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Nov 08 2016

Last Mile Meets The Other 500 Miles: Hyperloop One's Autonomous Vision

Bruce Upbin

Stories That Matter

Dubai is a city that leans forward, with a government determined to establish itself and the wider United Arab Emirates as a global hub of the first rank. Superlative airports, giant container terminals, new metro system. It's a fitting place to build the first Hyperloop One network. And a room five hundred meters up in the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building, was the fitting place to sign an agreement on November 8 with Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority to explore high-speed Hyperloop One routes in the United Arab Emirates. Headlines will talk up the wonders of getting from Dubai to Abu Dhabi in 12 minutes, but the real story here is the birth of an autonomous network that connects with all transport infrastructure in the UAE and Gulf region beyond.

Today we also finally get to answer a frequently asked question: What will it be like to ride the Hyperloop? The short answer is awesome, like sitting in a comfortable lounge or roomy compartment. Our engineering, product and business teams worked with the thinkers at design firm BIG over the last six months on the overall system design. During the process they faced the basic question of how to load lots of passengers quickly into a Hyperoop tube. One answer, using individual pods to pre-load people and cargo into waiting transporters, led to the design of a variety of pod configurations. The images we've released so far show what a passenger-centric travel experience could be like if you break it down to first principles. Once vehicles become electric and fully autonomous, a safe bet in the next decade, the design and business model of vehicles will be thrown wide open.

This feasibility study with the RTA is our second agreement in the UAE, following our deal to explore a cargo system with DP World in August, and it's our sixth route study overall. We’re going to spend the next 12 weeks working with the RTA to figure out where and how to build what would likely be a hybrid passenger-freight system in the Emirates. “Dubai makes perfect sense for Hyperloop One because this is the 21st century's global transport hub,” says Shervin Pishevar, Executive Chairman, Hyperloop One.Explore Exclusive Images Of The Hyperloop One System

The set of products we’re showing include Portals (the equivalent of stations or airports) and autonomous Pods that dock into a Hyperloop One transporter for longer distance travel but otherwise zip around town on their own. Our infrastructure doesn't have to work with our pods alone. It's a platform that will work with any vehicle and self-driving fleets, creating range-extended urban mobility networks. Atop that we'll build a managed services business. It’s a huge new product direction for us and we’re going to be filling in the details as we head toward the public Kitty Hawk demonstration next year.

Hyperloop One will be the range extender for the connected urban vehicle cloud.  

The video below shows the concept in action. The idea is that you would hail your pod from the mobile app or drive up to the portal and dock inside a waiting transporter and go directly to the destination portal where you drive off or your pod heads off to your final stop. The door open only two times. Every journey is direct and on your schedule. “We’re going to create a seamless experience that starts the moment you think about being somewhere – not going somewhere,” says Josh Giegel, President of Engineering, Hyperloop One. “We don’t sell cars, boats, trains, or planes. We sell time.”

Hyperpods can seat anywhere from six to 100 people as comfortably as a living room. Companies can have their own custom meeting pods. So can families--think of it as a long-distance minivan. There could even be a critical-care pod to whisk patients to the hospital. And, yes, with a translucent or transparent-walled pod, we can even do windows. One of the ideas the designers at BIG came up with was to install narrow slits on the tube at regular intervals to create a zoetrope effect that tricks the eye into seeing as a moving image of the outside world.

The Hyperpod concept unlocks a bigger vision for what Hyperloop One can be as a company. No other transportation infrastructure can combine the freedom of individual travel with the efficiency of collective travel. Giegel said it best earlier today when he declared that “today we become more than just a pod-in-a-tube company” and plant stakes in the bigger arena of autonomous mobility.