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Updated by sam-hartle on Apr 25, 2018
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Hyperloop Questions & Answers

Dr. Anita Sengupta is a project director at Hyperloop One. During a recent interview near Las Vegas, she sat down with 41 Action News anchor Lindsay Shively to help answer questions about the new technology.


Q: What is Hyperloop?

A: Hyperloop is a new mode of transportation that uses a magnetically levitating, electromagnetically propelled propulsion system, pod, inside of a vacuum tube. You can think of it as sort of a mag-lev system inside of a vacuum tube. The reason why you do it inside of a vacuum tube is that it eliminates air, it eliminates air resistance or aerodynamic drag, which allows you to go really fast speeds but very low energy cost.

Our goal is to get up to roughly a 1,000 kilometers-per-hour, or roughly 700 miles-an-hour, so faster than a commercial airplane.

It allows you to have shorter trip times, at a lower energy cost, point-to-point, direct-to-destination and on-demand.


Q: What will Pods be like?

A: The pod is designed to handle about nine to 12 people, so it's very different than a traditional rail car system where you have 50 to 100 people per rail car. What that means is it actually makes it more comfortable, it makes it more tailor made.

The pod interior could be a pod for a meeting space for example, so that you've reserved a pod and it actually has conference room tables and you just hold your meeting. It could be a luxury pod and only have lets say four people in it.

In terms of the spacing, it's kind of like the spacing that you would have in the seats in like a first class for an aircraft.


Q: What would Hyperloop feel like? Is it smoother than an airplane?

A: Because we're operating the pod inside of a vacuum, you don't have the traditional sort of experiences you have on an aircraft. There's no such thing as turbulence, because you actually have no air around you on the outside of the pod, so the ride is actually going to be a lot smoother - You're not even going to be able to tell that you're going that fast.

When you're taking off on a runway, you have bumps and things like that, and you've got bumps when you're coming in to land. None of that happens here because you're magnetically levitating, so it is a really smooth ride.


Q: How much will it cost to ride Hyperloop?

A: There are elements of this technology that actually make it lower cost, which then translates to reduced ticket prices for customers.

The ticket price could be about the cost of a train ticket.

There's several reasons for that: One is because our energy consumption is much much lower. The cost of using solar power energy off the grid to run the hyperloop, in a lower quantities, is a lot less in terms of operational costs of running vehicles.

We're an autonomous system, so we don't have human operators and have costs associated with it.

We also do not have the typical wear and tear that you would have with railway systems. Because we're magnetically levitating, we don't have wear on the wheels.


Q: Is Hyperloop safe?

A: Anyone developing a train system or some kind of mass transportation system has to take security concerns into consideration. You can choose to space the Hyperloop system away from other traffic or you can elevate the system so vehicles can go underneath. It's route specific in how you would deal with it, but there's nothing specific in terms of how you would integrate it into an existing route alignment from any other mass transportation system like a train.

We also have a technology we demonstrated at our Vegas test track called a gate valve. It allows us to section off a portion of the track, about 50 feet in length, to bring one section up to atmospheric pressure if we choose to. The thing to realize is that as the pressure comes up the inside of the tube, it generates aerodynamic drag, slowing the vehicle down.

We also have an emergency electrical brake if the atmospheric pressure did come up.


Q: How is Hyperloop different from current travel?

A: Right now, when people use mass transportation, whether it's trains, buses, subways or airplanes, there's a lot of inefficiency in terms of having to drive to the airport, having to go through security check-in, so this is a system which basically eliminates all that by using new technologies.

Because airports are typically outside of city centers, there's the long transit time as you get in your car, take a bus, or take an Uber to get all the way to the airport which is usually somewhere between 15 and 30 kilometers from your home. All of that is going to be eliminated because hyperloops are going to be envisioned to be in city centers. You get rid of that entire transit time.


Q: How soon could Hyperloop be in operation?

A: We would like to have them operational within the next two to three years.

We have projects going on across the world. We have projects in the United States, including Missouri, Colorado, Texas and Ohio. We have projects in the Middle East and India as well. A route we're looking at right now is between Mumbai and Punai. We're looking for places where you have big ridership and traffic congestion. Hyperloop can come in and solve that.