In a 2013 proposal, Tesla and SpaceX boss Elon Musk outlined a Hyperloop transport system that would cut the journey from Los Angeles to San Francisco to 35 minutes.
Transport pods would carry passengers or vehicles through low-pressure tubes at speeds of up to 760mph, or 1,220kph, with Musk envisaging “air bearings” to keep the pods suspended at high speeds, and deployable wheels for low speeds.
Private companies are now working on bringing the Hyperloop concept to market, and Musk started an ongoing Hyperloop design competition last year.
But Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, one of two private companies working to bring the Hyperloop concept to reality, has also decided to allocate resources to developing consumer travel software, even though it has yet to execute a successful testrun of its Hyperloop system.
The Hyperloop Passenger App, the working title of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies’ software platform, will form the backbone of a suite of travel applications in a forthcoming Hyperloop Marketplace.
This marketplace will comprise a collection of local and international travel-service applications, such as on-demand car services and airline companies, which will be packaged in Docker containers.
“What we’re building is the infrastructure, where you’ll be able to say, ‘I want to go here’. And then it’s connected to the vault of providers,” Hyperloop Transportation Technologies CEO Dirk Ahlborn told an audience at last month’s Amsterdam Next Web Conference Europe.
He says passengers will be able to easily install and deploy these Dockerized apps, which contain all the code needed to run themselves regardless of the operating environment, into the main passenger app.
There is no release date yet for the Hyperloop Passenger App, but the company says when it does launch, in-app advertising will provide it and the marketplace’s participants with a revenue stream.
While other travel applications exist, such as Hipmunk and Kayak, the Hyperloop Marketplace app will be a high-bandwidth computing application that will be able to receive and process millions of events per second, according to Ahlborn. He sees it as a way to enhance the entire consumer travel experience.
Despite its ambitions to reinvent the consumer travel service industry, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies appears to be making slower progress on its Hyperloop design than its main competitor, Hyperloop One.
While Hyperloop Transportation Technologies plans to build a full-scale Hyperloop test track in California’s Quay Valley, with construction starting later this year, Hyperloop One already held a public testrun of its Hyperloop system in Nevada in May.
Nevertheless, Ahlborn insists his company is not on the losing team. At the end of 2014, nearly 100 contributors completed a Hyperloop feasibility study, each working a minimum of 10 hours per week in exchange for stock options. Today, more than 520 people and 40 companies contribute to Ahlborn’s company.
“Those are not just guys working in a checkroom. They’re people working at Apple, NASA, SpaceX, Boeing, dedicating their time to making this happen,” he says.
Still, Ahlborn seems equally focused on the Hyperloop Marketplace. On July 6, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies will host an international hackathon, called the Digital Innovation Challenge, at Bratislava International Airport in Slovakia. The main purpose of the hackathon is to deliver new applications to the Hyperloop Marketplace.
The hackathon’s organizer, Austria-based software company Catalysts, is developing the platform for the Hyperloop Marketplace, which is based on proprietary technology that can process about one million events per second in near real time, using only 700W of power.
By attracting companies like Catalysts to the Hyperloop Marketplace, Ahlborn hopes to nurture a pool of technological knowledge that is better than the sum of its parts.
“We don’t really believe that we’re the best. We believe that if we create an ecosystem, this ecosystem will actually innovate,” Ahlborn says.