NEW YORK – Think about the future of transportation, and you might imagine the old animated show “The Jetsons”, with everyone flying in personal spaceships.
Not only has that never happened, but we still pile into creaky old subways and buses.
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Josh Giegel wants to start from scratch. Virgin Hyperloop CEO and co-founder expects us to move from city to city in minutes, a future not as distant as you might think.
Giegel spoke to Reuters to discuss how this nascent technology could change the way we live and work.
Q: Humanity faces all kinds of transportation challenges, so why do you think hyperloop is the right solution?
A: We envision moving massive amounts of people, at airplane speed, giving them the ability to live where they want to live and work where they want to work. A hyperloop would move as many people and goods as a 30-lane highway.
Q: How does the hyperboop work?
A: We take you in a tube, which gives you many benefits. It is weatherproof and you avoid a lot of things that cause accidents like railway crossings.
Inside the tube, we evacuate almost all the air, which allows you to go at high speed with very little power consumption. We use magnetic levitation technology, so there is no grinding and everything is non-contact and smooth. With electromagnetic propulsion, and 20-30 passengers per pod, we could move tens of thousands of passengers per hour.
Q: You actually rode one at your Nevada test facility, so how was it?
A: From starting that in a garage seven years ago, until drawing it on a whiteboard, until sitting inside, it was all very surreal.
The acceleration was similar to a sports car, and we were dizzy. The biggest chunk of this test was that the world saw two people get on a hyperloop, and saw two get off.
Until then, everyone was wondering, “Could this be safe for people?” Now we know that is the case.
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Q: How will this speed up travel between cities?
A: It transforms math. See how long it takes you to drive through Manhattan right now. Maybe 40 minutes. You could be going from New York to Washington, DC, in less time. You can get from LA to Las Vegas in 40 minutes.
What we are doing is similar to what Roman roads, Spanish ships, and airplanes did – reducing the time associated with distance.
Q: What is the schedule to put it into service?
A: It’s not 10 or 20 years from now. Cities can start incorporating this into their planning now.
I couldn’t put my finger on who will be first, but in addition to America, we’re also looking at places like India, Europe, and the Middle East. We are probably looking at a period of 2025-2027.
Q: Since you are a Virgin company, what has been your interaction with Sir Richard Branson?
A: He’s an accomplished dreamer who believes in what we’re trying to do. What I love about Richard is that he not only started his own business from scratch, but he’s an adventurer.
We’re not just building a new kind of transportation system, but we’re trying to attract passengers to something new – and that’s what it has done, from Virgin Atlantic to Virgin Cruises to Virgin Galactic. He knows how to build customer acceptance and retention.
Q: If this technology spreads, will it change the way people live and work?
A: One hundred percent. I have a two year old son, and the way he will be able to live is unlike anything we can imagine.
If you look at the cities of the future, people might want to live in one neighborhood and work in others. We can already see it with the pandemic. My dream is to live near Yosemite and then work with my team in LA. A hyperloop would give you the ability to do both.
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Q: What do you want people to know about this technology?
A: Big ideas don’t have to take a long time. You can go from a garage to a moonshot idea in a few years.
This decade could end with hundreds of millions of people in hyperloop. For people who think this technology is many years away, I used one. It’s now.