In a sign of progress in the U.A.E.’s bid to get a hyperloop transit system, Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) says it will unveil a prototype design of the technology in February as part of U.A.E. Innovation Month.
The transport authority is currently collaborating with U.S.-based Virgin Hyperloop One, which is among the companies developing the potentially groundbreaking technology that was first popularized by business magnate Elon Musk. Using depressurized tubes, hyperloop technology could allow levitating pods to travel at super high speeds (potentially up to 1,200 km/h).
The prototype design is the latest development to emerge from an agreement the partners signed in early 2017 to explore the possibility of connecting Dubai and Abu Dhabi via hyperloop, which would allow for travel between the two emirates in only 12 minutes—a distance of more than 100 kilometers—and transport about 10,000 passengers per hour in both directions. The RTA is exploring hyperloop technology as part of its goal of making driverless transportation responsible for 25% of all journeys in Dubai by 2030.
At the current rate the technology is developing, the U.A.E. could have a functioning hyperloop system within the next five years, Virgin Hyperloop One’s CEO said last year. According to the RTA’s announcement revealing the prototype design in February 2017, the partners have made considerable progress on a feasibility study covering the technical, engineering and economic aspects of the project.
Once introduced, hyperloop technology will impact urban planning and the availability of parking in the U.A.E , in addition to revolutionizing the way people travel, said Mattar Al Tayer, director general and chairman of the RTA in a statement. He also added it will impact logistics at airports and ports.
The RTA isn’t alone in exploring the potential use of the technology in the U.A.E. In December 2017, Dubai-based port operator DP World invested into Virgin Hyperloop One as part of a $50 million round alongside Cyprus-based Caspian Venture Capital. Virgin Hyperloop One to date has raised $295 million since its founding in 2014, with DP World also taking part in previous rounds.
Prior to that, Virgin Hyperloop One signed an agreement with DP World in 2016 to pursue a cargo-based hyperloop system at Jebel Ali port. “Hyperloop One is developing a new mode of transportation that will allow the world to transport people and goods inexpensively, safely, and with energy efficiency at speeds never thought possible,” said Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Group Chairman and CEO of DP World, at the time.