In a video, it promised journey times of 12 minutes between the two cities. The technology is still in testing phase so details of the deal were sketchy. Initially, it will explore the feasibility of building a line linking the two cities. Hyperloop was originally an idea from Tesla’s boss and tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, who conceived the technical details of the transport system but left it to commercial firms to make the vision a reality.
The high-speed transportation system would use electric propulsion to accelerate a passenger or cargo pod through a low-pressure tube at speeds of up to 700mph. The vehicle would levitate above the track, which is likely to be built on stilts above the ground.
There are currently two main firms attempting to make it a reality – Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) and Hyperloop One.
Hyperloop One, which hosted its Dubai announcement at the top of the world’s tallest building – the Burj Khalifa – has signed a feasibility deal with the emirate’s roads and transportation agency.
It will explore the possibility of using the technology at Dubai’s Jebel Ali port. Journey times between Dubai and Abu Dhabi are currently an hour or more. It suggested that the system could also be used to cut journey times from Dubai to Riyadh to 48 minutes and from Dubai to Doha to 23 minutes. Rival Hyperloop firm HTT signed a deal in March to bring its technology to Slovakia, aiming to link Bratislava with Vienna and Budapest.
The team at Hyperloop One is expected to unveil the first glimpse of what the transportation pods will look like soon.
Prof David Bailey, from the Aston Business School, said the plan in the United Arab Emirates was “more feasible” than previous announcements to use Hyperloop to connect Los Angeles and San Francisco.
“Building it through the desert means you can plan a route that is straight – it doesn’t do curves very well – and the government there will see it as a way to be at the forefront of a new technology,” he told the BBC. But he added there remained a lot of “technical and other hurdles” to overcome, not least whether people would want to travel at such high speeds and in such a manner.