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A subway network at the scale of a country

The Hyperloop space has a number of competing companies that are all trying to figure out how to move people (between cities) in low-pressure tubes at nearly the speed of sound (1,234.8 km/h). For what it’s worth, Virgin Hyperloop One, which was founded in 2014, has supposedly completed the most testing and raised the most money ($295 million as of December 2017).

This morning I was reading up on the Toronto-based TransPod, which was founded in 2015 by Sebastien Gendron and Dr. Ryan Janzen. They raised a $15 million seed round from an Italian tech group in 2016 and are close on another $50 million round right now. Following this, they’ll look be looking for a few hundred million. They seem encouraged by where Canada’s Strategic Innovation Fund has been placing money.

Supposedly, their biggest competitive advantage is cost. The company estimates their cost per kilometer to be about $25 million, which would put the cost of a Toronto-Montreal link at around $15 billion. This is not cheap, but it is allegedly cheaper. The travel time between these two cities could then be as short as 40 minutes.

Virgin Hyperloop One has been similarly looking at a Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal line, as it would stitch together about 25% of Canada’s population. But apparently the federal government recommended that TransPod instead look at a line that sits entirely within one province — at least at the start.

So the company has gone ahead and secured a 10-kilometer parcel of land in Alberta that will eventually form part of a future connection between Calgary and Edmonton. TransPod hopes to have this test track operational by 2022.

However, their focus right now is on France. (Being in Europe is another differentiator for the company. Europe gets transport.) With the help of a few partners, the company has started work on a 3-kilometer test track in Limoges, France. Permits were received at the end of last year and they hope to begin testing by the end of this year.

There’s no question that this technology has the potential to be transformational, which is why so many companies are competing in the space right now. But it’s obviously going to take a whole lot of moxie. Gendron is on the record talking about the risk-adverse nature of both Canadian regulators and investors when it comes to these sorts of large-scale innovations. That’s a problem that we need to address.

The title of this post is a quote by Gendron taken from this TechVibes article.

Image: TransPod

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