On Sunday, November 8, two passengers safely traveled on the Virgin Hyperloop north of Las Vegas, in the desert of Nevada. The test marks the first time in history that the famed hyperloop technology, which promises rapid transportation of people and cargo at speeds close to and above 600 mph, was put to the test with humans onboard.
Trial passengers Sara Luchian and Josh Giegel, both company employees at Virgin Hyperloop, were ensconced in molded seats covered in white vegan leather, housed inside the all-white carbon fiber clad Pegasus pod (XP-2). Once strapped in, they were sped up to 107mph (172km/h) in 6.25s, in the 500m long Devloop. While this is certainly slow by the lofty figures that hyperloops promise, company officials decided to limit the speed for safety measures.
Weighing 2.5 tons and measuring 15-18 feet long, the Pegasus XP-2 pod that housed Giegel and Luchian, represents a scaled-down version of the full-sized pod that will be carrying up to 23 passengers, reaching speeds of up to 671mph (1080km/h). While the company says it has conducted over 400 tests on the DevLoop, they'd never done it before with human passengers. CEO of Virgin Hyperloop, Jay Walder commented on the bold initiative, stating that:
"No one has done anything close to what we’re talking about right now. This is a full scale, working hyperloop that is not just going to run in a vacuum environment but is going to have a person in it. No one has come close to doing it.”
After the test ran its course, Josh Giegel, one of the passengers onboard likened the experience to that in a sports car, and remarked that “The No. 1 question I get from investors is, ‘Is it safe enough to ride? We’re everyday people, we’re not astronauts. This shows that it’s safe, and observers can take this back to their investors and interested municipalities.” Sara Luchian, the other passenger onboard corroborated this statement, describing the ride as "much smoother than [she] expected." And that unlike an airplane, there were no lateral forces that would have caused the pod to sway.
Envisaged back in 2012 by Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, the raison d'être of hyperloops is to cut down on travel time. Two years later in 2014, Virgin Hyperloop was founded on the same principles and with the same premise. Should the company's advertised speeds become a reality, a trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco could take less than an hour.
We have proven the technology at our Nevada test site, and now we're bringing it to the world — working with visionary governments and partners who understand the transformative power this technology has to leapfrog their economies, strengthen their supply chains, and deliver unprecedented connectivity and opportunity to their citizens.
Virgin Hyperloop has doubled its workforce to 300 over the last couple of years and raised over $400 million in funding. Corroborating the statement above, The New York Times reports that several projects are already in the planning stages: a route between Pune and Mumbai in India; another between Jeddah and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia; and one connecting Chicago, Columbus, Ohio, and Pittsburgh.
Elon Musk's SpaceX has also started building a spaceport of its own near the Boca Chica in Brownsville, teasing hypersonic commute for both humans and cargo through hyperloops. Though testing for that is still a fair way away, one thing is for sure: with Virgin Hyperloop's successful test run, we may very well be on the cusp of realizing rapid land travel.