By Jeff Ayars
Producer, Morning Joe
Virgin Hyperloop One (VHO), the high-speed transportation company founded in 2014, has announced its next phase of development: a nationwide search and evaluation for the first official hyperloop certification site. This past summer, VHO embarked on a national roadshow to jumpstart a dialogue with the public about the future of mass transportation in the U.S. and beyond.
Letters went out to every governor in the country to launch the official Request for Proposal (RFP) process for a Hyperloop Certification Center. The center will host the first hyperloop passenger product in the U.S. and perform key safety tests required for certification. VHO received strong bipartisan interest and support from cities across the nation. 17 states have submitted formal responses to the RFP, including Delaware, Georgia, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and West Virginia. In addition, multiple states are also exploring hyperloop routes connecting multiple cities within their regions.
After viewing the hyperloop passenger pod (“XP-1”) on display 30 Rockefeller Plaza, the Morning Joe Field Team flew to Las Vegas to tour the full-scale test track and development site, and then drove across the desert (at conventional speeds) to sit down with CEO Jay Walder at the VHO headquarters in downtown Los Angeles. While the drive took our team a little over five hours, the projected hyperloop travel time clocks the same journey at a mere 25 minutes. Walder – who previously oversaw Citibike, the New York City MTA, the London Metro, and the Hong Kong mass transit system – is optimistic about the company’s ability to not only refine, but entirely reshape our understanding of long-distance travel.
Different than the concept of a bullet train, the hyperloop propels autonomous, magnetically-levitating pods through a depressurized, vacuum-sealed tube at airline speeds (up to 670 mph). Unlike traditional rail and air travel, the hyperloop routes would not be susceptible to inclement weather–and would have no direct emissions into the environment. Furthermore, VHO leadership claims that entire journeys could potentially be powered purely by solar energy drawn from panels positioned atop the tube system. There is a clear, top-down mission at VHO to reimagine world-wide transportation infrastructure, while at the same time preventing further contributions to the growing climate crises.
Further background: Buzz around the “hyperloop” transportation system originally stemmed from an Elon Musk white paper in 2013. Tied up with both Tesla and SpaceX, Musk open-sourced the idea, accelerating the potential for adoption. Silicon Valley venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar, who led investments in Uber, Warby Parker, and AirBnB, answered the call and incorporated Hyperloop Technologies in 2014. To date, VHO has raised nearly $400 million from investors, including DP World, Sherpa Capital, Abu Dhabi Capital Group, GE Ventures, and the now-eponymous Virgin Group, for development and implementation of this high-speed transportation system.