Virgin Hyperloop One: HERE app gives first glimpse at the next-gen transport

We’ve been given the first glimpse at what it will be like to ride on Virgin Hyperloop One at CES 2018.

Granted it’s part of a wider app, and the Hyperloop technology is still pretty nascent, but if Richard Branson does succeed bringing Hyperloop One to market, this could be what passengers will see.

Powered by HERE Technologies, the app has been designed to be used for real-time and on-demand travel on which you can plan, book, and pay for a Hyperloop One journey, as well as other modes of transport, including public, private, and ride-shares.

In particular, the application will show routes, including turn-by-turn indoor walking directions to help you get around large stations, venues, shopping centres, and airports. You’ll also be able to customise your travel preferences by the fastest, cheapest, and greenest when it launches later this year. 

The application is the latest to be released using HERE’s Mobile Software Development Kit for Business. The kit uses detailed location, mapping, and navigation tools for 136 countries, public transit information for more than 1,300 cities, and 3D indoor and venue maps.

In December, mere months after investing in Hyperloop One – and subsequently rebranding it as Virgin Hyperloop One – Richard Branson announced the first raft of changes at the company, and announced a new speed record. 

In an official blog post, Branson’s Virgin Hyperloop One revealed that the entrepreneur has been named non-executive chairman of the firm, his company has raised an additional $50 million (£37 million) ahead of a Series C round of funding, and during the third phase of multi-week testing at its DevLoop test site, the high-speed pods reached 387km/h (240mph). 

The investment brought the total raised by Virgin Hyperloop One to $295 million since 2014, and the speeds surpassed Elon Musk’s recent summer test run of 355km/h (220mph). 

READ NEXT: How does hyperloop work?

 “The recent investment sets up the company to pursue opportunities in key markets in the Middle East, Europe, and Russia as it develops game-changing and innovative passenger and cargo ground transport systems,” said Branson.

Virgin Hyperloop One claims its DevLoop is the world’s first full-scale hyperloop test site. The total ‘DevLoop’ tube stretches 500 metres has a 3.3-metre diameter tube and the maximum length of propulsion segment is 300 metres. This vacuum-sealed track is installed in the Nevada desert and is fitted with magnetic rails and works on the notion of its pod coasting above the tracks, shot through the depressurised tube.  

In addition to the faster speeds, the blog post continues that Virgin Hyperloop One also tested a new airlock which helps move test pods between atmospheric and vacuum conditions. 

Virgin Hyperloop One

Richard Branson announced he was investing in Hyperloop One back in October via a blog post in which he described the transport initiative as “the world’s most revolutionary train service.” Branson said Hyperloop is “an incredibly innovative and exciting new way to move people and things at airline speeds on the ground” and “ever since our creation, Virgin has been known for disruption and investing in innovative companies.” 

The company’s vision is for the magnetic-based system to be used as a major mode of transport between cities, eventually reaching speeds of around 760mph, and potentially connecting London to Edinburgh within 55 minutes. 
Virgin Hyperloop One additionally has plans for a tunnel on the West Coast of the US, although it most fruitful prospects are currently in the Netherlands, Finland and Dubai – where those governments have shown explicit backing over the project.

Branson is working with Hyperloop One’s co-founders, executive chairman Shervin Pishevar and president of engineering Josh Giegel. The latter previously worked at Virgin Galactic, so already has something of a working relationship with Branson.

It’s not all been a bed of roses, however. The company has recently faced a number of hurdles in the shape of former founder Brogan BamBrogan. In July 2016, BamBrogan and three other former executives filed a lawsuit against Hyperloop One alleging, among other things, that “those in control of the company continually used the work of the team to augment their personal brands, enhance their romantic lives and line their pockets (and those of family members)”.

Hyperloop One filed a countersuit, claiming BamBrogan and co were attempting a coup. Eventually, both parties settled, and the former founder went on to create a competing hyperloop company called Arrivo.

The other player in this depressurised puzzle is, as always, Musk. While he isn’t directly involved in Hyperloop One, his latest venture – The Boring Company – similarly aims to build a transport network around a vast sprawl of subterranean tunnels. The SpaceX founder recently tweeted about receiving “verbal govt approval” to build a tunnel from New York to Washington DC, although the validity of this has been thrown into question.

What is hyperloop?

The Hyperloop concept is based on a 2013 white paper by SpaceX founder Elon Musk, where a concept pod was seen shooting down magnetic rails in a depressurised tube. In August, a group of students successfully managed to fire a pod at 192mph. That particular trip was, at that time, the fastest journey for the nascent technology. Hyperloop One reached similar speeds in its own tests.

While impressive, the 192mph trip falls short of the 250mph goal the company had set itself. In fact, it meant the Hyperloop One train was slowly than the planned HS2 in the UK, let alone a city-straddling system that runs at 760mph.

The XP-1 is the company’s passenger pod, measuring 8.7 metres long, 2.4 metres wide and 2.7 metres tall. A video released by Hyperloop One showed it levitating above the magnetic tracks during the recent test.

However, that particular record was short lived after Musk himself announced Space X/Tesla had pushed a pod at speeds of 220mph. In an Instagram post, the billionaire claimed he “took the SpaceX/Tesla Hyperloop pusher pod for a spin by itself a few days ago to see what it could do when not pushing student pods (some need a push to get going, e.g. passive maglev). Got up to 355 km/h (220 mph)”

For more information on how the Hyperloop works, we’ve got a primer over here. While Elon Musk isn’t involved in Hyperloop One, he is working on a similar form of technology with The Boring Company, including proposals for a London Underground-style network of 600mph tunnels.

Image: Virgin/Greg Rose

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