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Hyperloop One Gets ‘Virgin’ Name Following Branson Investment

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Several companies have been dabbling in hyperloop technology since Elon Musk released basic plans for the transit system several years ago, but none are as close to reality as Hyperloop One. We’re not going to be talking about “Hyperloop One” anymore because the company has a new name. It’s now “Virgin Hyperloop One,” following an investment by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group.

This isn’t the first futuristic and unproven transportation project for Virgin Group. The company has been working toward space tourism with its Virgin Galactic service. That’s more about going into space just to go into space, though. A hyperloop could potentially help people get from one place to another much faster than with traditional ground transport.

The core idea of a hyperloop, as described in the original whitepaper released by Musk, is that of a magnetically driven pod propelled down a depressurized tube. In the original concept, the joint SpaceX-Tesla team speculated that such a vehicle could reach a speed of 760 miles per hour (1,200 kph), taking passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in around 35 minutes.

Hyperloop One has conducted several tests to show off its technology. In 2016 it ran a propulsion open-air test or “POAT” to show that its linear-electric motors worked. Then just a few months ago, it used a full-scale demo pod inside a 500-meter test track to reach speeds of almost 200 miles per hour. You can see Branson standing in front of the open test track above. We’re still years away from a viable Hyperloop system, but Hyperloop One is definitely in the lead. That’s probably why Virgin Group came calling.

Hyperloop One Autonomous Pod

The specifics of the investment are not clear, but Branson must have contributed a hefty chunk of change to convince the company to change its name. Virgin is not acquiring Hyperloop One–I mean Virgin Hyperloop One. The company will continue with its mission of perfecting hyperloop technology and deploying initial lines in the next few years.

Virgin Hyperloop One might have some unexpected competition, though. After long saying he was too busy to invest time in hyperloops, Elon Musk recently suggested he might try to build one between Washington DC and New York City. Virgin Hyperloop One might have more real-world experience designing these systems, but Musk’s name is inexorably linked with all things hyperloop. If he decides to start building a hyperloop, a benevolent billionaire backer might not be enough for Virgin Hyperloop One to succeed.

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