Virgin Hyperloop One XP-1 pod on display at Rockefeller Centre (Source: Virgin Group)

The US Department of Transportation (USDOT) and the Non-Traditional and Emerging Transportation Technology (NETT) Council have released the guidance document on a clear regulatory framework for hyperloop in the US. 

USDOT’s Secretary Elaine Chao said during a live-streamed event on Friday (24 Jul) that this document creates a convergent point for the hyperloop “innovator and regulator, safety during development without hampering innovation, and promotes mutual awareness between industry and government”. 

Hyperloop is a ground transportation technology that transports people and cargo at high speeds between cities in pods or capsules. It will travel on magnetised tracks in low-pressure tubes running at airline or below ground.

It is expected to create exponential growth opportunities for cross-industry manufacturing and development jobs – across construction, aerospace, rail, automotive, aviation, electric vehicles, and autonomous control. 

The concept was first conceived by Elon Musk – SpaceX and Telsa founder  in 2013. 

The passenger and freight transportation vehicle by Virgin Hyperloop stated on its website that it can travel up to approximately 1080 kilometers per hour (km/h). That is 2-3 times faster than high-speed rail and magnetic levitation trains. It is also 10-15 times faster than traditional rail and will supposedly make traveling between cities feel like metro stops.

“Hyperloop offers a truly unique opportunity to lead the world in 21st century transportation,” said Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group

“It takes strong vision to break away from the inertia of the status quo and embrace these opportunities. The announcement today will help lay the groundwork for the United States to take that leadership.”

Virgin Hyperloop is the only company in the world that has successfully tested hyperloop technology at scale, launching the first new mode of mass transportation in over 100 years.

The company has been working closely with the NETT Council over the last year and a half – since its creation in March 2019 – to advance its technology and ensure that they are able to deploy hyperloop safely and quickly.

The regulatory framework also detailed hyperloop’s eligibility for federal funding for projects. 

“We have determined that these hyperloop projects are just as eligible for grant as any maglev or magnetic levitation project,” said Finch Fulton, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy during the live-stream. 

“This includes the Federal Railroad Administration Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Program, the Office of the Secretary BUILD and INFRA grants, and programs of that sort. This also means that they would be eligible for some of the Department’s loan and lending programs.”

Virgin Hyperloop is not the only company vying to commercialise the world’s first high-speed technology transportation.

The TUM Hyperloop presented at SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition in 2019 recorded a speed of 463 km/h and is still currently being further developed. 

Mr Musk gave an estimation of how traveling between San Francisco and Los Angeles will be reduced to just 30 minutes instead of several hours. 

Other major hyperloop projects around the world include: 

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