planning stages. The government of Maharashtra had deemed the hyperloop a public infrastructure project in July last year. Once complete, the hyperloop project will link central Pune to Mumbai in under 35 minutes, as compared to the current travel time of three and a half hours by road. In September, Virgin Hyperloop and the Bangalore International Airport Limited had also signed a memorandum of understanding to conduct a feasibility study for a proposed hyperloop corridor from the Kempegowda International Airport to the city.
(Reporting for Reuters done by Eric M. Johnson, editing by Rosalba O’Brien)