Transport

Now Branson wants your money for Hyperloop trips to nowhere

By Oliver Smith 9 January 2018
Summary

Straight out of the Virgin Galactic playbook.

For well over a decade Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic has gleefully taking tens of millions of dollars in down-payments for space flights which still remain a hopeless pipedream.

Now the serial entrepreneur looks to be repeating this trick with his latest transportation venture, Virgin Hyperloop One (not to be confused with its rival, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies).

This year the Branson-backed company will be launched a trip planning and ticket booking app for Hyperloop, despite the technology being unproven, its construction being years away, and a final route still undecided.

To date, no human (or animal) testing has ever been done on Hyperloop.

Virgin Hyperloop One's first pod, the XP-1.

Pay for the future, today

At CES in Las Vegas this week that didn’t stop Virgin Hyperloop One from rolling out its shiny prototype pod, the XP-1, to woo conference-goers.

The promise is that pods will zoom along vacuum-sealed tubes at hundreds of miles an hour, revolutionising the world of transport.

Virgin is also punting a “multimodal navigation app” which Hyperloop’s SVP of software engineering Matt Jones says will let passengers “plan, book, and pay for a hyperloop journey as well as other modes of transportation including public, private, and ride-shares using the application.”

But why on earth would you need a trip booking app years before a Hyperloop even exists?

Beyond the glitz and glamour, this is all a publicity stunt pulled straight from the Branson playbook.

The Virgin Galactic project began as far back as 1999, started taking tens of millions of dollars in deposits from 2006, and remains firmly grounded with flights promised by Branson “next year” (a promise made in 2017 FYI).

Back down to earth, his train business Virgin Trains East Coast has been mired in similar scandal after failing to deliver on its commitments and being allowed to walk away from the Government contract three years early.

Hyperloop to nowhere

Right now Hyperloop construction is pencilled in for 2019, with initial testing “at production level” in 2021, and trips commencing… sometime after?

Where will you be travelling from, and to? “Somewhere in the world,” said Virgin Hyperloop One CEO Rob Lloyd back in November.

How very reassuring.

Still, Branson once again finds himself connected to a company strapped of cash, with an unproven, futuristic transportation technology that could ‘revolutionise’ everything.

Grab the popcorn, but don’t book a ticket.