Las Vegas, Nevada —(Map)
On Sunday, a company called Virgin Hyperloop held the first human test of a hyperloop system – a technology which some people believe will change transportation. In the test, a car carrying two people traveled at high speed through a special tube.
During the test, Josh Giegel, who helped start Virgin Hyperloop, rode with Sara Luchian along a 0.3 mile (500 meter) test track near Las Vegas, Nevada, reaching a high speed of 107 mph (173 kph) in just over six seconds.
The pressure on the riders as the vehicle took off was about three times as strong as when a plane takes off. But Ms. Luchian said the ride was, “much smoother than I expected.”
The idea of a hyperloop system was first suggested by Elon Musk in 2012. Mr. Musk created the rocket company SpaceX, the car company Tesla, and several other companies.
A hyperloop is designed to allow people to travel at incredibly high speeds inside sealed cars, called pods, shooting through a special tube.
While high-speed trains may travel at 120 mph (193 kph) or more, hyperloop vehicles are expected to go much faster, with speeds of around 600 mph (966 kph) or faster. That’s even faster than many planes.
The main problems that slow down normal trains are friction (like the rubbing of the wheels against the tracks), and the pressure of air against the front of the train. This air pressure increases hugely as the train reaches high speeds.
A hyperloop removes friction by using magnets or other methods to make the vehicle “float” off the ground. Hyperloop vehicles avoid air pressure by removing almost all the air from inside the tube, so there’s very little to slow the pod down.
Mr. Musk chose not to use the hyperloop idea himself. Instead, he offered it up for others to use. Now many companies around the world are working to develop hyperloop systems.
Some people, like Virgin Hyperloop’s leader, Jay Walder, think the technology will completely change the way people get around. “I have no doubt this will change the world,” he said.
Virgin Hyperloop’s test with people is seen as a big step in showing that the technology is safe and can work well.
Though the rapid travel promised by hyperloop systems are exciting, many people aren’t so sure they’re the best choice for the future. Some people are worried about all the steps needed to make sure people are safe when traveling at such high speeds through a closed tube.
Others point out that hyperloop systems cost huge amounts of money, and will take years and years to develop. Even after Sunday’s test drive with real people, it will still be many years before any hyperloop systems are regularly carrying passengers.
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