In February, The Boring Company received a permit for preparatory and excavation work from the D.C. government. Currently, the D.C. site is just an empty parking lot, but Elon Musk’s company envisions a hyperloop station providing regional connectivity.
In the past, hyperloop felt theoretical — the subject of whitepapers by thought leaders and flashy animations by private companies. Now, industry developments are turning evacuated tube transportation into a palpable reality.
In Dubai’s City Walk mall, Virgin Hyperloop One recently unveiled a full-scale prototype model of its hyperloop passenger pod. The sleek and elegant design looks like it’s straight out of Star Trek, but with construction sites permitted in the U.S. and commuter pods on display in the United Arab Emirates, consumers have a realistic chance of experiencing this tech within the next decade.
The full-scale, immersive prototype could be particularly helpful in dispelling concerns about the passenger experience during evacuated tube transport. According to a statement released on Virgin Hyperloop One’s website from HE Mattar Al Tayer, Director General and Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of Roads and Transport Authority, “The hyperloop boasts of deluxe interiors, cutting-edge broadcasting & display of information and entertainment materials as well as leather seats.”
Other transportation industries have gradually fine-tuned passenger experience over time. Passages via flight, railway, and waterways now range from bearable to luxurious, depending on the price point. Virgin Hyperloop One’s prototype assures consumers that they will be sufficiently distracted from a potentially unsettling awareness of the tube’s interior and the pod’s breakneck speeds.
As tube transportation technology is progressing, other modes of transport are also making headlines, with Chinese scientists notably working on a hypersonic plane that would compress travel time between Beijing and New York City to a mere two hours. (The militarized applications of this technology could pose a threat to national security.) Concurrently, Uber is working on a UAV taxi service. Elon Musk poured cold water on that idea, tweeting, “If you love drones above your house, you’ll really love vast numbers of ‘cars’ flying over your head that are 1000 times bigger and noisier and blow away anything that isn’t nailed down when they land.”