Is the Hyperloop ready to transform transportation and logistics?

A space that interests companies such as DHL, DP World, and Virgin cannot be boring — are you updated on what's going on with the Hyperloop?
10 October 2018

A team from Delft University working on a near-finished hyperloop project. Source: Twitter

There’s a lot of excitement in the world of transportation and logistics, especially when it comes to guessing what the next big thing will be.

Many are excited by the prospects of autonomous driving technology and believe that new-age passenger vehicles and goods carriers powered by a complex system of sensors and algorithms will transform the world.

Although the technology is a topic of interest for several technology publications of academic and business interest, there isn’t much proof to suggest that the technology will be ready for a commercial launch anytime soon.

Hyperloop, a dream of tech-visionary Elon Musk, on the other hand, is something that several institutions and businesses have been working on (quite silently) for the past few years — and it seems as though it is almost ready to make the big leap into the real world, to transform transportation and logistics forever.

Stripped to its bare bones, the system essentially consists of capsules or pods that hold the people or goods, subterranean and surface tubes that carry the capsules or pods, and linear accelerators and rotors for propulsion. What’s most thrilling is that the Hyperloop offers to transport people and goods at more than 700 miles per hour.

The charm of the Hyperloop

“Hyperloop can replace short-distance flights, which makes it a really exciting concept in the field of human transportation,” Delft University Hyperloop Project Team Captain Rieneke van Noort told TechHQ.

“The same goes for items that need to be transported quickly, human organs for example,” he added.

DHL, who has been supporting the project in several ways since last year, is quite interested in the promise of the Hyperloop.

“Today we are the fastest in worldwide door-to-door transport and we want to maintain that position. That is why we enthusiastically support this initiative that wants to push the boundaries of speed and efficiency of logistics,” said Managing Director of DHL Express Netherlands Ronald Leunisse.

According to the university team captain, the Hyperloop is also interesting as it operates in a vacuum or a frictionless environment and creates no air pollution. That’s one of the reasons why the Hyperloop is expected to make a much bigger impact on transportation and logistics when compared to autonomous driving technology.

Wait, is the Hyperloop ready yet?

If Richard Branson’s words are anything to go by, the Hyperloop is on the verge of being launched commercially — albeit far away in India.

His company, Virgin Hyperloop One, is experimenting with the technology and said work will begin on Hyperloop One’s first flagship hyperloop system next year, and will cut travel times from five hours to “just over half an hour.”

Branson, who told CNBC that the company is “very close” to deploying the technology in India and is in talks with Dubai and Saudi Arabia about rolling out the technology in the Middle East as well, expects that tickets for the new system will cost no more than that of a high-speed rail fare.

Virgin has also partnered with logistics company DP World to launch Dubai’s first Hyperloop cargo system dubbed DP World Cargospeed and is expected to enable ultra-fast, on-demand deliveries of high-priority goods to revolutionize logistics, support economic zones, and create thriving economic megaregions.

And while Virgin’s projects explore uncharted territories in Asia and the Middle East, Los Angeles-based Hyperloop Transportation Technologies has chosen France to test and deploy its Hyperloop system in the coming year.

Truth be told, there’s a lot of potential in the Hyperloop and several companies are exploring the solution. In the coming months, it seems like it will overtake autonomous vehicles once and for all — at least in the commercial space.