Arrivo, the newest entry in the race to turn Elon Musk’s Hyperloop concept into a functional transportation system, said it’s got backing from Colorado to begin planning a tube train network that could be speeding passenger cars and cargo around the Denver metro region in less than five years.
The Los Angeles-based startup, led by former SpaceX engineer and Hyplerloop One co-founder Brogan BamBrogan, said it’s formed a public-private partnership with Colorado’s Department of Transportation and E-470 Public Highway Authority to pursue the project, starting with a feasibility study to be completed in 2018. If costs and benefits are in line with Arrivo’s expectations, construction of an initial segment of the “super uber” network could start as early as 2019.
“The study is five- to six-month study and will do some really detailed engineering work,” BamBrogan told Forbes. “We think we could be shovels in the ground in 2019, and get into certification and testing in 2020, which is ordinarily a 400-day process, and then be operational in 2021.”
Like autonomous cars and flying air taxis, futuristic Hyperloops are a next-generation transportation option attracting a surprising amount of investor interest in the past few years. But unlike Musk’s initial idea and the approach by BamBrogans’ former employer, renamed Virgin Hyperloop One in October following investment by the Richard Branson-led conglomerate, Arrivo is touting a lower-cost, lower speed tube train.
It’s eschewing a hallmark of Musk’s vision: Low-pressure vacuum tubes able to move pods containing people or cargo between cities that are hundreds of miles away from each other at speeds of up to 700 miles an hour.
Instead, Arrivo thinks “passively” magnetically levitated sleighs able to carry individual cars and trucks, cargo pallets or multiple passengers in transit-style coaches over distances of no more than about 30 miles at speeds of around 160 miles an hour is a cheaper, more practical option. While sections could be elevated, others could be built onto enclosed highway lanes to give them the ability to move more than three times as many vehicles per hour. The goal is also to reduce congestion and to connect to existing transportation networks, roads and airports, BamBrogan said.
“If you want to travel really fast in a low-pressure environment inside a metal tube between two cities, I’d recommend an airplane,” he said. “We’re focused in shorter distances, in the dozens to four- or five-dozen kilometer range that we can build out into a full network. We see ourselves connecting with airports, with local metro systems directly to unlock a whole region.”
As part of its move into Colorado, Arrivo is also setting up an engineering operating in Aurora, a Denver suburb, with an investment that could eventually run to about $15 million and employ up to people by 2020. Engineering and construction giant Aecom is also assisting with the feasibility study, BamBrogan said.
“Colorado’s rapidly growing population and booming economy makes for the ideal location for the development of an Arrivo system,” Governor John Hickenlooper said in a statement.
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Arrivo currently has about 40 engineers at its headquarters in downtown Los Angeles, said BamBrogan, who founded it in February 2017 after resolving a contentious lawsuit with Hyperloop One in 2016. He declined to say how much Arrivo has raised since its founding in the past year, though a Series A round is planned for early 2018.
Along with Virgin Hyperloop One, which has raised nearly $250 million for its operations, and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, which are both also based in Los Angeles, Musk himself appears to be moving toward creating his own Hyperloop project, through SpaceX and his new Boring Co. tunneling operation.
In July Musk tweeted that he had “verbal” government approval to proceed with plans for a subterranean high-speed transit line connecting New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Such a system would shuttle passengers between New York and D.C. in as little as 29 minutes, he said. The Boring Co. would build the system to transport riders from city center to city center, with stations with “up to a dozen or more entry/exit elevators in each city,” he tweeted.
Musk’s initial concept for the Hyperloop dates back to a vision unveiled in 2013 and though he first said he’d leave it for others to create such a system, SpaceX has sponsored college engineering competitions over the past year to develop viable technology that could make it real.
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