While communications technology is increasing the pace of our lives at a rapid rate, transport speeds have remained largely constant – safe driving speeds and dated infrastructure slow us down on road and rail, while transatlantic flights are slower today than they were 20 years ago thanks to the demise of Concorde.
Flight is, of course, still the current fastest option, but one future transport solution called hyperloop is promising to get us from A to B at speeds of up to 760mph – while keeping our feet firmly on the ground. The team behind hyperloop are one step closer to achieving that after reaching speeds of around 240mph during a test on December 15 2017.
What is hyperloop?
Hyperloop is a proposed passenger and freight transport service that would travel at a top speed of 760mph.
The new mode of transport is a pod-like vehicle that would be sent racing along rails within reduced-pressure tubes. These would use bilinear induction motors and air compressors to ride on an air cushion.
A company known as Virgin Hyperloop One is working on commercialising the concept.
What is Virgin Hyperloop One?
In December 2017, Virgin Hyperloop One, a company that has Sir Richard Branson as its non-executive chairman, set a new speed record with its hyperloop pod.
According to The Verge, it reached speeds of nearly 240 mph in tests in Nevada, which is a significant increase on the previous top speed of 192 mph.
Branson said this new way of moving people at airline speeds could be operating in three to four years time.
Who devised hyperloop?
Elon Musk, co-founder of electric car maker Tesla and founder of aerospace services company SpaceX, created the hyperloop concept in 2012.
However, Musk has no involvement with Hyperloop One, the company trying to commercialise the concept.
What about Hyperloop Transportation Technologies?
Virgin Hyperloop One isn't the only game in town. There's a rival firm called Hyperloop Transportation Techologies (HTT) that's working on the same concept. However, HTT relies on volunteers from the likes of Nasa, Boeing, Tesla and SpaceX.
HTT recently started building the world's third hyperloop test track, and the first in Europe. The kilometre-long stretch of track is near the firm's R&D centre. It will also start work on a track in Abu Dhabi, which it hopes to have operational by 2020.
The two existing test tracks are in Las Vegas and California.
Where will hyperloop run?
Hyperloop is still very much in the testing phase but suggested routes have already been divulged by Virgin Hyperloop One.
Some 11 were outlined in the US but more recently nine across Europe have been put forward, with three of those in the UK.
One suggestion is London to Edinburgh, which would take 50 minutes, as well as other routes to Glasgow and Cardiff.
When will hyperloop launch?
Both Virgin Hyperloop One and HTT hope to have fully operational hyperloops in action by 2020.
However it would take a considerable amount of time to negotiate the implementation of hyperloop with governments and costs would run into the billions, leading many experts to question whether it will ever happen.