Virgin Hyperloop, the high-speed transport company backed by Sir Richard Branson, has carried its first human passengers across the Nevada desert in a world first.
Instead of running on rails, the pods use magnetic levitation to “float” in near-vacuum tubes. After more than 400 unmanned tests, Sunday’s trial was the first to carry human passengers.
In the trial, two passengers – both company staff – travelled the length of a 500m test track in 15 seconds, reaching 107mph (172km/h). Virgin Hyperloop is not the only firm developing the concept, but no other company has carried passengers before.
Sara Luchian, director of customer experience, was one of the two onboard and described the experience as “exhilarating both psychologically and physically” to the BBC shortly after the event.
She and chief technology officer Josh Giegel wore simple fleeces and jeans rather than flights suits for the event, which took place on Sunday afternoon outside of Las Vegas. Ms Luchian said the journey was smooth and “not at all like a rollercoaster” although the acceleration was “zippier” than it would be with a longer track. Neither of them felt sick, she added.
They travelled 395 metres, hitting a top speed of 48.07 metres a second, or 107.5mph, in a two-seater pod designed to show that passengers can travel safely. The company says its pods will hold 28 passengers when in production will travel at more than 600mph, three times faster than high-speed rail.
Virgin Hyperloop CEO Jay Walder has previously said the technology will prove revolutionary for inter-city travel, reducing the three-hour drive from Columbus to Pittsburgh to just 25 minutes.