Hyper Hampton Roads: How Hyperloop will change the way we travel

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It's a completely new way to get from Point A to Point B.

We've mastered travel by road, rail, sea and air...but what else is there? Hyperloop.

"Hyperloop gives us a fifth option, which is to run at extremely high speeds inside a tube of some kind, inside a vacuum chamber," said David Goldsmith, advisor to the Hyperloop Team at Virginia Tech.

Elon Musk, the man behind Tesla and Space-X, revealed the term Hyperloop and the concept in 2012 as a fifth mode of transportation.

The goal is to hit speeds of up to 700 mph that could carry a pod full of people from Washington, D.C. to New York City in just 30 minutes.

Impossible you say? Not to the Hyperloop Team at Virginia Tech; a group of undergraduates working to crack the Hyperloop code and figure out how to reach the speed goal.

“We had a coal-gas propulsion system...magnetic levitation and braking systems," said Bobby Smyth, a junior from Yorktown, describing a student-built pod used in competition last year. “We were able to get around 50 mph. Our goal for our next competition...will be around 200-220 mph.”

Each year, universities from all over, including Virginia Tech, compete at the Space-X facility in California to see who can build the best pod to potentially carry not only people, but also cargo across the country.

"Imagine a highway with no trucks on it. Suddenly you can accommodate far more people and don’t have to build new roads," said Goldsmith. "I think everyone is going to see an impact from this type of system, even if it’s just getting your packages from Amazon a day or two quicker."

The next Space-X competition for Virginia Tech's Hyperloop team is set for July. A team from Virginia Commonwealth University was also invited.

While students compete against each other, large companies are also dedicating hundreds of millions of dollars to researching the technology.

Virgin Hyperloop One, for example, is testing Hyperloop in the middle of the desert and hitting 240 mph.

The company has plans to build a Hyperloop tunnel somewhere in the world in 2019 and start the testing phase by 2021.

Meanwhile, Musk's "The Boring Company" is figuring out how to dig low-cost tunnels once the technology is perfected; already beginning digging in the Los Angeles and, recently, receiving permission to start digging a tunnel from Washington, D.C. to New York.

But how long until we can buy a ticket and ride? Goldsmith isn't sure.

"It’s going much faster than I expected and that’s the best thing I can say about it," he said.

His students, however, aren't afraid to guess.

"For the average person, I could imagine it’s a good 20 years or so, maybe longer, maybe shorter," said junior Hyperloop Team member Andrey Gubanov.

Some say a Hyperloop stop in Hampton Roads isn't out of the question.

"I think that the more places that Hyperloop is implemented, the more potential impact it has obviously," said Smyth. "Getting from Richmond to Virginia Beach is kind of a game-changer for people who live in that area."

A game-changer in how humanity moves from one place to the next. Moving forward at 700 mph...and not looking back.

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