Elon Musk and Richard Branson aren’t just competing for the stars, they’re also racing to address one of the biggest human-made problems down here on Earth. But while Musk’s Boring Company is digging underground, Virgin Hyperloop is envisioning something that looks almost like a traditional railway, except in a system of vacuum tubes. In fact, the company’s new video detailing its envisioned passenger experience now has closer ties to reality though it still remains ambitious in terms of speed, scope, and, of course, price.
The idea for the Hyperloop is itself already ambitious, ferrying capsule-like pods traveling at supersonic speeds. The ultimate goal is to help reduce traffic congestion caused by the number of vehicles on highways. Given the features and amenities that will be offered by the Virgin Hyperloop, however, some might have doubts whether it will be accessible to most commuters at all.
The initial concept revealed by Virgin Hyperloop in 2016 definitely seemed more like science fiction than something that could be achieved in less than a decade. That involved an autonomous pod for a small batch of people that would drive itself to a dock that would be joined with three others into a capsule before shooting through the Hyperloop itself. Given the current state of autonomous driving technology, that is clearly still not ready.
The latest Passenger Experience video, in contrast, seems to be more grounded in today’s technologies and design while still sticking to the core supersonic speed feature that the service will offer. Passengers walk to buildings resembling train stations and board on capsules that are more like train cabins, both inside and out. Unlike trains, though, each capsule still travels independently, though they join at certain points into a single line while keeping safe distances between each capsule.
This experience might be more achievable than the 2016 vision, though it still leaves a lot of elements undefined, like the technology that will be used to ensure the safety and accuracy of such high-speed transit systems. In its press release, Virgin Hyperloop CEO Jay Walder emphasize the company’s goal to make this system accessible to people, comparing it more closely to driving than to flying. Of course, that still remains to be seen and the company’s tune could change by the time the Virgin Hyperloop goes online in 2030.