Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) announced today that it will build an “innovation train” for Germany’s Deutsche Bahn, the largest railway operator in Europe. The train will not be a super-fast hyperloop, in which pods are propelled through aluminum tubes at speeds of up to 760 mph, but a conventional train that includes some of the futuristic technologies the startup has been showcasing at tech conferences around the world.
As a startup that relies on crowdsourcing and volunteer engineers, the collaboration with Deutsche Bahn may allow HTT to start generating revenue while it works toward the larger goal of building passenger-ready hyperloop systems. Indeed, HTT’s CEO Dirk Ahlborn said in a statement that the partnership will help create “new monetization strategies and business models” for his company.
Some of the features that HTT hopes to build into Deutsche Bahn’s innovation train include “augmented reality windows and a digital ecosystem.” HTT is working with a Munich-based company called Re'Flekt, which specializes in virtual and augmented reality. According to designs released by HTT, interactive panels that display the time, weather, and route could be projected onto the train’s windows. Motion-capture technology could adjust the image depending on where the passenger is looking.
The partnership will involve HTT’s team of crowdsourced volunteers, which the company says allows it be more nimble than a traditional startup, and will be financed by Deutsche Bahn, which reported a 2013 revenue of €39.1 billion ($34.2 billion).
“We see this partnership as a validation of the technology we’re developing and as proof that the nature of our business model is working,” HTT Chairman Bibop Gresta said in a statement.
Most of these features, though, are just concepts and have yet to be tested in real life. The new train will be ready for passengers in “early 2017,” HTT says. If it can adhere to that accelerated timeline, the enhanced train could help bolster HTT’s reputation, especially as its main rival, Hyperloop One, continues to be mired in a costly and embarrassing legal dispute with its former co-founder.
So far, HTT has been very good at striking deals with foreign partners, announcing new technologies, and stoking its own hype, while keeping much of its physical assets behind closed doors. Unlike Hyperloop One, HTT hasn’t conducted a public test of its system, nor has it announced any plans to do so. It has struck deals with Quay Valley, a planned sustainable community in California, and the government of the Eastern European country of Slovakia.