Over the last twenty years, the city-state of Dubai has blossomed into one of the world’s most technologically advanced urban centers. Boasting man-made islands, a massive waterfront development, and the world’s tallest building, there are few cities that can compare to Dubai’s super-modern infrastructure. However, despite being the world’s most advanced city, Dubai is still planning to expand.
In 2013, Tesla co-founder Elon Musk proposed a high speed electric train system, the Hyperloop, that would connect cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco. Three years later, Dubai has partnered with Hyperloop One, a Los Angeles-based company, in order to make this pipe dream a reality (1).
Hyperloop One has reportedly received a total of $160 million in funding since 2014; $50 million of which came from the Dubai-based company DP World in late 2016. DP World is currently the third-largest port and terminal operator in the world and is hoping to grow even bigger with this most recent investment (2).
Concept art and theoretical models depict the Hyperloop as a cylindrical pod inside of an enclosed track. The enclosed track allows for the pod to travel in a vacuum, therefore eliminating any drag from air resistance. The pod itself is then propelled along the track by a series of powerful electromagnets. This combination means that the train can theoretically reach speeds in excess of 700 miles per hour, faster than a commercial airliner (3). On paper, this system also happens to be incredibly fuel efficient. The absence of significant drag means that the pod only needs propulsion for the first 5% of the track, gliding effortlessly the rest of the way (4).
The primary drawback of the Hyperloop is the construction and maintenance of the system. Building and maintaining hundreds of miles of air-sealed railways will cost enormous amounts of money. This is especially true in Dubai as the planned track will have to cross under bodies of water and through mountain ranges.
Although the Hyperloop is certainly one of the more exciting projects being worked on right now, it is still in its infancy. Only a handful of scaled down prototypes currently exist, meaning that most claims of the Hyperloop’s abilities are loosely backed from scientific calculations.
This will surely change as a full scale test of the system is planned for the first quarter of 2017 (2). If the demonstration is a success, one can almost guarantee that many more investors will be pouring their money into the Hyperloop. Failure could mean major setbacks, pushing the reality of the Hyperloop even further into the future.
Whether or not the test is a success is fairly irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. The Hyperloop has caught the eye that its construction is almost inevitable. Barring a major catastrophe, systems like the Hyperloop will be commonplace in the somewhat near future.
(1) Gambrell, Jon. "Futuristic Dubai Dreams of Hyperloop Transit Tubes." ABC News. ABC News Network, 4 Oct. 2016. Web. 18 Oct. 2016.
(2) "$50mn Closer: Hyperloop One Gets Investment from Its Dubai Backer, Hires Ex-Google Treasurer." RT International. N.p., 14 Oct. 2016. Web. 18 Oct. 2016.
(3) "Hyperloop One Just Received Millions to Make Superfast Transport a Reality." Futurism. N.p., 16 Oct. 2016. Web. 18 Oct. 2016.
(4) Billington, James. "Will Dubai Build the World's First Underwater Hyperloop System?" International Business Times RSS. N.p., 05 Oct. 2016. Web. 18 Oct. 2016.
Image: © Liseykina | Dreamstime.com - Sunset at Dubai, UAE