Virgin Hyperloop performs first passenger test

Nov. 10, 2020
The company’s CTO/co-founder and director of passenger experience are the first humans to travel in the system’s pod.

Virgin Hyperloop made history Nov. 8 with a 15.5-second run of its test pod, which contained passengers for the first time. Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder Josh Giegel and Director of Passenger Experience Sara Luchian participated in the test run, which occurred at Virgin Hyperloop’s 500-meter (1,640-foot) DevLoop test site in Las Vegas, Nev.  

“When we started in a garage over six years ago, the goal was simple – to transform the way people move,” said Giegel. “Today, we took one giant leap toward that ultimate dream, not only for me, but for all of us who are looking towards a moonshot right here on Earth.”

The pod reached a top speed during the passenger test of 48.07 m/s (107.5 mph), which is fast, but nowhere near the estimated travel speeds of 760 mph hyperloop pods on a full scale system could reach, but speed is only one aspect of hyperloop.

“Hyperloop is about so much more than the technology. It’s about what it enables,” said Luchian “To me, the passenger experience ties it all together. And what better way to design the future than to actually experience it first-hand?”

The passenger test was performed using a two-seater XP-2 vehicle, that the company says was custom built by Bjarke Ingels Group and Kilo Design (BIG) to demonstrate passengers can safety travel in a hyperloop vehicle. Virgin Hyperloop explains a production vehicle will be larger and seat up to 28 passengers.

“I can’t tell you how often I get asked ‘is hyperloop safe?,’” said Jay Walder, CEO of Virgin Hyperloop. “With today’s passenger testing, we have successfully answered this question, demonstrating that not only can Virgin Hyperloop safely put a person in a pod in a vacuum environment, but that the company has a thoughtful approach to safety which has been validated by an independent third party.”

The testing campaign, from the beginning stages all the way through to the successful passenger demonstration, was overseen by the industry-recognized Independent Safety Assessor Certifer. The company notes the XP-2 vehicle demonstrates many of the safety-critical systems that will be found on a commercial hyperloop system and is equipped with a state-of-the-art control system that can detect off-nominal states and rapidly trigger appropriate emergency responses.

“For the past few years, the Virgin Hyperloop team has been working on turning its groundbreaking technology into reality,” said Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group. “With today’s successful test, we have shown that this spirit of innovation will in fact change the way people everywhere live, work, and travel in the years to come.”

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.