Mumbai: Hyperloop, the futuristic mode of travel which promises to cut down travel time between Mumbai and Pune down to just 20 minutes, could be ready for primetime in the next five years.
Dr Anita Sengupta, the senior vice-president of Virgin Hyperloop One, the company that has been contracted by the Maharasthra government to build the Mumbai-Pune track, said Hyperloop will be a viable and cheap alternative mode of transport in countries with large populations like India.
In an interview with CNN-News18, Dr Sengupta, who also works with NASA and is a research professor of Astronautics at the University of Southern California, said the vacuum pods could be the next big invention in transit after a 100 years.
“It’s been a 100 years since a new mode of transport has been invented. On that background, engineers have been working on non-polluting modes of urban transport like aerial battery-operated taxis and hyperloop,” she said. Construction on a 15-km test track for the Mumbai-Pune hyperloop is set to begin by the end of this year.
She was in Mumbai to deliver a lecture on ‘engineering at the speed of light: from cold atoms to the hyperloop’ at the Nehru Science Centre. Contesting apprehensions about safety, she claimed that travelling in hyperloop will be absolutely safe.
"At present, people mainly use cars, but the congestion leads to a loss of money and rise in pollution. On the contrary, Hyperloop is like travelling in a spacecraft. It is an aeroplane cabin without wings. It has pressurized cabins and you can travel at up to 1000 kilometres per hour,” she claimed.
During her lecture, she also spoke about the aerial urban transport systems like electrified aircraft and electrified air taxis for low carbon footprint. Such vehicles will be autonomously controlled and scheduled and will eliminate ground congestion and safety risks, she added.
Here’s the full interview:
What is the concept behind Hyperloop?
The concept of a hyperloop is very similar to a Maglev train, but instead of operating in an air atmosphere it operates in a vacuum tube. If you were to compare it with an aircraft, it allows you to eliminate aerodynamic drag and allows you to travel at a faster speed and lower the energy consumption.
Several concerns have been raised about the impact of gravitational force on human beings when they travel in hyperloop. What would you say?
On Earth, we are always combating the force of gravity, which is 1G. In this case, if you are talking about linear acceleration in forward motion, it is much similar to what you will experience in a train. There is no difference. In fact, the overall travel in a hyperloop is akin to travelling in a train. It will just be a much smoother ride. For safety purposes, one will have to wear seat belt. But the speed will be a quarter G, so there won’t be any concerns about the impact of gravitational force.
The Maharashtra government has already signed a contract with the Virgin group for the construction of hyperloop between Mumbai and Pune. When will it be operational in India?
I think, hyperloop in terms of the technology is under development, and I think we are going to see hyperloop systems across the world in the next five to ten years.
How does the future urban mass transit systems look like?
The aim of the future urban transport systems is to move large volumes of people in a clean, green and efficient way. Aerial vehicles in terms of autonomous air taxis or helicopters, which rely on battery powers, are something engineers are looking at. They will use almost no jet fuel. Thereby, there will be zero carbon footprint, allowing us to address climate change.
Presently, which stage of development are such air taxis at?
Subscale prototypes are being tested right now. The next stage will be larger scales. Eventually, they will go full scale.