Virgin Hyperloop One Debuts App for Planning High-Speed Train Journeys
While Elon Musk is currently the most eccentric billionaire to be making futuristic sci-fi technology, Virgin Group's Richard Branson is certainly trying to give him a run for his money. Beyond his spaceflight ambitions with Virgin Galactic, Branson recently acquired the extreme high-speed train project Hyperloop One, rebranding it with his own trademark.
In anticipation of the eventual inaugural launch of the Virgin Hyperloop One, the company made some announcements related to the project at CES, including a brand new app that will allow you to book a journey on the super-fast transit method of the future.
In addition to being able to book a seat on the Hyperloop One itself, app users can also arrange to have either a Uber or Lyft driver take them to the Hyperloop station, or pick them up on the other side. Essentially, the idea is to allow passengers to arrange for a full Hyperloop travel experience all from the comfort of their own phones. Virgin Hyperloop One's SVP of software engineering, Matt Jones, said in a recent statement:
There are an awful lot of customers for Virgin's train lines that would laugh at the idea of the company providing a service with "no waiting", but that's beside the point.
In the past, Virgin has made big promises about special driverless pods ferrying passengers to and from the Hyperloop station, but the app's reliance on existing human-driven transport methods suggests that these aren't quite ready yet. Apparently there is some waiting to be had, as we all patiently await the day that Virgin delivers on its promise of autonomous taxis that aid the Hyperloop experience.
There is, of course, an even more important wait that passengers must now endure: the wait before the Hyperloop technology is actually ready to start running as part of a commercial service. Much like previous announcements from Virgin about pop stars playing gigs in outer space, the release of this app feels a lot like a publicity stunt to try and draw attention away from the fact that this futuristic business venture isn't actually ready yet.
For all that Virgin is investing in the Hyperloop, we're still several years away from these becoming commonplace. The company has successfully completed a third test on a miniature version of the system, which has been constructed in the Nevada desert, but at present, a complete working, active Hyperloop is a distant dream.
There's also never been an attempted test which transported human beings, so at this point, we're at around the Sputnik stage of this technology's development - we're comfortable sending automated tests that involve custom machinery, but were' still gearing ourselves up to testing dogs and monkeys in this thing.
When it's eventually finished, the Virgin Hyperloop One will send passengers hurtling on a ninety seven mile journey between Dubai and Abu Dhabi in just twelve minutes; a significant improvement on the two hours that the journey currently takes by road.
Once the technology has been proven, we'll likely see these transit systems cropping up all over the world, but we're still a long way away from this at present. For now, all we can do is download the app, and wait patiently for the "no waiting" transport experience of the future.