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Virgin's super-fast Hyperloop transport system just welcomed its first riders

By Jeff Spry

Who needs a bus, subway, or a taxi when you can experience green public transportation via a futuristic levitating pod inside a metal vacuum tunnel while be whisked to your metropolitan destination at speeds up to 600 miles-per-hour.

Headed up by visionary billionaire Richard Branson's Virgin Group, Virgin Hyperloop promises a clean, sustainable mass transit ecosystem that will carry the world into a new generation of ultra-fast, hi-tech mobility, with initial operating routes spanning 10 to 20 miles apart and expanding outward once the network is up and running.

Virgin Hyperloop employs electromagnetic levitation propulsion to shoot passenger capsules through a steel near-vacuum tube, replicating the sensation of travel at an altitude of approximately 200,000 feet, which is far higher than standard commercial jetliners.

This week in the barren Nevada desert just north of Las Vegas, two passengers were aboard a prototype Hyperloop test vehicle for the first time and were impressed with their silky, swift ride. Buckle up and start the countdown!

Sara Luchian, Virgin Hyperloop’s director of passenger experience, joined project co-founder Josh Giegel, to settle into their seats and relax inside the newly-unveiled XP-2 passenger compartment through a 500-meter test track, accelerating up to 107 mph in a blistering 6.25 seconds, a resulting time comparable to many European supercars. 

"For me, it was just such a thrill – an exhilarating feeling," Luchian said. "From a physical perspective, it was actually a lot smoother even than I was expecting."

Backed by Branson, Virgin's Hyperloop has been testing at its Nevada development site for the past few years, attaining speeds up to 240 miles-per-hour. The company hopes to have three operational production systems using 28-person pods in place by the end of 2021. 

Many logistical and financial obstacles remain, but this little jaunt is another fantastic leap forward for the future of mass transportation.

“With today’s successful test, we have shown that this spirit of innovation will in fact change the way people everywhere live, work, and travel in the years to come,” Virgin founder Richard Branson said in a statement.

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