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HYPERLOOP – WHAT TRAVELLING AT THE SPEED OF SOUND WILL TRULY COST US?

Hyperloop, the idea from visionaire Elon Musk, is set to reinvent transportation by moving people and cargo at the speed of sound, so more than 750 mph. Elon Musk is no stranger to disrupting industries. From making payments secure by creating Paypal, to giving his Tesla electric vehicle patents to the world for free, to being on the verge of sending people into space through Space X, Elon has challenged anyone in the world to create the Hyperloop. It means people would be able to travel from London to Edinburgh or Los Angeles to San Francisco in under 35 minutes says Musk.

So what is a Hyperloop? It’s the idea of passenger or cargo pods powering through tunnel tubes at the speed of sound (750+ mph). Using maglev technology to levitate, making them virtually weightless during transport, the pods will be powered through a near vacuum tube and be totally autonomous for better safety in hypersonic movement. Musk, has open sourced this idea to any company wanting to build the Hyperloop. According to Reuters, Musk has suggested the Hyperloop technology would be cheaper, faster and more efficient that high speed rail. So far, two individual companies have taken the challenge head on, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies and Hyperloop One.

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Hyperloop One passenger pod concept.

Hyperloop One is run by former Cisco president Rob Lloyd, Co-Founders Shervin Pishevar and Brogan Bambrogan. The company secured a funding round of US $80 million in May 2016 to fund further testing and development in 2016. According to Reuters, Bambrogan said, “Our company’s engineering team is focused on find efficiencies in reducing building a hyperloop.” He further says, “We want to deliver all the value that hyperloop has promised, safety, efficiency, on demand service and speed.” Hyperloop One is creating a future based on virtual airports, new intermodal hubs, high speed transportation as it’s DNA and clean, sustainable transportation. Hyperloop One’s cargo transport will provide scalable capacity, streamline logistics, enhance safety and reduce freight-liner emissions significantly. Watch the film here.

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Hyperloop One propulsion Air Test – Nevada

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Hyperloop One team comprises of over 120 people. Image source: Hyperloop One

The other company pursuing Elon Musk’s vision is Hyperloop Transportation Technologies. Headed forward by CEO Dirk Ahlborn, their vision is to connect cities within 30 minutes by hyperloop, which are normally 8 to 9 hours apart by car. Early on the company realised they had the vision but needed the design and engineering expertise. As a result they partnered up with UCLA. Lead by Professor Craig Hodgetts who has embraced this challenge. “It’s like inventing everything from the ground up. As architects, we are trying to stitch together the technology, the social change and human experience,” says Hodgetts. One of the biggest challenges faced by this group is making hyperloop travel comfortable at high speeds.

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Hyperloop Technologies passenger pod.
Image source Hyperloop Transportation Technologies.

One of the key challenges which Hyperloop Transportation Technologies is focused on is Safety. Dirk Ahlborn says, “…in rail travel, majority of the accidents are caused by human error. We are working towards using a fully computerised system to run hyperloop.” Hyperloop Transportation Technologies is a crowdsourced company who have signed an agreement to build hyperloop with the Slovakian government connecting Slovenia to Austria and Hungry. For more, watch the Hyperloop Technologies Film here.

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Hyperloop tube across regional countryside.
Image source: CNN Money.

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Hyperloop tube station where passengers onboard and disembark.
Image source: CNN Money.

So how much will it cost to actually build a hyperloop? According to professor Michael Anderson from UC Berkley, the predicted cost of building a hyperloop from Los Angeles to San Francisco bay area covering a distance of 354 miles was estimated around the $100 Billion mark. Quora publication mentioned an initial design proposal by Elon Musk titled ‘Alpha’ estimated the cost of build for this same distance to be approximately US $6 Billion for a passenger only hyperloop. But this proposal was largely criticised for not taking into account the purchase/leasing of the land between these points, the cost of unproven technology and the scale of construction required.

Hyperloop is fast becoming a reality and these two companies are to be admired for taking on this monster of a challenge which could last for a few generations to come. With new technologies there are winners and losers. Here we will discuss the impacts  and the opportunities of hyperloop.

 

Impacts of Hyperloop.

• Revolutionise the world of passenger transport. Time is money and being able to catch a hyperloop from city to city means traditional modes of local transport will be impacted. Trains and airplanes will suffer the most as they wont be able to compete with the speed and ease of on-boarding and disembarking. According to the Australian government Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, there are approximately 58.12 million passengers carried annually on domestic commercial flights, translation to approximately AUD $68.54 billion in revenue. And this in only a small market. Hyperloop will change these volumes significantly as they will offer a more competitive product that is smarter and faster in market.

•  Cargo transportation. If it’s cheaper and faster to send cargo across the ocean then businesses will naturally use this method to transport their goods. According to whatech.com, the global shipping containers market is poised to reach a market value of US $11.47 Billion by 2021. If Hyperloop was to compete in this space, then it will impact this market significantly.

• The evaporation of jobs. Naturally with every new disruptive technology, there will be a significant change over with jobs in the transport industry for both passenger travel and cargo transport. Some of the key jobs to be affected are train drivers, pilots, service people, retailers, food and beverage services, railway maintenance workers and more.

• Land acquisition. If people have set up their homes in a hyperloop pathway then there might be the need for land acquisition. We all know that governments have the power in these situations however the impact of having large volumes of electricity near residents it is largely unknown. Even if the hyperloop tubes are raised above ground the dangers of living too close is unwritten.

• Human experience. Are we ready for such a high powered realm of transport? Whilst the idea of traveling at the sound of speed is exciting, it might take a generation for customers to fully adopt to this new technology. The cost repercussions are based on the usage of this transport by people.

• Cost. It is unknown as to how much this technology will truly cost countries and ultimately it is the people within it that pay through taxes, fares, levies etc. Whilst Elon Musk’s early evaluation for the cost of build was lower than expected, the true costs are yet to be determined largely due to the fact that this is a totally new infrastructure at mass scale.

 

Opportunities of Hyperloop.

•  Eco-Friendly cargo transportation. The 3 main freight-liners in the world contribute to more pollution than all the cars in the world combined according to industrytap.com. Hyperloop will be powered through a mix of solar and electricity therefore emitting zero emissions.

• The creation of jobs. With new technology brings new opportunities in careers. Hyperloop stations will become the new epicentre of travel. It’s an opportunity to totally modernise the traditional rail stations and create jobs that have never existed before such as Transitionists, Data Integration Managers, Genetic Modification Designers, Sensor Designers, 3DIY Specialists, Data Service Managers, Tap and Go Cashiers, Vacuum Technicians and more.

• Dating just got cooler. Imagine being able to take your date or meet people from other cities and return home in the same evening. Hyperloop will make attending a Lakers game in Los Angeles from San Francisco in the same evening open to a mass market. You can impress that special someone with the best tickets in another city.

• Transforming school excursions. What if kid could go from New York to Ontario in the same day and be back in time for the school pick up.

• Saving time. Time is the most precious thing on our planet. You cannot buy any more of it, but things such as hyperloop bring us close to gaining more of it. The amount of time that could be saved in commuting is unmeasurable.

• Human connectivity. Hyperloop will connect more than cities, they will connect the human race to better experiences, better one on one human interaction, bring together families more often and so much more.

• A new design generation. Any new transformative technology provides a new playground for designers. The invention of hyperloop will mean the design of newer terminals, hyperloop pods, futuristic fashion, 3-D printed food experiences and more. Innovative designers will use this opportunity to catapult their visionary thinking to new heights using never before combined materials and services to suit a better human experience.

 

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