Passenger pods that could propel future hyperloop travel are a scene stealer at Motor Show

Dubai: Make the Dubai-Abu Dhabi trip in 12 minutes? Or travel to Riyadh from here in 48 minutes?

 

For the people at Virgin Hyperloop One, it is a message that needs repeating as cities and countries search for the next-generation mass transport solutions. It seems to be working. These days, the jaw drops and raised eyebrows that accompanied any mention of hyperloop-enabled travel is being replaced – gradually – by a willingness to listen and get a better understanding.

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“It’s true, from being dismissed as sci-fi, hyperloop has graduated to something transport authorities consider as a future model for mass transport,” said Harj Dhaliwal, Managing Director for the Middle East and India at VHO. “They see it as something real and that it’s gonna happen.”

The US company – in which Dubai’s DP World is a major investor – was something of a surprise presence at the ongoing Dubai International Motor Show. There, it showed off the “passenger pods” that will, if all goes according to plan, take people through vast distances in minutes rather than hours. (Though still a prototype, the pods do look the part of a future transportation model. And much better fitted out than anything in the Tardis, the Dr. Who time machine.)

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Also, Dubai’s RTA (Roads and Transport Authority) “sits on our International Standards Working Group and they have been assessing our technology from where it was two years ago,” said Dhaliwal. “On our part, we need to understand how to fit into the overall vision of governments and city planners before signing deals. We are not rushing into this.

“We are working with governments, including in the US, to continue to develop hyperloop into reality. These mass transportation projects take planning and can’t be done overnight. Whether it’s a airport or a highway, a considerable amount of time is spent upfront on planning. What we offer is no different, and governments will need time to understand it, bring in regulations, etc.

“But hyperloop has a place in countries that don’t have the burden of legacy technology or legacy infrastructure for mass transportation needs. The Middle East is a classic example. Should these governments be spending more on legacy technology that’s been there for 50 years or more? Or should they invest in new transport systems that take them into the future?”