It’s game over for Hyperloop One

Hyperloop One, the futurist transportation company (in case you forgot) that promised to whisk passengers and cargo in vacuum-sealed tubes at jet speeds from city to city, is officially over – but this time, it’s for real. According to Bloomberg, the much-hyped, long-beleaguered company will officially close its doors on December 31.

Elon Musk put forth his original idea in an “alpha paper” back in 2013, which theorized that aerodynamic pods filled with passengers or cargo could be whisked, Jetsons-style, through tubes at up to 760 mph to and from cities. He described it as a “fifth mode of transportation,” with a dream scenario being Los Angeles to San Francisco and New York to DC in 30 minutes, ultimately transforming our lives and work.

While scientists and engineers debunked the project as grossly improbable, no matter, Musk’s idea proved too irresistible. In 2014, Hyperloop One raised, and subsequently burned through, hundreds of millions of dollars in developing its vision, which went through multiple iterations over the years. Virgin Group’s billionaire Richard Branson brought his financial heft to the company in 2017, bringing in $350 million in investments alongside Dubai-based port logistics firm DP World, but that money got quickly spent.

There were other bumps in the road as well: Cofounder Shervin Pishevar was forced to resign over allegations of sexual misconduct by multiple women. In addition, Branson vocally criticized Saudi Arabia after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, and Saudi Arabia pulled the plug on its plan with the company, and then Branson stepped down as chair.

In 2020, the company conducted its first and only test with human passengers, with the Hyperloop pod, but it fell short of expectations, topping off at only 100 mph. The pandemic didn’t help the situation much, with founders and executives peeling off quickly thereafter.

Hyperloop One then ditched the idea of zipping people around in capsules to focus on cargo in 2022 – DP World obviously had no small role in that decision. The company dropped the Virgin name from its moniker and slashed its staff of 200 in half. DP World now holds the intellectual property rights and all of the physical assets, including a test track outside of Las Vegas, which will all be sold off, according to Bloomberg.

As for the utopian dream, Musk’s test tunnel got turned into a parking lot, and no full-scale hyperloops exist in the world as of today. Musk’s The Boring Company is still digging tunnels in Las Vegas, but not for futuristic travel – rather, it’s for human-driven Teslas, traveling at 35 mph to and from convention centers.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons, photo by Z22 and licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

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