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Tech Times | 0 to 400mph in mere seconds: Welcome to the age of hyperloop

Published:Monday | May 16, 2016 | 12:00 AM


The co-founders of a start-up aiming to upend earthbound transportation say they've had their Kitty Hawk moment.

Hyperloop One successfully demonstrated last Wednesday one key part of how it plans to send people and cargo racing through cushioned tubes at nearly the speed of sound. This transportation alternative, its backers claim, could reduce the journey between Los Angeles and San Francisco to just 30 minutes.

"We are standing on hallowed ground for us," said Shervin Pishevar, cofounder of Los Angeles-based Hyperloop One, which is among a few companies focused on the hyperloop technology.

What the gaggle of investors and journalists saw from metal risers planted in the desert north of Las Vegas was a lot more rudimentary than artists' rendering of the future, however.

Instead, it was more a proof of concept, much like those first airborne moments shared by the Wright Brothers in their airplane.

A bare-metal sled - not a tube - rocketed down a track, with the sled elevated slightly by magnetic levitation technology. It accelerated at 2 g-force before hitting a patch of sand 100 yards down the line.

The total test was just two seconds. But it was enough, Hyperloop One's founders said, to show that technology similar to that used in high-speed maglev trains could be deployed more cheaply, without the steep cost of high-tech trains and rails.

"This is about validating the hardware and software," said Hyperloop One co-founder and chief technology officer Brogan BamBrogan. "We're aiming to hit 400 mph in two seconds.

"And by the end of the year, hopefully, we'll have a full test, with the sled in a tube accelerating with our custom propulsion."

That test will also take place here. The team is aiming to build a three-mile track that will feature tubes elevated above ground by pylons. "This is where hyperloop is getting invented," said BamBrogan.

BamBrogan noted that humans in a hyperloop pod wouldn't feel the acceleration as it would happen more gradually, eventually hitting close to 750mph.