Arrivo's notable not only because of the system it is developing but also because of the people who are working to develop it. Brogan BamBrogan, David Pendergast, William Mulholland and Knut Sauer are all listed as co-founders of the enterprise. The quartet make up the "gang of four" that previously held senior positions at Hyperloop One, now rechristened Virgin Hyperloop One.
Hyperloop One co-founder Brogan quit the company in July 2016, sending shockwaves through the hyperloop community. It subsequently emerged that he was suing the company he helped found for harassment and financial mismanagement. A falling-out with legal council Afshin Pishevar culminated in an alleged death threat: Pishevar (allegedly) draping a knotted rope on the back of Brogan's chair.
Lawsuit and countersuit followed, with Hyperloop One contending that Brogan and his accomplices had "tried to stage a coup." By November of that year, the various hostilities had been settled, with the quartet free to build their own vision of what a hyperloop is, or could be.
The company plans to begin construction on a test track in Commerce City, Colorado, at some point this year. The half-mile facility will cost up to $15 million and will be used to identify the fastest, and cheapest, ways to build the magnetic sleds. But there are plenty of questions about how effective Arrivo's plan will be.
For instance, most tube-transit systems, like the London Underground, have issues with trains pushing pockets of air through the tunnels. How will Arrivo reduce the issue of all of this air zooming around without creating a vacuum or making the tube significantly larger? There's also the question of whether it's right that the city should go out of its way to spend big to further subsidize carbon-intensive car travel rather than spending the same money on public transportation. Also, what happens if Arrivo's system is so popular that it, in turn, becomes the victim of a capacity crunch?
Beside these major players, there are also other people and groups working on their own hyperloops, from TransPod in Canada to all the academic pod-design teams. All are looking to solve the technological and economic arguments that stand between us and high-speed transit. There is no guarantee that such a system will ever materialize, of course, between tight-fisted legislators and angry locals protesting where the routes will be built. But to think that all of this has been achieved in just five years is heartening.
Vacuum-tube systems are nothing new, and we had working versions of the system in operation a century ago. But for a variety of technical, political and economic reasons, those attempts all failed before they could become adopted by the mainstream. Hyperloop One, with its working test track, has at least demonstrated that modern-day engineering can do what Isambard Kingdom Brunel couldn't in 1848. What comes next, however, is far more difficult: whipping up enough public desire to see these systems built and working out who should shoulder the cost to do so.