If work on the Hyperloop had progressed as quickly as the high-speed passenger pods the technology teases, we might already be speeding through vacuum tubes on intercity adventures.
But unfortunately, work on the futuristic transportation system revived by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk nine years ago has been slower than initially hoped.
This week, the plan to put maglev technology in a vacuum tube to carry passenger capsules at speeds of up to 760 mph (about half of his entire team.
The unexpected move is part of a restructuring effort in which the company will focus on building a Hyperloop system to carry cargo instead of passengers.
This was announced by Virgin Hyperloop financial times The new strategy will enable the company to react “more agile and nimble and more cost-efficient”. Global supply chain issues exacerbated by the pandemic have convinced the team that freight transport should be a priority.
According to DP World – the Dubai-based logistics company that holds a majority stake in Virgin Hyperloop – the switch to freight transport will also result in a simpler regulatory process and therefore earlier commercial rollout of the system, although it is reportedly not entirely due to that Creation of a passenger transport service.
“It’s perfectly clear that potential customers are interested in cargo while passengers are a little further afield,” DP World told the Times, adding, “It’s easier to focus on pallets – there’s less risk for passengers and less regulatory processes. ”
After Musk proposed the Hyperloop plan in 2013, he encouraged private companies to step in and develop the technology. California-based Hyperloop One took up the challenge, and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson (yes, he’s Virgin Galactic famous) invested in the company in 2017, renaming it Virgin Hyperloop.
Virgin Hyperloop has made strides with technology, completing the first test run of a pod with two passengers on board last year. But even though the vehicle trotted along at just 172 km/h, the company insisted the test run showed “that passengers can actually travel safely in a Hyperloop vehicle.”
News of Virgin Hyperloop’s focus on cargo will come as a disappointment to Hyperloop fans who dreamed of being pinged through a tube at high speeds. But the project’s massive cost, significant engineering challenges, and frigid progress have many questioning whether the Hyperloop will ever actually happen.
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