As the world hailed the arrival of a potential COVID-19 vaccine it has been revealed that the first human passenger journey on a hyperloop system has taken place in the USA.
A journey that has been described as “transportation history” was made in the Nevada desert, where Virgin Hyperloop tested human travel in a hyperloop pod for the first time.
The company successfully operated a full-scale hyperloop vehicle using electric propulsion and electromagnetic levitation under near-vacuum conditions. The use of hyperloop has long been regarded as a fundamentally new form of transportation that is potentially faster, safer, cheaper, and more sustainable than existing modes.
The near vacuum conditions allow minimal amounts of energy to send the pod through the loop at incredibly high speeds which has the potential to replace air travel. For instance, the team said the loop could speed people from New York to Washington in half the time it currently takes to fly.
This week Josh Giegel, CTO and Co-Founder, and Sara Luchian, Director of Passenger Experience, at the company took the first ride in which Virgin described as the first new form of transportation in over a century. The test took place at Virgin Hyperloop’s 500-meter DevLoop test site in Las Vegas, where the company has previously run over 400 un-occupied tests.
The occupants made their voyage on the newly-unveiled XP-2 vehicle, designed by BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group and Kilo Design, which was custom-built “with occupant safety and comfort in mind”. While the production vehicle will be larger and seat up to 28 passengers, this 2-seater XP-2 vehicle was built to demonstrate that passengers can in fact safely travel in a hyperloop vehicle.
“When we started in a garage over 6 years ago, the goal was simple – to transform the way people move,” said Josh Giegel, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Virgin Hyperloop. “Today, we took one giant leap toward that ultimate dream, not only for me, but for all of us who are looking towards a moonshot right here on Earth.”
“Hyperloop is about so much more than the technology. It’s about what it enables,” said Sara Luchian, Director of Passenger Experience for Virgin Hyperloop. “To me, the passenger experience ties it all together. And what better way to design the future than to actually experience it first-hand?”
Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Chairman of Virgin Hyperloop, and CEO of DP World said the test had significant ramifications for future transport across the world.
“I had the true pleasure of seeing history made before my very eyes – to witness the first new mode of mass transportation in over 100 years come to life,” he said. “I have always had tremendous faith in the team at Virgin Hyperloop to transform this technology into a safe system, and today we have done that. We are one step closer to ushering in a new era of ultra-fast, sustainable movement of people and goods.”
Virgin Hyperloop said having undergone a rigorous and exhaustive safety process, the XP-2 vehicle demonstrates many of the safety-critical systems that will be found on a commercial hyperloop system and is equipped with a state-of-the-art control system that can detect off-nominal states and rapidly trigger appropriate emergency responses.
“I can’t tell you how often I get asked ‘is hyperloop safe?’” said Jay Walder, CEO of Virgin Hyperloop. “With today’s passenger testing, we have successfully answered this question, demonstrating that not only can Virgin Hyperloop safely put a person in a pod in a vacuum environment, but that the company has a thoughtful approach to safety which has been validated by an independent third party.”
Last month, Virgin Hyperloop unveiled West Virginia as the location for the Hyperloop Certification Centre (HCC).
“This federal momentum, combined with the advancements at the HCC and the historic safety demonstration achieved with this test will pave the way for the certification of hyperloop systems around the world – a key step towards commercial projects,” said the company.