Hyperloop: designing the transport system of the future

Published:  January 12, 2016
Jamuna Raj

Hyperloop may soon become a reality and we chat with Bibop Gabriele Gresta, the chief operating officer of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies ahead of his presentation at Pause Fest 2016.





Three years ago, billionaire and Tesla founder Elon Musk surprised the world with his out-of-this-world (or, as some of his critics would describe, ‘crazy’) idea, the Hyperloop Transport System (HTS).

HTS, a projected US$6 billion project, is a conceptual tube transport system that was initially planned to connect San Francisco and Los Angeles. The estimated travel time between the two cities with Hyperloop is 35 minutes.

The idea may have garnered a lot of criticism, but there are now signs that it may just very well become a reality. Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT), a Los Angeles-based start-up that develops the Hyperloop technology has announced its plans to complete an operational test track in California.

At the helm of HTT is Bibop Gabriele Gresta, the chief operating officer of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies.

Gresta, an expert in digital media, cross-platform technologies, transportation and finance, with more than 68 other companies under his belt, shares more about this transport system that could possibly cause chaos within flight and land travel industries worldwide.


Artistic impression of the Hyperloop Transport System project

Could you summarise what the Hyperloop project is all about?

The HTS is a fifth mode of global transportation. It consists of a capsule hovering inside a tube with low air pressure and resistance, similar to an aircraft in high altitude, that allows for high speeds of over 700 miles per hour (1126 kilometres per hour) and very little energy consumption. The system was designed with the ground-level infrastructure footprint in mind. The entire tube system is built on pylons, lowering land acquisition costs and insulating it from ambient weather conditions. Engineered pylons render the structure earthquake stable and crash proof, as well as self-sustaining through a contained solar plant located atop the tubes, plus a combination of wind, kinetic, regenerative breaking and geothermal energy production.

To compare HTS to other transportation modes, one can look to the airline industry. For the San Francisco to Los Angeles route at 13,000 passengers a day (round-trip), a rate of .007 fatalities per 100 million miles would mean one expected fatality every 3.75 years. That is not acceptable. HTS has been designed with safety levels that are 10 times better.

At this time, five different capsule types are being developed: Economy, Long Distance, Business Class, Local Transit, Special Purpose and Freight. On average, a Hyperloop pod with 38 passengers will depart every 30 seconds. This translates to 218,880 persons a day and nearly 80 million people a year at full capacity in one tube. We can substitute the entire flight industries between Los Angeles to San Francisco almost 10 times with one tube. We will develop a consumer perceived requirement as well.

The benefit of transportation at Hyperloop speed is that the concept of community can literally be transformed. The HTS becomes the backbone for distributed communities.

Hyperloop is a crowdsourced project and you have scientists and engineers from all over the world, including people from NASA, working with you. How did the crowdsourcing come about and evolve over the two years?

I had a very traditional approach at the start. My business partner, Dirk Ahlborn, told me that he took Elon [Musk’s] whitepaper and uploaded it onto the site, JumpStartFund, to see if there was a possibility to make this happen. He told me he wanted to build it with the contribution of the people. And I told him that it wasn’t going to happen. And he told me then that he had 115 engineers from 10 countries and I went, “What?”

That’s when I started to dig deeper and found that he has engineers and scientists from NASA, Tesla and SpaceX, among others, who want to make this happen. I joined the team and I gave the project a real structure for the company. And now we have 48 groups, 500 engineers and scientists from 26 nations. We also have big corporations with us. And we collaborate and that’s the amazing thing about crowdsourcing. It’s working for us so much that we are raising money for the final details for the test track that we are going to build in California.

This is a huge project and there are so many people involved. What are the main challenges you face?

Well, right now we’re starting to build a prototype of five miles (eight kilometres) north of Los Angeles. It will be a full-scale prototype that will transport 10 million people in a newly built modern town of the 21st century. I think the biggest challenge could be building the full track in a country with strict regulations, like the US. It will take a lot of time to have all the rights of way, and probably the best way to move along is to go in countries with fewer restrictions and that includes Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and right now I’m in Botswana. And we’re also starting a relationship with the Australian Government. Maybe the first Hyperloop will be built there.


Artistic impression of the Hyperloop Transport System project

Let’s talk about you. You were a software development director at the age of 15, started up more than 68 companies and we hear you were in the music industry too…

I was 20 years old and I created a dance music project that topped the Italian dance charts several times. I was the project’s leader, singing and dancing. Well, ‘singing’ is a big word. Let’s say I was rapping. 

And from that to now here, heading the biggest project imaginable at the moment.

Whatever you do in life, you have to have passion. I grew up and I realised that if you want to achieve big things in life, you need people. That’s your biggest resource and that’s why I see myself as a social person. I like people. And I think that’s just what the music career was. It helped me to emerge from normality.

Throughout my career and my background, I’ve been trying to do something good for humanity and in the beginning it was entertainment. Now it’s something better. Entrepreneurs are the ones who are making a change and difference to society.

The new rock stars are no longer the singers you see on stage, but the entrepreneurs.

Bibop Gabriele Gresta will be sharing more about the Hyperloop project at Pause Fest 2016.

This article first appeared in the desktop-Pause special.
For more information on Pause Fest, click here. Get your tickets now.

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