Dubai: Dubai will have a 20km-long prototype of the Hyperloop transportation system operating at a speed of 1,200km/h by 2020, officials said on Tuesday.
The network will eventually connect key parts of the city, while expanding to other emirates and beyond.
The plan to build the futuristic transport network that is set to change the meaning of time and space in the next few years was announced at a press conference in Dubai on Tuesday.
The Roads and Transport Authority signed an agreement with Hyperloop One, a US-based firm, to develop the high-speed technology. The agreement mandates the company to start a feasibility study on the construction and operation of the network.
According to Josh Geigel, president of engineering at Hyperloop One, this is the first such agreement signed between the Los Angeles-based company and a transportation authority anywhere in the world.
“We believe this is the first step towards making the technology a reality and we are looking forward to having the prototype ready by 2020,” said Geigel, speaking to Gulf News.
Hyperloop has also signed an agreement with DP World to study the implementation of the technology in Jebel Ali port.
He said that the proposed network is spread across 200 kilometres, but the initial prototype will be built on a stretch of 20 kilometres. However, the location for the prototype has not yet been decided.
“That is what the study is all about, to determine where we will build it, what will be the cost and how we will build it,” he said.
According to Geigel, the major idea is to connect the passenger and freight lines and extend them all the way to Abu Dhabi and beyond.
The plan is to smoothly connect self-driving vehicles with the Hyperloop technology and create a seamless network to provide end-to-end mobility.
Explaining the concept, Geigel said the system will have people ordering a trip through mobile apps and travelling on self-driving vehicles which will get on the Tube for the long distance travel.
Although not finalised, two major stations have been planned at Burj Khalifa in Dubai and Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi that will cater to multiple routes, offering tailored services.
As part of the idea, Hyperloop stations will be spread all around the city, providing easy and convenient access. This would effectively reduce travel time between Dubai and Abu Dhabi to less than 12 minutes, between Dubai International and Al Maktoum International Airport to less than 5 minutes and between Dubai and Riyadh to less than 48 minutes.
Mattar Al Tayer, director-general and chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of the RTA, said: “In line with the vision of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the RTA is collaborating closely with Dubai Future Accelerators to support innovative solutions for the future of mobility to explore future mobility solutions.”
He added that this system is an opportunity to help transform the UAE from a technology consumer to a technology creator, incubating expertise for a new global industry, in line with the UAE’s Vision 2021.
“With Hyperloop One, we will create a new means of transportation, keeping our region at the forefront of transportation technology and innovation,” he said.
Speaking to media after signing the agreement, Rob Lloyd, CEO of Hyperloop One, said: “Having signed an agreement with DP World in August to pursue a cargo-based Hyperloop One system at Jebel Ali port, our focus has now expanded to include connecting the emirates. As the central global transport hub, pursuing the implementation of a Hyperloop in the UAE makes sense. The leaders of the UAE understand that transportation is the new broadband, with the power to transform life throughout the GCC.”
He added that the production with the prototype will be ready by 2020.
Shedding light on the study, he said: “We still have to do a lot of work, we have to collaborate with RTA and plan the routes that are required and we have to create the budget. There is a lot of work that goes to create a major project like this. We have been here for only eight weeks and everything that has been visualised has been put together in these eight weeks. Imagine what we can do in the next year.”
The preliminary study on the project has been financed and conducted by Hyperloop in partnership with RTA and in the next phase a more in-depth feasibility study will be undertaken.
Allaying fears that extreme speed will have an adverse impact on the human body, Lloyd said that travelling in the Hyperloop is similar to travelling on a plane, with no adverse impact on the human body.
“We have not done any trials yet, but I will be very candid. When we fly in an aircraft, what sensation do we have of speed? Absolutely none. The experience in a Hyperloop should be of lower g-force than that of an aircraft.”
He added that the company is working with regulators and safety experts who have certified other modes of transport.
“No one will be on a Hyperloop until we do massive amounts of tests. We are actually right now beginning to work with RTA on the process that will ensure the highest safety standards,” he said.
Some of the key elements under consideration ahead of building the network is the impact of extreme heat and how to deal with it.
He said the world will have a better idea of the technology and its feasibility in the first quarter of next year, when the company will be ready with the first working prototype of Hyperloop in Las Vegas.
What is Hyperloop?
Hyperloop is a system that integrates low pressure pipes linking two stations, enabling passenger and freight capsules on a transporter to travel at the speeds of 1,200kph.
The capsules or pods travel in a low-pressure environment without friction, similar to the way Meglev high-speed trains travel without wheels along high-speed lines.
Hyperloop design was first conceived by Elon Musk, a South African inventor who helped build Tesla and SpaceX.