Virgin Hyperloop One, the Richard Branson-led company, has showcased its new futuristic travel pod in the form of a full-scale model. The new travel pod was first shown to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and then for the rest of the world via a video.
Saudi Arabia is one of the many countries exploring the feasibility of installing a Hyperloop system for suburban transport system. It has sought help from Virgin Hyperloop One as well as its competitor Hyperloop Transportation Technologies. The company claims a route from Riyadh to Jeddah could reduce the travel time from 10 hours to 76 minutes. There are also plans to extend the service beyond national borders to Abu Dhabi, with the trip turning from 8.5 hours to just 48 minutes.
The video shared by Virgin Hyperloop One shows a full-size pod prototype on an enclosed test track at the company’s test facility in Nevada. There is no clarity on speeds achieved by these pods but Virgin Hyperloop One has said that its test pods are capable of achieving speeds of 240 miles per hour. It is roughly a third of the speed it plans to achieve when the transport system becomes commercially available.
The Hyperloop travel concept was first brought into the public domain by Elon Musk, the eclectic CEO of SpaceX and Tesla. He open-sourced a white paper detailing the supersonic travel system with pods moving along a tube-shaped structure in 2013. Musk continues to work on the technology through his tunnel digging startup named The Boring Company and Tesla. Musk initially wanted to move vehicles but has since pivoted to the idea of moving pedestrians through the tunnels he has been digging.
The announcement from Virgin Hyperloop One comes at a crucial juncture after one of its board members got arrested on fraud and embezzlement charges in Russia last week. According to Bloomberg, the charges faced by Russian billionaire and board member Ziyavudin Magomedov are unrelated to Virgin Hyperloop One and he is currently appealing the arrest. The company has also seen a departure of three other high-profile directors from the board.
The list of board members on Virgin Hyperloop One’s website still lists Magomedov but gone are the names of Jim Messina, the former adviser to President Barack Obama, X Prize founder Peter Diamandis and Jim Rosenthal, former executive of Morgan Stanley. The new board members include Bill Shor, Yuvraj Narayan of shipping company DP World and Anatoly Braverman of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund. Virgin Hyperloop One told BGR India that Jim Messina continues to remain as adviser on the board while Peter Diamandis continues as an observer.
“Both remain shareholders and are still supporters of Virgin Hyperloop One. Jim Rosenthal left the board during the fourh quarter of 2017 based on increased time commitments to his new cybersecurity startup,” the company said in a statement.
Watch: Virgin Hyperloop One test video
Hyperloop is seen as one of the most effective and efficient ways of transporting people as cities get cluttered and congested with every passing. Since its announcement, a number of companies are involved in commercializing the technology but so far, Virgin Hyperloop One and its competitor Hyperloop Transportation Technologies have shown working prototypes. Both the companies are also exploring setting up similar transport network in India as well.