The next level of transportation

The total Hyperloop concept is a safe, effective manner of transport. The core technologies needed for the system are in existence and robustly tested

Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

The middle of 2013 was a momentous time. Elon Musk proposed construction of a new mode of transportation—the Hyperloop—and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, Inc. was the first out of the gate in quest of its realization. Few fans of the idea realized that this mode of transport had been proposed before and, in a rudimentary manner, built before.

Writers and futurists from Jules Verne to Albert Robida theorized tube transport systems under cities and across oceans. Fiction became reality as tubes of either the vacuum or pneumatic variety were used in attempts to transport people short distances. Britain worked to put a vacuum pump in a tube to help speed up a steam train. A.E. Beach built the beginning of the Beach Pneumatic Transit in New York.

These attempts amounted to nothing more than short-lived experiments. The real fuel for a movement that could innovate human mobility was lacking; there was not the will to improve, innovate or expand, just as there was later no will to continue to advance electric automobiles when oil-based fuel became cheaply available.

Consider this: pneumatic or vacuum tubes are in use today to transport items considerably smaller than a person. Stanford Hospital has 4 miles of tubing that transport specimen samples from patient to laboratory for testing 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Oslo, Norway, whisks away its garbage at lightning speed in a tube maze employing colour coding to sort different bags containing different manner of waste. New York’s tube-transport mail system is so yesterday’s news that you can hardly conduct a successful archeological search for remnants of the system.

Why does our stuff move faster than we do? Why did the transportation of humans get a pass in the innovation arena?

Transportation, as you know it, is broken.

Closer analysis shows how ineffective an expansion of current paradigms would be. This is not a solution. We see that reality daily: Los Angeles, Boston, Beijing, Kuala Lumpur. Current systems are built as bandages upon congestion, power usage, health concerns, separation of workforce from opportunity. Our lives are defined by how we travel, and we as individuals have little control over that paradigm.

Sometimes our lives are even endangered by our transport methods. The World Health Organization reports that there are about 1.2 million traffic fatalities every year. Changing how we perceive transportation, inclusive of “first-mile-last-mile” concepts, will save numerous lives. Experts say that autonomous vehicles could save almost 10 million lives per decade worldwide. Imagine creating solutions that integrate the Hyperloop™ system with such vehicles.

HyperloopTT, Inc is organized to embrace our human responsibility for creating meaningful solutions. What I am sure of—very sure of—is that a new paradigm in transportation is desperately needed, yet cannot be built from within a traditional organization. My partner Dirk Ahlborn and I conceived a uniquely structured company, knowing the only way meaningful solutions could be realized is within this new corporate ecosystem. This could only exist if we started a movement, a call to action, carried upon the shoulders of the giants of technology who have come before us and live among us.

Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, Inc. (HyperloopTT) was born of JumpStartFund, Inc., our unique crowdfunding and crowdsourcing incubator platform that uses collective knowledge and assets to make ideas like Hyperloop™ a reality. HyperloopTT is a collaborative organization built within the egalitarian ecosystem of a corporation that values every one of its contributors, individuals and entities.

Benefits created by our efforts are quantifiable. UN studies show transportation as one of the most important areas of innovation, creating greater regional investment inflow, careers, sustainable jobs and knowledge-based economies. Cost analysis of construction and operation of an Hyperloop™ system yields exciting economic forecasts for any region on the globe looking to adopt this “5th mode of transport”.

Equally important, as younger generations seek their fortune in cities far from home, is the development philosophy of HyperloopTT, allowing individuals to pursue opportunity without losing ties to their families, their communities and their heritage.

The Hyperloop is essentially a capsule hovering inside a tube with a drastically reduced interior atmosphere, producing a low air pressure environment that creates very little friction upon the capsule, allowing for ultra-high-speed travel. The capsule is like the cabin of a jet plane, hovering in a manner not unlike the Maglev trains of Shanghai, China and Nagoya, Japan. However, unlike the Maglev systems, the HTT Hyperloop™ uses the passive Maglev Inductrack™ technology and employs the unique Halbach Array, a special arrangement of permanent magnets. This propulsion/suspension system produces power, making each capsule a mini power station of sorts. The system is designed to take advantage of solar panel installation, making the complete construct an energy-net-positive transportation system.

The total Hyperloop™ concept is a safe, effective manner of transport. The core technologies needed for the system are in existence and robustly tested. HyperloopTT controls patents and licenses for many parts of the system.

We have caught up in many ways with science fiction. There is no need to create more challenges by imagining special pods within an Hyperloop™ system. Though it is true that our cargo moves more quickly at times than we do, there is no need to continue subjecting humans to such dehumanized thinking.

It is difficult to remain skeptical when confronted with reality and practicality.

Hyperloop™ is real. HyperloopTT is building it.

Bibop Gresta is chairman and co-founder of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies. To listen to him speak, track Carnegie India’s Global Technology Summit in Bengaluru on 6 and 7 December (