If it ever comes to fruition, the Hyperloop One will be a giant step for the future of intermodal freight transportation. Getting from point A to point B always takes a certain amount of time. Future technology promises to significantly cut that time with trains that run on an electromagnetic track inside a vacuum.
Where the Hyperloop One Project Is Today
Elon Musk published the concept for Hyperloop One in a 2013 white paper. In 2016, Hyperloop Technologies began work on prototypes of the technology that could one day revolutionize long-distance passenger and freight transportation. The technology has the potential to rocket enclosed capsules through a series of tubes and tracks at speeds of 750 mph.
During the summer, news of Hyperloop Technologies surfaced regarding executive turnover and civil suits between the company and former CTO Brogan BamBrogan. While many observers questioned the side effects the lawsuits could have on progress, the company maintains its commitment to the task at hand. It plans to release a full-sized model for testing in 2017 in anticipation of opening the first Hyperloop in 2020.
Intermodal Transportation and Hyperloop One: The Possibilities
Hyperloop technology has the potential to disrupt commercial passenger and freight transportation via land, sea, and sky. If the technology reaches its goal, it will travel over 100 miles faster than a commercial passenger airplane and many times faster than trucks and ships.
In addition to installing Hyperloop tracks onshore, the company is also exploring an underwater application for the technology. Advancements could move ports to 10 miles offshore and open up coastlines for development. Instead of unloading on a dock around a coastal city, cargo ships would simply transfer freight to the Hyperloop system for shore transportation.
In addition to domestic applications, Hyperloop Technologies is researching an application to bridge the 90-mile divide between Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The technology could improve cargo transportation between ships at Jebel Ali Port and a container destination further inland. In Moscow, the technology would create a new kind of Silk Road from China to Europe. A successful Hyperloop venture could forever alter economic forces and logistics in the freight transportation industry across world markets.
If created, the system will change how companies think about and invest in trucking, rail, and other modes of transportation. While drayage operations can still expect a level of demand from local retailers, over-the-road trucking operations may start to lose opportunities as more Hyperloop freight transportation facilities arise.
How Far Away Are These Changes?
Hyperloop technology will likely not affect the industry at large until sometime after 2020, if ever. Freight will come first as the company irons out the kinks in technology and logistics management. Some critics still question the entire concept and refer to it as an unrealistic vision. Questions about funding, ultimate efficiency, and ROI all may serve as roadblocks to a meaningful installation.
If fiber optic cabling installation is any indication, the upfront costs may render the Hyperloop tube too expensive compared to traditional intermodal operations. For now, it remains an interesting technology to observe as it unfolds, but it doesn’t present an immediate threat to the transportation industry.