In the desert miles outside of Las Vegas, a large white tube stretches for one third of a mile, and what happens inside could revolutionize travel.
Imagine traveling from Phoenix to Las Vegas or San Diego in a matter of minutes?
Dr. Anita Sengupta leads the team that’s making the technology come together. At their last speed test in the tube, she says their pod traveled 240 miles per hour, limited only by the length of the track. At top speeds, Sengupta says the Hyperloop is expected to travel at about 700 miles per hour.
That, she said, means Hyperloop is not science fiction. “It is science fact because you can see it right here.”
She spent most of her career working at NASA but brought her expertise back down to earth to help make Hyperloop a reality. This project reminds her of working on spacecraft.
“I’m used to working with vacuum systems,” she said. “I’m used to working with electromagnetic propulsion.”
HOW DOES HYPERLOOP WORK?
Sengupta said the Hyperloop also uses a vacuum system. An electromagnetically propelled pod, designed to fit nine to twelve people, would levitate and travel through a vacuum tube. Between the levitation and vacuum system, she said the ride would be smoother than an airplane.
“There is no such thing as turbulence, right? Because you actually have no air around you on the outside of the pod so the ride is actually going to be much smoother,” she said. “You’re not even going to be able to tell you’re going that fast.”
HOW SOON WILL WE BE ABLE TO RIDE IT?
“We would like to have them operational within the next two to three years,” said Sengupta.
“I think it is fair to say by 2023, we could have an operational Hyperloop,” said Dan Katz, Director of Global Public Policy and North American Projects at Virgin Hyperloop One.
The company is considering routes all over the world and is also taking part in feasibility studies across the United States in places like Colorado, Missouri, and Ohio. Those studies will look at factors like how much building a route might cost, an unknown Katz says, at least for now.
“Every route is a little different, depends on the terrain, how you can travel. Can you go above ground? Do you have to go below? So based on the alignment that we’re looking at, the costs would be different,” he said. “But we’re checking each one and carefully examining each one for their costs and other factors.”
Other factors include wading through potential regulations and perfecting the technology, some of the remaining hurdles before Hyperloop can come to life.