In recent months, the Hyperloop has made many significant strides in becoming a reality from its initial conceptual designs on Elon Musk’s white papers released 4 years ago. Putting the Hyperloop’s timeline in another perspective, Virgin Hyperloop One on February 2015 announced a funding of $8.5 million; the company currently has $245 million in funding as of September 2017 with a current evaluation of $700 million. This rapid growth in the company reflects well on the Hyperloop industry, yet the recent announcement of Hyperloop One beginning construction by 2019 allows for some skepticism with the following statement by CEO Rob Lloyd to The National: “Somewhere in the world we are very confident that we would begin construction in 2019 with initial testing at production level in 2021.” This confidence however doesn’t appear to have much merit as UK’s Department of Transportation cast’s doubt on the 2021 prediction as he claims it will likely to be at least a couple of decades before an operational Hyperloop system is ready. Further doubt can be placed on the company’s lack of focus on where to build the hyperloop which ranged from California, Dubai, and Missouri, with current company statements suggesting Colorado. This as a result puts in the question; will the Hyperloop simply be an optimistic dream or a tangible reality?
Of course, an entire transportation industry’s future can’t be predicted through just one company, yet with Hyperloop One currently being the largest investment in the technology, it’s important to reflect on their developments and evaluate their current promises and predictions. Simply searching “Hyperloop One promises” pulls in a constant stream of articles boasting how the travel time from ‘city x’ to ‘city y’ will be significantly shorter without providing much technical evidence or construction developments. In reality, these promises appear to be talking points to convince the general public and potential investors rather than the government agencies and engineers that require more substantial evidence to begin construction. Although other companies such as Hyperloop Transportation Technologies have announced and signed an agreement with the Andhra Pradesh government to build a track from Amaravathi to Vijayawada, the company is more research based meaning construction is unrealistic for the near future. Canadian company Transpod has also released this July an initial cost study for the viability of a hyperloop between Windsor and Toronto establishing confidence through stating the actual cost would be half the projected cost −yet again, no significant developments regarding construction.
On the other hand, Elon Musk’s Boring company has recently received approval by the Maryland Governor to begin tunneling through a conditional utility permit, which the Hyperloop can use for its tracks. With tunneling being an already established technology, and Elon’s previous ventures being so successful, the Boring Company currently appears to be a viable solution to address Hyperloop’s current construction doubts. Nevertheless, waiting for what the next significant development for the Hyperloop will be is currently our only option in predicting the tangible future of the Hyperloop, making the industry both frightening and exciting at the same time. It’s with this in mind that any news on the Hyperloop should be taken with both optimism and scepticism rather than blind fate. Only then can support for the Hyperloop grow from a small legion of devotees to the general public.