A Journey in the Hyperloop – a look into the travel experience of the futureFollow article
So far our blog series covered the work of the HYPED team and technical description of the prototype. The ultimate goal of the HYPED and other Hyperloop teams and companies is to bring the concept closer to reality – enabling super fast, on-demand, efficient and reliable ground transportation. This piece will look at full-scale Hyperloop experience from the passenger perspective in more detail.
Trip planning and Hyperloop ticket purchase
HYPED look at developing Hyperloop as part of a broader system of seamlessly integrated travel. Changing a step-by-step journey involving multiple modes of transport to a service where one planning, booking and pricing system is present is key to improving overall planning experience, beyond astonishing speeds that Hyperloop is proposing. The future travel system would look at the point of destination and origin and allow travellers to book their travel all at once, with less hassle and offering smoother and faster service. On the operators’ side, this would have huge benefits as it would allow better planning of timetables and vehicle capacities. In general, this approach changes from mobility as a product one purchases to mobility-as-a-service (MaaS), where more of the responsibility of providing good travel experience lies with the operator. Integrating autonomous vehicles, Hyperloops, and intercontinental flights promise mass travel around the globe at a completely different level.
Figure 1. Explanation of the MaaS concept by The Transport Knowledge Hub
Travel to Hyperloop station
The so-called ‘last mile problem’ looks at the trade-off in connecting every point of interest globally and infrastructure investment. Rail provides fast and efficient travel between points of significant interest but doesn’t connect to every single home as this would require a very complex track system. Cars, on the other hand, have great manoeuvrability but relatively low system capacity and comfort of travel over longer distances.
To build a transport system we have to take advantage of the best of both worlds and this wouldn’t be different in the case of Hyperloop. We expect there would be many more stations and access to any of them would be more like getting to an underground station rather than a train station – either walking, cycling or getting a ride (hopefully in a driverless vehicle!). Combined with an integrated travel booking platform, we expect that future travellers will access high-speeds much faster than it is possible nowadays.
Hyperloop stations are projected to be smaller and require less area to build but sometimes it just makes sense to use existing infrastructure, especially if it was built relatively recently, can serve for a few more decades and decrease system cost. This would be most likely the case for villages and smaller towns which have existing rail links. The system is designed to serve as many passengers as possible, but we ought to be realistic that a Hyperloop stop on every street is unlikely within the next few decades. Let us see what centuries could bring…
Getting through a Hyperloop station
In general, stations serve three different purposes:
- They integrate all other transport modes and allow passengers to transition between them (parking lots, street access points, underground).
- They allow passengers to prepare for travel, purchase tickets and wait for their scheduled departure.
- They contain infrastructure allowing safe and efficient means of getting in and out of the transport mode, such as a train, a plane or underground.
Due to large amounts of waiting and varying schedules, stations often take up a lot of space and resources to build. They get extremely crowded during peak hours and remain nearly empty (or even closed!) at night. Since Hyperloop will provide access to capsules on demand with near-exact demand being anticipated in advance via online booking systems, we hope that the use of space and passengers’ time in the station can be optimised.
Figure 2. The concept of a Hyperloop Station by RB Systems, a US design company
There is no schedule as such – and the least amount of waiting possible. Due to the nature of the system, some security screening will be required, similar to airport checks. The difference, however, is the amount of planning and anticipation for demand for security. Because the flow of passengers through the station can be better planned for and unlike airports, passengers don’t come in bursts (ahead of busy flights), it is easier to ensure a quick security checking experience.
Once at the platform, your capsule should be awaiting you and your fellow passengers. You’ll either step in (similar to a train) or sit in a chair outside of the capsule which will then automatically move into the capsule. If the ‘movable chair’ idea will be implemented, most of the station movement will be automated – this will speed up the total journey through the station and reduce crowding. A possible prospect lies with using autonomous pods for passenger travel to a station and subsequent travel on the Hyperloop – have a look at the video from Virgin Hyperloop One above!
On-board travel experience
Once you’re in the Hyperloop vehicle, you’ll be sat in a comfortable chair with a large screen in front of you and on the sides. There are no windows but to give passengers a comfortable ambience, these can be easily simulated and augmented, not only giving a view outside but also providing information about the journey, landmarks outside and information about the region.
Figure 3. Concept by Zeleros, the Spanish company who are one of the leaders in developing Hyperloop in Europe
There would be several different cabin arrangements depending on the travellers. Hyperloop vehicles can accommodate business class seats, family arrangements and passengers with special needs. With a small aisle in the middle, the capsule will have a very specific lighting system aimed at giving an illusion of increased space.
Passengers are expected to wear a light seatbelt and for most journeys, refrain from walking around. In the end, the longest you’ll travel anywhere in the UK would be less than an hour. For most journeys, Hyperloop would resemble a commuter service more rather than a travel service – no lavatories or shopping service on board, to increase the capacity of the capsule and drive down the price. For longer services, these could be easily made available to the passengers.
Figure 4. Concept by Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, highlighting a dense yet comfortable and efficient capsule layout
Most passengers wouldn’t notice if they are moving or stationary. In fact, for most of the journey, you will only be able to guess the speed or position based on a GPS app or onboard journey summary. Reading or working would be easier than in any other mode of transport as the capsule would be quiet and ride smoothly.
Safety on board
Passengers safety is a critical design criterion for us and any other Hyperloop developer. Luckily, the safety case is promising and can learn a lot from railway and aerospace regulations.
There is virtually no chance of collision in the Hyperloop, simply because tracks never cross with opposite direction of travel and the vehicle in front of yours will travel at similarly high speeds. In case of an emergency system shutdown, emergency brakes will be applied and bring the vehicle to rest in less than a minute. In case of a vehicle issue, your capsule will decelerate and move into a siding which will be repressurized and give access to emergency crew. In case of passenger emergency (such as health condition), it is safer to proceed to the nearest station than stop ‘in the middle of nowhere’ and expect an ambulance or other support to arrive.
Author: Adam Anyszewski