Faster than a plane into the future of transportation

Rendering of the Hyperloop now on the drawing board in Dubai. Credit: Hyperloop One

Getting from Dubai to Abu Dhabi through different transportation means. Hyperloop wins hands down. Credit: Hyperloop One

In a joint announcement on November 9, 2016, Hyperloop One and Dubai Municipality signed an agreement to prepare a study and prototype for the construction of an hyperlink between Dubai and Abu Dhabi that could connect the two cities in just 12 minutes. Compare this to the 2 hours it takes today by bus, 1.5 hours by car and over a hour by plane (although the flying time is short, you need to taxi, get to the terminal and follow the departure and landing paths....).

Hyperloop is a new kind of transportation, basically a scaling up of pneumatic package distribution. Of course, this is an oversimplification: zipping packages over short distances is not like shipping people over hundreds of kilometres!

It is a near supersonic transportation system, it can reach 1,200kmh, faster than a commercial aircraft, a missile traveling in a pressurised pipe.

It was originally "invented" to serve as a link between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and although the idea is still alive the problems facing the construction of such "pipe" infrastructure across central California are staggering. These problems are much less an issue in the deserted stretch of land between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and this makes the proposition more appealing.

Interestingly, the proposal put forward by Hyperloop One is a transportation system comprising self driving cars that will be available in Dubai and Abu Dhabi that will be used by people to be taken to one of several stations of the Hyperloop in each city. The self driving cars will board the Hyperloop and will be shuttled to the other city.

Dubai has the objective of having at least 25% of the vehicles in Dubai self driven by 2030. So this plan from Hyperloop One goes in this direction.

Of course, once a real system is in place and running, the experience gained can be used as the launching pad for other constructions in other parts of the world. May be, the LAX SFO line will be one of the last to be built!

For sure this is a very challenging project, that is likely to cost a huge amount of money, something that is not an impassable barrier in that world region. And this may become a starting point for other development opening the way to a new form of transportation, similarly to what MagLev was some twenty years ago. To tell the truth, MagLev didn't take up (I enjoyed the short trip between Shanghai airport and Shanghai) for cost reasons mostly (both construction and operation). It may end up to be the same for Hyperloop, or it may turn out differently. We'll see. 

For the time being I hope I will be able to board a Hyperloop in the next decade.

Author - Roberto Saracco

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