The dream of whizzing through an airless tube that is hundreds of miles long from one city to the next at near-supersonic speeds just got a little more real. Today, Virgin Hyperloop One unveiled its new app, promising an end-to-end passenger experience when (and if) it ultimately opens its first high-speed commercial transportation service.
In the app, passengers will be able to book a seat on the hyperloop, in addition to scheduling an Uber or Lyft to and from the hyperloop station. The app was designed using mapping consortium Here Technologies’ mobile software development kit, which includes mapping and navigation data from 136 countries, public transit information for more than 1,300 cities, and 3D indoor and venue maps.
It’s a sign that Virgin Hyperloop One is doubling down on building a passenger-ready hyperloop, rather than one that just transports cargo. Some experts assume that an emerging technology like the hyperloop, in which levitating pods would travel at speeds of up to 700 mph through a vacuum tube, would be more suitable for shipping goods rather than people. To date, there has been no human testing involving the hyperloop.
But that hasn’t stopped Virgin Hyperloop One from making bold predictions about the future. The company says it’s not just in the business of building an ultra speedy, above-ground transit system; its executive believe that the hyperloop can literally transform how we live and do business. Faster than regular trains and cheaper than airplanes, the hyperloop can help simplify long-distance travel. The app it revealed today seems like a nod toward that core belief.
The app won’t just be useful for booking a seat on the hyperloop. Thanks to Here’s navigational data, it also provides “turn-by-turn indoor walking directions” to help passengers negotiate large transit centers, venues, shopping centers, and airports. “Hyperloop is not just about A to B, it’s an end-to-end passenger experience — that means no waiting at any point along the journey” said Matt Jones, Virgin Hyperloop One’s SVP of software engineering, in a statement.
Previous looks at Virgin Hyperloop One’s proposed passenger service have been glossy, futuristic, and a touch ethereal. Riders would use the app to book a reservation, after which an autonomous, golden box-shaped pod would show up to whisk them to the hyperloop station. The pods would move through the city alongside regular car traffic, before eventually docking inside the hyperloop’s tube. From there, it’s just a short, nearly supersonic trip to the destination. Dubai to Abu Dhabi, a 97-mile journey that normally takes two hours by car, would be reduced to just 12 minutes.
Today’s announcement, though, ignored the glowing-pod-in-traffic idea, instead focusing on preexisting mobility methods like Lyft. Here is one of the hottest names in mapping — for companies in the auto business, at least — since it’s one of the few good options they can get ahold of that isn’t controlled by a competitor. It essentially offers them an out from relying on Google, and gives these companies the ability to control a relatively mature mapping platform’s development.
The company recently conducted a third demonstration of its not-to-scale system in the desert outside of Las Vegas, reaching a top speed of 240 mph (387 km/h). It was a bit of good news for the company, which has recently experienced a major rebranding and leadership shake-up. Last month, co-founder and chairman Shervin Pishevar resigned from the company amid allegations of sexual assault and misconduct (which Pishevar denies), and Virgin Group co-founder Richard Branson took his place. Branson also helped secure a new $50 million investment from two existing investors, which sources say will help the cash-strapped company help meet its payroll obligations.