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Is Arrivo's twist on Hyperloop a revolution, or just high-speed rail reinvented?

Amit Katwala

(Credit: Arrivo)
(Credit: Arrivo)

A tunnel-free twist on the Hyperloop could bring high-speed transport to local journeys.

Arrivo, a company founded by former Hyperloop One and SpaceX engineer Brogan BamBrogan, has formed a partnership with Denver, Colorado to build a new form of transport that will run on a magnetised track alongside existing roads.

People could drive their own cars onto magnetised sleds, which will reach speeds of up to 200mph and could also be used to carry cargo in what Arrivo calls the ‘super urban network’.

“If I want to travel really fast between two cities in a low-pressure environment inside a metal tube, I would use an airplane,” BamBrogan told Wired. “They’re very efficient, the ride is smooth, the orange juice is free.”

Arrivo’s technology would not use a vacuum tube, because unlike Hyperloop, which is aimed at cutting the travel time between distant cities, it is aimed at shorter, more local routes.

BamBrogan was part of Hyperloop One, one of the companies leading in the race to commercialise Elon Musk’s concept of high-speed travel inside vacuum tubes. However, he parted ways with the company in controversial circumstances in 2016.

His new company says it could cut the 55-minute, 32-mile rush-hour journey from Denver’s airport to its city centre to just nine minutes. Its system would also be less expensive to build than the Hyperloop, as there would be no tunnelling or pylons to suspend tubes above the ground.

Arrivo is planning to start building a test route along the E-470 toll road, which runs along the east side of Denver and past the airport, in 2019 and go into operation two years later.

“Colorado’s rapidly growing population and booming economy makes for the ideal location for the development of an Arrivo system,” said Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper in a statement. “Arrivo’s additional decision to locate their test facilities, adding up to 200 employees by 2020 and $10-15 million to our economy in 2018, is a testament to the culture of innovation that drives our economic engine.”

The announcement marks a noteworthy development if not a revolutionary one, according to Adam Anyszewski, president of HypED – a team from the University of Edinburgh which is working on Hyperloop technology. “At the distances and speeds quoted, not using a vacuum environment makes sense as aerodynamic drag increases exponentially with velocity,” he told Professional Engineering.

“The system proposed by BamBrogan is indeed eye-catching and promising, but it seems more like an iteration on rail and point-to-point connections using autonomous vehicles – as a result, I think there would be great synergy using the two, with Hyperloop catering for city-to-city journeys and the Arrivo system optimising urban transport."


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