Skip to main content

Virgin Hyperloop switches focus from passengers to cargo as it lays off half its staff

Virgin Hyperloop switches focus from passengers to cargo as it lays off half its staff


Moving freight has less of a regulatory and safety burden

Share this story

FUTURES exhibit - Washington, DC
An experimental Virgin Hyperloop passenger transport pod on display in Washington, DC in 2021.
Photo by Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Virgin Hyperloop has laid off almost half its staff as the company switches its focus from transporting passengers to shifting freight. Cuts totaling 111 jobs were confirmed by Virgin Hyperloop to The Financial Times, which spoke to former employees at the company. They described the scale of the redundancies as “definitely not expected.”

The US-based Virgin Hyperloop is one of the leading firms developing the eponymous technology — an updated version of a centuries-old idea to reduce the energy demands of trains by placing them in vacuum-sealed tubes where air resistance is minimal. The concept was resurrected in 2013 when Elon Musk published a whitepaper on the subject, incorporating magnetic levitation used by bullet trains and bestowing the current branding.

Virgin Hyperloop, formerly known as Hyperloop One, has achieved significant milestones, including the first ever test-run with human passengers. But, like many companies trying to bring the experimental technology to fruition, it’s also struggled with attracting funding and talent, and meeting deadlines. In 2017, company execs told The Verge they expect to see “working hyperloops around the world... by 2020.” That date was later pushed to 2021. There are currently no working hyperloops in action.

Virgin Hyperloop said the decision was triggered by covid and supply chain issues

A spokesperson for Virgin Hyperloop told the FT that the recent cuts would allow the company “to respond in a more agile and nimble way and in a more cost-efficient manner” and that the decision to lose so many staff at once had not been “taken lightly.” The spokesperson said the change in focus to freight over passengers “really has more to do with global supply chain issues and all the changes due to Covid.”

Moving cargo instead of people will simplify safety and regulatory burdens, according to DP World — an Emirati, state-owned logistics group that has a 76 percent stake in Virgin Hyperloop. “It’s abundantly clear that potential customers are interested in cargo, while passenger is somewhat farther away,” DP World told the FT. “Focusing on pallets is easier to do — there is less risk for passengers and less of a regulatory process.”

As reported by FT, DP World said Virgin Hyperloop was already in discussions with 15 potential customers to deliver a cargo-version of the hyperloop, and that the Saudi Arabian government was considering a route linking its port city of Jeddah with the capital Riyadh.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed Sep 24 Striking out

External Link
Emma RothSep 24
California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoes the state’s “BitLicense” law.

The bill, called the Digital Financial Assets Law, would establish a regulatory framework for companies that transact with cryptocurrency in the state, similar to New York’s BitLicense system. In a statement, Newsom says it’s “premature to lock a licensing structure” and that implementing such a program is a “costly undertaking:”

A more flexible approach is needed to ensure regulatory oversight can keep up with rapidly evolving technology and use cases, and is tailored with the proper tools to address trends and mitigate consumer harm.

Andrew WebsterSep 24
Look at this Thing.

At its Tudum event today, Netflix showed off a new clip from the Tim Burton series Wednesday, which focused on a very important character: the sentient hand known as Thing. The full series starts streaming on November 23rd.

The Verge
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Get ready for some Netflix news.

At 1PM ET today Netflix is streaming its second annual Tudum event, where you can expect to hear news about and see trailers from its biggest franchises, including The Witcher and Bridgerton. I’ll be covering the event live alongside my colleague Charles Pulliam-Moore, and you can also watch along at the link below. There will be lots of expected names during the stream, but I have my fingers crossed for a new season of Hemlock Grove.

Andrew WebsterSep 24
Looking for something to do this weekend?

Why not hang out on the couch playing video games and watching TV. It’s a good time for it, with intriguing recent releases like Return to Monkey Island, Session: Skate Sim, and the Star Wars spinoff Andor. Or you could check out some of the new anime on Netflix, including Thermae Romae Novae (pictured below), which is my personal favorite time-traveling story about bathing.

A screenshot from the Netflix anime Thermae Romae Novae.
Thermae Romae Novae.
Image: Netflix
Jay PetersSep 23
Twitch’s creators SVP is leaving the company.

Constance Knight, Twitch’s senior vice president of global creators, is leaving for a new opportunity, according to Bloomberg’s Cecilia D’Anastasio. Knight shared her departure with staff on the same day Twitch announced impending cuts to how much its biggest streamers will earn from subscriptions.

Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.

External Link
If you’re using crash detection on the iPhone 14, invest in a really good phone mount.

Motorcycle owner Douglas Sonders has a cautionary tale in Jalopnik today about the iPhone 14’s new crash detection feature. He was riding his LiveWire One motorcycle down the West Side Highway at about 60 mph when he hit a bump, causing his iPhone 14 Pro Max to fly off its handlebar mount. Soon after, his girlfriend and parents received text messages that he had been in a horrible accident, causing several hours of panic. The phone even called the police, all because it fell off the handlebars. All thanks to crash detection.

Riding a motorcycle is very dangerous, and the last thing anyone needs is to think their loved one was in a horrible crash when they weren’t. This is obviously an edge case, but it makes me wonder what other sort of false positives we see as more phones adopt this technology.

External Link
Ford is running out of its own Blue Oval badges.

Running out of semiconductors is one thing, but running out of your own iconic nameplates is just downright brutal. The Wall Street Journal reports badge and nameplate shortages are impacting the automaker's popular F-series pickup lineup, delaying deliveries and causing general chaos.

Some executives are even proposing a 3D printing workaround, but they didn’t feel like the substitutes would clear the bar. All in all, it's been a dreadful summer of supply chain setbacks for Ford, leading the company to reorganize its org chart to bring some sort of relief.