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A new type of high-speed mass transit that envisions enabling daily commutes from, say, San Francisco or Las Vegas to Los Angeles in under an hour has moved one crucial step closer to reality.
On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Transportation released a guidance document that provides a clear pathway for hyperloop regulation and deployment in the United States. The document was developed by the Non-Traditional and Emerging Transportation Technology Council, which was created last year to explore this issue.
L.A.-based Virgin Hyperloop, which has raised more than $400 million led by DP World and is also backed by Virgin Group, hailed the step. It hopes hyperloop technology will lead the world into 21st century transportation. The company said it has worked closely with the NETT Council since its creation.
"It takes strong vision to break away from the inertia of the status quo and embrace these opportunities," said Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group. He said the announcement lays the groundwork for the U.S. to take that leadership.
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said that the guidance "bridges the gap between innovator and regulator" and "prioritizes safety during development without hampering innovation."
Hyperloop technology relies on electric propulsion and electromagnetic levitation in a tube at near-vacuum conditions so that a vehicle carrying cargo or commuters can travel along major roadways at rates approaching 700 mpg to the "metro stops" of connecting cities.
The U.S. Department of Transportation also said Thursday that it determined hyperloop projects are eligible for federal funding, including some of its loan and lending projects, just as any maglev or magnetic levitation project is.
The NETT Council, which was appropriated $2 million to study emerging cross-modal transportation technologies like hyperloop, is expected to provide a report to Congress by December 20. The research includes looking for opportunities for regulatory relief from existing rules created for traditional transportation methods, which may not be applicable to certain emerging transportation technologies.
"It's clear that the USDOT shares our vision for infrastructure development as a way for the country to not just rebuild, but evolve as we emerge from this crisis," said Jay Walder, CEO of Virgin Hyperloop, in a statement.
Last month, Virgin Hyperloop announced a partnership with Spirit AeroSystems, an aerospace manufacturer, to produce the hyperloop bogie.
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