THE GOOD PEOPLE of Denver, Colorado, have seen the self-driving trucks that deliver beer and those designed to get smashed. They have wooed Silicon Valley and welcomed big pot. Now they are getting a hyperloop.
Well, not exactly a hyperloop. A hyperloop-inspired system. “It’s a meaningful distinction,” says Brogan BamBrogan(yup, his legal name), founder and CEO of Arrivo, which today announced a deal with the Colorado Department of Transportation to develop such a network throughout the Denver metropolitan region that looks an awful lot like the maglev train systems now running in Japan and China.
When Elon Musk first publicized this idea for high-speed tube travel in a 2013 white paper, he described people- or cargo-filled pods levitating above a track inside near-vacuum tubes. This elimination of nearly all friction and drag would mean that the pods could hit near-supersonic speeds with relatively little energy expenditure. Since then, hundreds of people and a handful of companies have been trying to realize hyperloop. They have mixed and matched Musk’s ingredients, trying to find a recipe that delivers the right blend of cost, speed, and infrastructural feasibility.
Arrivo has made a more fundamental change: It’s dumping the vacuum and accepting that it will have to push through the pesky, drag-inducing air molecules that make supersonic ground travel so difficult. Building a tube and keeping it in a near-vacuum state is simply too complicated and expensive, BamBrogan says, to make it worth trying.
Plowing through the thick soup humans know as ambient pressure, his pods will max out around 200 mph. That’s nowhere near supersonic, but considering Arrivo’s focus on short, direct routes, between 10 and 60 miles, it’s plenty quick. “The value is not necessarily the top speed for us,” says BamBrogan. “The real value is going point-to-point, no traffic.”