The possibility of cutting down the commute between Austin to Dallas to 20 minutes continues to get closer to becoming a reality. The team leader of the Texas project, who's trying to make this happen, recently stopped by Austin to talk to city leaders about the developments.
Hyperloop One is a privately-help company that has successfully developed the first full-scale Hyperloop system anywhere in the world. They accomplished this in the deserts of Nevada and are continuing to do research there.
This company also held a worldwide competition known as the "Hyperloop One Challenge" to find the right locations to implement this technology. After receiving submissions from 2,600 teams across the globe, the Hyperloop Texas team was recently announced as one of 10 winners. This means those 10 winners have been given the green light by Hyperloop One to start talking with city leaders where their respective route would go through and laying the groundwork for a possible Hyperloop. The company is planning to have three systems built and working by 2021.
Steven Duong is the team lead of Hyperloop Texas, the minds behind the Texas Triangle. This route would connect Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and Houston, with a freight route that connects to Laredo.
Duong recently visited Austin to start a dialogue about his system. He said because of how revolutionary this technology is there are still a lot of legal steps to be taken.
"The policy framework for developing and regulating something like the Hyperloop must be developed," Duong said. "Currently because Hyperloop technology doesn't exist anywhere in the world, there are also no 'go-bys' for how to actually regulate technology like this so as the technology matures, the policy has to as well."
Duong said the Texas Triangle is one of the longest proposals among the winning teams. This system would run a total of 1032 kilometers in distance. Duong said a key factor in mapping out an exact path will be how much the Hyperloop can physically turn while still remaining intact.
"What are the actual operational tolerances of a technology like Hyperloop?" Duong said. "What I mean by that is how much can the Hyperloop actually curve and turn while maintaining integrity and efficiency in the system? That is still being developed by Hyperloop One as they flesh out their system."
In terms of land acquisition, Duong said Texas is actually one of the better locations for the Hyperloop. Since Texas generally is a flat state, the construction team wouldn't have to worry about going around hills, crevices or other obstructions. While Hyperloop One figures out more details about the technology, Duong's team will work to figure out what areas of Texas would need to be utilized or bought.
"If it's a urban corridor, obviously land acquisition could be very difficult and expensive," Duong said. "If it's through a less developed area, it could be easier. Any type of large infrastructure project like this is going to be difficult with the upfront investment for that land."
Duong is also a senior urban deisgner for AECOM in Dallas, an American multinational engineering company that helps businesses with design, construction and other management services as well. AECOM's Austin office played a key role in establishing projections for ticket prices when it comes to these Hyperloop rides.
Another reason Hyperloop One chose the Texas route as one of the winners is the number of super commuters that travel long distances between cities on a frequent basis for leisure or for work. Duong said there are multiple reports that show Texas leads the country in the number of super commuters.
"Now imagine what the new market for super commuters may look like when you can induce further demand by having a technology like Hyperloop available," Duong said.
For Austin, specifically, Duong said it is geographically very important for any type of Hyperloop built in the state.
"Austin makes the most sense as one of the main nodes throughout the rest of the system," Duong said. "In addition, it serves -- along with San Antonio -- as kind of a potential adjunction for where the line may split off to head up further north towards Dallas or east towards Houston or south towards Laredo."
While there is no clear-cut next step for the Texas team, Duong said it will be important to stay right in step with the Hyperloop One team. As they fine tune the technology, Duong's team will need to have their details ready to share with their investor.
"We have to work in step with them because they are still maturing the technology, and a lot of the details of how that technology matures may influence on where you initially put the first Hyperloop."
There will be a Hyperloop One summit some time in the next six months where the 10 winning teams, along with their partners, will gather together to start talking about an overall strategy for implementing the Hyperloop into our certain systems.