Are hyperloop systems safe?
As a new transportation technology, it is natural that when introduced to the concept of hyperloop, many people immediately ask about safety. In the past, whenever a new form of transportation has been introduced similar questions have emerged. When rail was introduced, there was genuine concern that humans could not handle traveling at speeds of 50 mph. Thankfully, those concerns and many of the concerns regarding hyperloop travel are uninformed.
When compared to modern transportation solutions, commercial hyperloop systems are intrinsically safe. Autonomously operating in an enclosed tube environment, hyperloop eliminates the two main causes of travel accidents, human error and track obstructions. The intentional design of HyperloopTT’s infrastructure greatly reduces the opportunities for safety scenarios.
Beyond simple advantages of design, HyperloopTT has also worked tirelessly with global safety leaders and transportation experts to develop technologies that mitigate safety concerns. Through systematic safety analyses and the application of engineering best practices, HyperloopTT has identified proven technologies that provide the highest level of safety for commercial passenger systems.
Advancing hyperloop safety to commercialization readiness with world-class partners
In 2016, HyperloopTT executives met with the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) to begin conversations regarding the development of safety regulations for hyperloop systems. After that meeting, it was clear that no one set of current safety requirements could regulate hyperloop systems, but applicable requirements existed across the transportation landscape. However, fully understanding which regulations were applicable to hyperloop required detailed analysis and review of system operations.
To develop the critical safety knowledge needed for hyperloop regulation, HyperloopTT partnered with global reinsurance leaders Munich RE. In 2017, Munich RE conducted a comprehensive risk assessment finding HyperloopTT’s technology both feasible and insurable. HyperloopTT then partnered with industry-leading testing, certification, auditing, and advisory services organization TÜV SÜD to create the first generic guidelines for hyperloop system certification, which were released to the public in 2020.
In 2021, the USDOT released a Hyperloop Standards Desk Review that assessed the current regulatory landscape. The document concluded that, “The TÜV SÜD document Hyperloop Application – Generic Guidelines for Design, Operation and Certification provides an extensive outline of the hyperloop system. In addition to identifying standards, the document also outlines a process for identifying and assessing risks and suggests requirements for items such as emergency communication and power systems, providing a relatively comprehensive foundation for the industry to build on.”
In just over 4 years, HyperloopTT and a collection of international partners clarified the requirements necessary for the safe operation of hyperloop systems. Together, we identified current and future technologies to pioneer the foundation of an industry that will redefine how people live, work and connect.
Incorporating leading safety technologies in HyperloopTT’s system architecture
A comprehensive understanding of the regulatory needs for commercial hyperloop operations enables HyperloopTT engineers to develop and test dedicated safety processes and technologies. Building on our safety collaborations, the HyperloopTT safety team developed and maintains:
- A System Safety Program Plan
- A Security Management Plan
- A Quality Management Plan
- A Hazard Log
These processes and procedures unify the safe operation of system technologies specifically designed for hyperloop commercialization. HyperloopTT’s pioneering safety technologies include:
- Inductrack™ a fail-safe passive magnetic levitation technology with more than 20 years of government research and development. HyperloopTT’s proprietary passive magnetic levitation system does not require power, and capsules are designed to gently land on wheels as they slow down.
- A Vibranium™ capsule fuselage skin embedded with sensors for real-time data collection and control enables operators to continually monitor the status of the system and respond to safety scenarios.
- A proprietary loop station configuration integrating technology similar to what allows spacecraft to dock, ensuring that capsule doors may only open when the pressure outside the door is equal to the pressure inside the door.
- Isolation valves that can be deployed along with repressurization and ventilation valves to return a segment of tube infrastructure back to atmospheric pressure. This technology enables HyperloopTT to perform overnight maintenance and respond to diverse emergency scenarios.
- A dedicated gigabit-per-second network that enables the use of autonomous signaling technology.
- Autonomous signaling technology co-developed with Hitachi Rail based on the ERTMS standard proven in high-speed rail applications.