Virgin Hyperloop One Conducts Full-Scale Test for Saudi Leaders

Could Saudi Arabia be the site of the first Hyperloop?

byStephen Edelstein|

Virgin Hyperloop One has conducted another full-scale test of its prototype Hyperloop system. This time, a delegation of Saudi Arabian leaders including Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Said was in attendance, indicating interest from the Saudi government in the futuristic transportation system.

Hyperloop One released a video of the test, but didn't offer any other details. The company began conducting full-scale tests last year, achieving 240 mph in one test. But its ultimate goal is a top speed of around 670 mph.

Saudi Arabia could make sense as a Hyperloop location. Under a plan called Vision 2030, the country is looking to shift its economy from oil to investment, tech, and tourism. Implementing the plan could mean greater investments in infrastructure projects like a Hyperloop, which could also bolster Saudi Arabia's transportation infrastructure.

Virgin Hyperloop One proposed building a network that it claims would cut travel times between the Saudi capital of Riyadh and the city of Jeddah from the 10 hours it currently takes by car to 76 minutes. A second proposed route would link Riyadh with Abu Dhabi, in the neighboring United Arab Emirates.

Richard Branson's Virgin Group began investing in Hyperloop One last year, prompting the addition of "Virgin" to the company's name. Branson was named chairman of Virgin Hyperloop One shortly after, and met with the Saudi delegation during the recent tests.

Despite being based in the United States, Virgin Hyperloop One has generally looked internationally for possible Hyperloop routes. In addition to Saudi Arabia, the company has proposed a network of routes in India, and plans to build a test track in the country. These countries offer less direct competition from existing public transportation, and less of the red tape that tends to slow down transportation-infrastructure projects in the U.S.