The 4000 mph commute
Nobody likes waiting for public transport. In fact, according to researchers at the University of California Berkeley, delays are the most common cause of negative public travel experiences. A number of businesses have aimed to solve this problem, including car hailing firms and SpaceX. Late last year, a new player entered the game. . . say hello to Hyper Chariot, the Californian startup that wants to send passengers from Edinburgh to London in just eight minutes. Not only is the service ridiculously fast, but according to the company, it could be powered entirely by solar. Right now, you’d be forgiven for thinking this is an overly ambitious pipedream. But will Hyper Chariot be able to realise their vision, and how might their hypersonic tube disrupt public travel?
Super fast public transport
If Hyperloop’s blueprints are anything to go by, then Hyper Chariot’s plans suddenly seem quite plausible. But for obvious reasons, the team wants to separate themselves from Musk’s brainchild. The company states that, per mile, Hyper Chariot is $39m cheaper per mile than Hyperloop. Their system can also travel a maximum of 16,000 miles, in contrast to Hyperloop’s 600. The underlying tech behind Hyper Chariot is ET3 (evacuated tube transport technologies). Instead of travelling in large carriages, ticket holders will sit in autonomous, six seater pods. The pods will be able to change destination depending on passenger requirements, shooting through vacuumed concrete tube tunnels at 4000 mph. By installing solar panels on the outside of the tunnels, Hyper Chariot hopes to harness enough renewable energy to power the whole system. Looking forward, the company aims to set up a door to door service. So can this speedy, sustainable system really work? It all depends on development, and they have certainly given themselves plenty of time. The first proof of concept system, the Velocitator, is due for demonstration in 2021, with a fully operational network released in 2040.
How could Hyper Chariot disrupt transportation?
Assuming that the ambitious project comes to life, Hyper Chariot could eliminate some of the key complaints surrounding public transport networks, including delays and limited destinations. You’d expect premium travel to carry a premium price tag, but tickets for the Velocitator are now on sale for a reasonable $25. If that’s a reflection of future ticket prices, then consumers are certain to forego stuffy train journeys. Hyper Chariot’s pod system also offers more flexibility than incumbent options, as passengers aren’t limited to one destination. The fact that they’re emission free is an added bonus, attracting environmentally conscious investors and customers. On the one hand this sounds hugely positive. Commuters will be able to spend more time with their families or pursuing hobbies, face to face communication will become easier and travel will become cleaner. Other industries (particularly retail and logistics) could take advantage of the service too, by shipping products at a fraction of usual timeframes. On the other hand, this could be bad news for legacy transportation, as it might herald their eventual replacement. When it comes to existing industry trends, incredibly efficient public transportation methods will hammer yet another nail into car ownership’s coffin. By 2040, self driving cars should be well established – but could super fast networks like Hyper Chariot nip their adoption in the bud?
Hyper Chariot and similar modes of innovative transport are clearly a disruptive force that will shake the industry, leading to cheaper and quicker journeys, perhaps on an international scale. Throw reliable solar power in there, and you’ve got a very convincing candidate for the future of travel. By advertising an eight minute trip from one end of the UK to another, Hyper Chariot has demonstrated its global outlook. But in order to meet their high ambitions, the American startup needs to develop the best autonomous technology, complement existing infrastructures and convince passengers to quite literally jump on the bandwagon. If they can do all this, Hyper Chariot will shoot us into a 4000 mph future.
Is 2040 a realistic benchmark for Hyper Chariot’s first fully operational system? Could super fast public travel discourage AV sales? Will legacy travel methods be able to compete with innovative transportation? Comment below with your thoughts and opinions.