YOGESH DANDEKAR is Senior Manager, Experience Design at Tata Elxsi
Hyperloop is a great example of tomorrow’s paradigm of innovation. With a speed of 1,200 km/h, Hyperloop is a global technology that proposes to enable transportation from one place to another faster than anything else (except space travel, of course!).
In a vast country like India, a technology like this can do wonders in the transportation industry. Only time will tell when one can actually sit in a capsule and travel from Mumbai to Chennai in lesser time than a flight, but this surely is showing us how people across the world will use the power of an open source concept to change the way we live.
POSSIBLE BENEFITS OF HYPERLOOP TRANSPORTATION
Faster travel will always be the need of the hour because one will always want to cross huge distances in the shortest time possible. History is proof that faster modes of transportation have resulted in unimaginable levels of disruption. These possess the capacity to change the economy, cities and people’s lives. Even before waiting for a ride in the capsule, let us consider the benefits of this technological development.
It will help to collectively develop a range of technology architecture, material applications, software and hardware, which would find its way in other industries beyond transportation.
I am optimistic about the success of Hyperloop, and we would be able to take a ride in one of the capsules soon. Having said that, some experts doubt the proposed offerings of this technology as it brings along several limitations and can be unsafe. They believe that the experience of travelling in a tube at higher speeds would not be very pleasant and probably not advisable.
Hyperloop technologies would be developed with integrated software and hardware, and would utilise the advanced autonomous technologies available today. They will bring efficient fleet management and mobility service delivery system changing how people plan and travel long distances. The fierce competition between various companies is definitely an evidence of much deeper development of core technologies, which would have impact by being less dependent on direct usage of fossil fuels, autonomous, safe, and would require lighter infrastructure.
IS IT PASSENGER READY?
Is Hyperloop ready for passenger travel? Let’s look at some key design and technology challenges that need to be addressed to make it a safe mode of travel.
The Hyperloop experience surely sounds very interesting. The technology will open up new realms of possibilities in the transportation industry. Alongside short travel times, it will also come along with special terminals and a very different in-transit experience. Just imagine booking a seat in a travelling pod, and travelling in one that takes you to your desired location in less than quarter of the current travel time. There is a need for failsafe technology and a robust design to ensure that Hyperloop travel is 100 % safe and offers an enhanced user experience to all.
Hyperloop would need to be effectively weaved into the fabric of urban mobility establishing a connected experience for the users. The ideal situation would be where passengers would arrive at a Hyperloop terminal using other modes of public transport, probably check-in their luggage and wait for their pod to arrive at the station. Passengers may initially have to wear jackets, earplugs or gears for bearing the additional gravitational forces due to high-speed travel.
Smaller size pods would need less turn-around time and quick services would be available. Once ready, the capsule would be launched into the branch tube and ready to be “shot” in the long-range tube towards one’s destination. Passengers would probably be sitting strapped to their seats inside a capsule, with the inner walls of the capsule live streaming the outside scene on screens. This would help in eliminating the anticipated claustrophobic feeling inside the tube.
The technology has to evolve and be able to provide the comfort of walking inside the capsule, or eating or having restrooms. Before a man travels, the technology has to ensure the passenger, once inside, will be safe and attended to in case of any emergency. A detailed journey experience mapping must be done to ensure a delightful Hyperloop experience for the passenger in addition to safety and comfort. This is how I imagine the entire Hyperloop experience to be for the future passenger.
BRINGING HYPERLOOP TO INDIA
While we’re all optimistic about the success of Hyperloop, it is only time that will decide whether an innovation at this scale is feasible. It is, however, important to contextualise this with the mobility needs of the people. Hyperloop is currently positioned to become a great alternative to rail travel and would be able to supersede air travel.
A transport technology like this would definitely bring about a boom across the world, especially in countries like India with high population numbers. Being a highly affordable and environment-friendly commuting option, Hyperloop will be a suitable option for most people with an added advantage of cutting down on travel time drastically. There is a need for this technology to become viable for connecting multiple cities on a single route to effectively be favoured over rail and air travel.
Hyperloop will undoubtedly make inter-city travel much faster. However, there are still some challenges that need to be tackled. For example, urban mobility and inability to increase efficiencies of the existing modes of transport within cities are not being addressed, particularly in India. Congestion in cities is a much bigger concern and the only way Hyperloop technology can help is by creating extremely nimble and simple terminals – which can be spread across the city and built – in the existing urban fabric to increase the reach and accessibility within a city.
In the Indian context, when Hyperloop will become a reality, it may solve intercity travel concerns. What India really needs to develop is systems and technologies that would tackle intercity mobility to ensure seamless passenger travel experience. Failure to achieve this will result in longer and painful travel to reach the Hyperloop terminal than the Hyperloop travel itself.