Richard Branson’s Virgin Hyperloop has completed the world’s first passenger ride on a super high-speed levitating pod system, the company said on Sunday, a key safety test for technology it hopes will transform human and cargo transportation.
Virgin Hyperloop executives Josh Giegel, its chief technology officer, and Sara Luchian, director of passenger experience, reached speeds of up to 172 km/h at the company’s DevLoop test site in Las Vegas, the company said.
“I had the true pleasure of seeing history made before my very eyes,” said Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, chairman of Virgin Hyperloop and group chairman and chief executive of DP World.
Los Angeles-based Hyperloop envisions a future where floating pods packed with passengers and cargo hurtle through vacuum tubes at 966 km/h or faster.
In a hyperloop system, which uses magnetic levitation to allow near-silent travel, a trip between New York and Washington would take just 30 minutes. That would be twice as fast as a commercial jet flight and four times faster than a high-speed train.
The company has previously run over 400 tests without human passengers at the Nevada site.
The test comes a month after Reuters first reported that Virgin Hyperloop picked the U.S. state of West Virginia to host a $500-million US certification centre and test track that will serve as a proving ground for its technology.
The company is working toward safety certification by 2025 and commercial operations by 2030, it has said.
Canada’s Transpod and Spain’s Zeleros also aim to upend traditional passenger and freight networks with similar technology they say will slash travel times, congestion and environmental harm linked with petroleum-fuelled machines.