First passengers travel safely on a Hyperloop at the DevLoop testing facility in the US

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Virgin Hyperloop made history on November 9 as the first people successfully traveled in a hyperloop pod at the DevLoop test facility in the United States. Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, chairman of Virgin Hyperloop and group chairman and CEO of DP World, watched this passenger testing first-hand in Las Vegas, Nevada.

“I had the true pleasure of seeing history made before my very eyes – to witness the first new mode of mass transportation in over 100 years come to life,” said Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, chairman of Virgin Hyperloop and group chairman and CEO of DP World. He added, “I have always had tremendous faith in the team at Virgin Hyperloop to transform this technology into a safe system, and today we have done that. We are one step closer to ushering in a new era of ultra-fast, sustainable movement of people and goods.”

He continued, “DP World and Dubai are at the forefront of technological innovation in the transport and logistics industry. The world has been changing quickly and we wanted to be involved in the potential this mode of mass transportation presents, to connect markets and economies, keep trade flowing and help build the global economy’s next phase to accelerate growth."

“For years, the team at Virgin Hyperloop has been working on making the technology a reality,” said Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group. He added, “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.” 

Josh Giegel, co-founder and chief technology officer, and Sara Luchian, director of passenger experience, were the first people in the world to ride on this new form of transportation. The testing campaign will continue with Tanay Manjrekar, Virgin Hyperloop’s power electronics specialist and native of Pune, riding next.“Working on hyperloop –?let alone being one of the first to ride it – is truly a dream come true,” said Manjrekar. He added, “It is my hope that India sees the tremendous opportunity ahead of them,?to once again be an innovation leader and leapfrog the rest of the world, and continues to progress the Pune-Mumbai hyperloop project.” 

The human testing, from the beginning stages all the way through to the successful demonstration, was overseen by the industry-recognised Independent Safety Assessor (ISA) certifer. Having undergone a rigorous and exhaustive safety process, the newly-unveiled XP-2 vehicle demonstrates many of the safety-critical systems that will be found on a commercial hyperloop system and is equipped with a state-of-the-art control system that can detect off-nominal states and rapidly trigger appropriate emergency responses. 

“I can’t tell you how often I get asked ‘is hyperloop safe?,’” said Jay Walder, CEO of Virgin Hyperloop. He added, “With today’s passenger testing, we have successfully answered this question, demonstrating that not only can Virgin Hyperloop safely put a person in a pod in a vacuum environment, but that the company has a thoughtful approach to safety which has been validated by an independent third party.”  

The occupants made their maiden voyage on the newly-unveiled XP-2 vehicle, designed by Bjarke Ingels Group, which was custom-built with occupant safety and comfort in mind. While the production vehicle will be larger and seat up to 28 passengers, this two-seater XP-2 vehicle was built to demonstrate that passengers can in fact safely travel in a hyperloop vehicle.  

This announcement builds off of significant progress around the world on the regulatory front. In India, the Government of Maharashtra has deemed hyperloop a public infrastructure project and approved the Virgin Hyperloop-DP World Consortium as the Original Project Proponent (OPP) for the Mumbai-Pune hyperloop project. This is a landmark announcement for building the Pune-Mumbai hyperloop transportation system, recognising hyperloop technology alongside other more traditional forms of mass transit. Further to the regulatory guidance document issued by the United States Department of Transportation’s Non-Traditional and Emerging Transportation Technology (NETT) Council, Virgin Hyperloop is looking to work with central authorities in India to explore a regulatory path for hyperloop in the country.  

“Today’s test is a significant step forward towards a commercial hyperloop in India – perhaps the world’s first –?connecting Pune with Mumbai along the existing Expressway,” said Harj Dhaliwal, Managing Director of Middle East and India for Virgin Hyperloop. “The opportunity for India to lead the world in this new form of transportation is unprecedented. The project would be the largest private infrastructure investment in Maharashtra, creating 1.8 million direct and indirect jobs and $36 billion in socio-economic benefits.” 

This momentum, combined with the advancements at the Hyperloop Certification Center and the historic safety demonstration achieved, will pave the way for the certification of hyperloop systems around the world –– a key step towards commercial projects, including those in India, while having the first human testing of the technology take place in the United States. 

“I’ve always been a big believer in the importance of competing against market transitions and Virgin Hyperloop is the clear leader in the future of transportation,'' said John Chambers, former executive chairman and CEO of Cisco Systems, current founder and CEO of JC2 Ventures. He added, “With the development of the Hyperloop Certification Center in West Virginia, I hope to see a multicountry partnership bring this transformative technology to India and beyond. We look forward to supporting Virgin Hyperloop in this journey and imagining what is possible for the next generation of innovation, entrepreneurism, and inclusion, together.” 

Beyond Maharashtra, there is enormous potential to connect the entire subcontinent. In September, Virgin Hyperloop announced a ground-breaking partnership with Bangalore International Airports Limited (BIAL) to conduct a feasibility study for a proposed hyperloop corridor from BLR Airport. The study, which focuses on technical, economic and route feasibility, is expected to be completed in two phases of six months each. With speeds of up to 1,080 kmph, hyperloop could transport thousands of passengers per hour from BLR Airport to the city center in under 10 minutes, according to the preliminary analysis. 

Virgin Hyperloop also signed a MoU with the State of Punjab’s Transport Department in December 2019 and hopes to expand on their relationship with Punjab as they continue exploring opportunities in northern India independent of their work in the western and southern regions of the country. 

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