VIDEO: Dubai to Abu Dhabi in 15mins?
The journey from Dubai to Abu Dhabi could soon take just 15 minutes. That's the claim of Peter Diamandis, who has earmarked the UAE as a potential destination for the first fully operational 'hyperloop' passenger transport system.
With potential speeds of 1200kph, and the backing of SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, one of the world's pre-eminent engineering brains, this no pipe dream. Well, actually it is. Literally.
The technology, which is expected to begin track testing in 2016, is relatively simple to understand. Sealed concrete or steel pipes, installed either above or below ground, are pumped permanently to remove air and, thus, resistance to the trains, while electric motors create a strong magnetic field that allows carriages to coast in a frictionless environment. Ok, we did say relatively simple.
'If the UAE wants it, it could be operational before 2020,' Diamandis, who is accompanied on his visit to the UAE by the former rocket engineer at SpaceX, Brogan Bambrogan, said in the Dubai on Monday.
'Hyperloop is about reinventing transportation. This is about the future. This is like how mobile telephone reinvented the world many times over.'
The New York-born whizz added the UAE was one of a number of locations being looked at, but that it did have a trump card in as much as the journey between the two Emirates is largely flat, straight and uncluttered, unlike, say, the journey between the Los Angeles to San Francisco.
Hyperloop was first discussed in 2013 when Musk, who is most widely known as the man who created PayPal, published a 57-page document outlining his hopes for harnessing the technology for widespread use.
The projected top speed is twice the current record set by Japan's 'maglev' passenger train in April this year. 'Maglev', a shortened amalgamation of Magnetic Levitation due to the fact carriages literally hover above the rails, suspended by powerful magnets, smashed the record set be the nation's iconic bullet train, which runs on steel tracks.
Once operational 'maglev' trains will link Tokyo and Osaka in around an hour. The whole project is set to cost Dhs279 billion (9 trillion yen). Musk's plans are significantly cheaper.
But is it safe? Dirk Ahlborn, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies CEO explains: 'You are completely managed by a computer - there is no human factor, which is the most common cause of accidents like this.'
And there are also reassurances on the feeling and impact of supersonic speed itself. Craig Hodgetts, the UCLA Professor leading the design team, added: 'You will feel the acceleration thrust, like a very fast, powerful car. But you will feel almost no sense of motion while travelling. You will mainly going to experience getting there and stopping.'
The logistics impact of the project if it ever sees the light of day would be huge, allowing a speed of sound courier service between the two cities for documents and small to medium-sized goods.
Watch the video below to see how the concept works: