Though it may be hard to believe, we now live in a world where the term “hyperloop” isn’t in reference to a sci-fi movie, but to a real-life way of transportation. Today, Digital Trends Live was visited by Dirk Ahlborn, the CEO and founder of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HyperloopTT), the man who is making our sci-fi dreams come true. But what really is Hyperloop and how does it work?
“Hyperloop is a new mode of transportation — they call it the fifth mode of transportation,” explains Ahlborn. “Basically, imagine a capsule filled with people that moves close to the speed of sound inside a tube, and inside the tube, you’re creating a low-pressure environment so the capsule can go really fast with very little energy. … With the Hyperloop, we are producing our own energy along the track with solar panels … and because we are consuming very little and have very low operational cost, we can be profitable in a very short time frame. “
HyperloopTT is at the forefront of this technology and has two commercial projects, with China and in the United Arab Emirates in Abu Dhabi. It also presented the world’s first passenger capsule earlier this year in Spain. Ahlborn said the biggest hurdle has been introducing brand-new laws and regulations.
“There is a big hurdle, and that’s governmental support, governmental approval, so we have to create a new set of laws and regulations,” he said. “And that’s the reason we are working with so many governments around the world — we are proposing our framework together with one of the leading safety institutes, we’ve been working with the largest reinsurance company in the world to make sure the technology is insurable, which is a very important step when it comes to commercialization. There is a lot of work that goes into making sure you are actually building something that can be commercially used — it’s a completely new system.”
New form of transportation
We asked Ahlborn if he thought thought that consumers would adapt to this new form of transportation easily as the Hyperloop is slowly introduced into our daily lives.
“For the user experience itself, it will be very similar to what you already know, a plane already almost moves at the speed of sound, so you’re somewhere between 500 and 600 miles per hour depending on which plane you’re flying, so we are already used to it, it’s not something new,” he said. “When you are building something new, you have to make it something that works well for a 2-year-old, as well as an 80-year-old. The experience is not going to be a thrill or a roller coaster ride, it’s actually something fairly boring that moves you from one place to another. Ideally, we are creating a much better passenger experience, that’s really the goal.”
Ahlborn said though hyperloops will be fast, their main function isn’t to quickly get from one distant place to another, like San Francisco to New York, because “it just simply doesn’t make a lot of sense on the economics because building still costs a lot. We are more solving an economic problem, which may seem boring to people because the general public is more excited about moving at the speed of sound.”
With its new commercial line approved in China and Abu Dhabi, we asked Ahlborn what the timeline is for these projects. “We plan on starting construction next year for the first commercial lines … we plan on having one of the first phases done in the UAE in 2020.” And as for the future?
“Luckily, we have many countries and many governments that are supporting us … In these two commercial deals we have in China and UAE, we also made sure they support us in the creation of these regulations,” he said. “We have presented the guidelines to these regulations to our partners — there is going to be some time to get safety records, to make sure everything’s safe, everything’s working and then, of course, you’re going to have a slow rollout … We talk at least another decade until widespread adoption. … There’s a lot of different projects in the U.S. we are following, and we are doing one project, for example, from Cleveland to Chicago where we have already done, or are almost done, with the feasibility study, so it’s really getting these governments on board and working together with them and making sure we can roll out a safe system to them as soon as possible”
Digital Trends Live airs at 9 a.m. PT from Monday through Friday, with highlights available on demand after the stream ends. For more information, check out the DT Live homepage, and be sure to watch live for the chance to win a $100 Amazon gift card, among other prizes.
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