Big tech is always looking for creative [expensive] solutions to problems that have been solved for decades. The hyperloop program, funded by Virgin and millions of dollars in tax incentives from the Nevada government, was created to put people in a super fast shuttle that could only travel at high speed inside of hundreds of miles of vacuum tubes. The news came on Wednesday that Virgin Hyperloop would be laying off 111 employees effective immediately, and transitioning its business plan from transporting people to transporting freight.
I mean, if you sit and think about the totally impossible nature of running vacuum tubes around the country, it just sounds ridiculous. Somehow Especially when you consider that Japan’s Shinkansen high speed trains have been running for over 50 years and has carried over 10-billion passengers. It’s like those lame infographics you see on Instagram comparing the Tesla Roadster to a Bugatti Veyron. One of these things exists, and does what it says on the tin, the other is a rich dude’s fever dream.
The mass layoff equates to about half of the company’s workforce. A company spokesperson told The Financial Times that the shift could be blamed on COVID and supply chain issues. I’m sure it has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that the company’s first human test in 2020 could achieve no faster than 107 miles per hour. Or that costs were expected to exceed 50 million dollars per mile to build, according to a company insider testifying before the House of Representatives.
The company’s subsidiary/spin-off “Cargospeed” was initially created to help fill the void between consumer Hyperloop pods, but now appears to be the only part of Hyperloop that is still even a little bit viable. If the company can convince some international hubs that sending packages via tube is less costly than air freight, then maybe it’s still possible. But with this change, I don’t see human travel by Hyperloop happening in our lifetimes. It’s dead.
Now, can we finally focus on building a high speed train system in the United States? Please?