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All aboard the hyperloop: How your commute could be changing

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NEW YORK – Think of the future of transportation and you can picture the old animated show “The Jetsons” with people flying around in personal spaceships.

Not only will that never happen, but we’re all piled up on rickety old subways and buses.

Josh Giegel wants to start over. Virgin Hyperloop CEO and co-founder predicts we’ll be traveling between cities in minutes, a future that’s not as far off as you might think.

Giegel sat down with Reuters to talk about how this budding technology could change the way we live and work.

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Q: Humanity is facing all kinds of transportation challenges, so why do you think hyperloop is the right solution?

A: We’re looking at moving large numbers of people at the speed of an airplane, giving them the opportunity to live where they want to live and work where they want to work. A hyperloop would move as many people and goods as a 30-lane highway.

Q: How does Hyperloop work?

A: We put you inside a tube, giving you a lot of advantages. It is weatherproof and you avoid many things that cause accidents, such as crossing the road.

Inside the tube, we take almost all the air out, allowing you to go at high speed with very little energy consumption. We use magnetic fly technology, so there is no abrasion and everything is non-contact and smooth. With electromagnetic propulsion and 20-30 passengers per cabin, we can move tens of thousands of passengers per hour.

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Q: You actually went one-on-one at your Nevada test facility, so how was it?

A: From starting this in a garage seven years ago, to drawing it on a whiteboard, to sitting inside it, it’s all very surreal.

Acceleration was similar to a sports car, and we were very playful. The biggest part of that test was the world that saw two people ride in a hyperloop and two people get off.

Up until that point, everyone wondered “Can it be safe for humans?” Now we know that it is.

Q: How will this speed up travel between cities?

A: It transforms the math. Let’s see how long it takes you right now to get through Manhattan. Maybe 40 minutes. You can get from NYC to Washington, DC, in less time. You can get from LA to Las Vegas in 40 minutes.

What we’re doing is similar to what Roman roads, Spanish ships and planes did – shrinking time in relation to distance.

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Q: What is the timeline to get it up and running?

A: This is not 10 or 20 years from now. Cities can start incorporating this into their plans now.

I can’t believe who will be first, but aside from the US, we’re also looking at places like India, Europe and the Middle East. We may be looking at a timeframe from 2025-27.

Q: Since you are a Virgin company, how was your interaction with Sir Richard Branson?

A: He is a perfect dreamer who believes in what we are trying to do. What I like about Richard is that he is not only an entrepreneur from scratch but an adventurer.

We’re not just building a new kind of transportation system, we’re trying to attract passengers to something new – and that’s what he’s done, from Virgin Atlantic to Virgin Cruises to Virgin Galactic. He knows how to build customer acceptance and loyalty.

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Q: If this technology starts to be successful, will it change the way people live and work?

A: One hundred percent. I have a two-year-old son, and the way he will be able to live is unlike anything we can imagine.

If you look at cities of the future, people may want to live in one area and work in another. We’ve seen that with the pandemic. My dream is to live near Yosemite and then work with my team in LA. A hyperloop will give you the potential to do both.

Q: What do you want people to know about this technology?

A: Big ideas don’t take long. You can go from a garage to a great idea in a few years.

This decade could end with hundreds of millions of people going hyperloop. For those who think this technology is many years away, I used this one. It’s now. (Editing by Lauren Young and Richard Chang)

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An in-depth report on the innovation economy from The Logic, in partnership with the Financial Post, brought to you.

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