Interviews.

Reinventing transportation and travel on demand

Click. speaks to Nick Earle, former SVP of Virgin Hyperloop, to hear about the next great revolution in technology – transport. He tells us why we should prepare for a future where we can travel 500km in 30 minutes

by Click., Staff Writer, Booking.com

Topic: Innovation

Click. Takeaway

  • The Hyperloop aims to get more people to more places, quicker and better
  • As a hotelier, Hyperloop will allow you to go after new audiences that are further afield
  • Tourism is predicted to be one of the first early adopters of the Hyperloop, because it will drive volume
  • Hyperloop is expected to cause an explosion of connectivity and opportunity, which is predicted to play out over the next 15 years

At Booking.com’s recent global partner conference Click., we caught up with former Virgin Hyperloop SVP, Nick Earle, to hear more about his vision for a world where anyone can go anywhere on demand.

Click: What does the Hyperloop offer the world? 

Nick Earle speaking at the Click. 2018 conference. Photo: Wendy van Bree

Earle: The Hyperloop experience is defined by three factors:

  1. Speed that collapses time and distance, so 300 miles becomes 30 minutes. This gives you the option to live and work in different places – solving societal issues. People can move to where the cheaper houses are. Nobody under the age of 25 can buy a house in London anymore, it’s over. But with the Hyperloop you could live in Leeds and work in Canary Wharf.
  2. Every journey is direct to destination, so you don’t have to stop and start at all these places you don’t want to get off. You just go door to door, like a car. But much faster.
  3. It’s all done through your smartphone. So you can say, “I’m in Zurich and it’s 1pm and I have a restaurant reservation at 2pm in Milan. And then I need to be back at 5pm in Paris.” And Hyperloop can do that for you.

That’s what this technology promises.

Click: How will the Hyperloop impact the travel industry? 

Earle: When I look at the vision for travel, it’s all about how great it is once you’re there. No one talks about what a pain it is to get there. The customer magically appears at the hotel. And when you arrive, the first question they ask is “How was your trip?” Why? Because it was probably awful.

What the Hyperloop can do is get more people to more places, quicker and better. If you’re a hotelier you can go after new audiences, audiences that are further afield. Let’s take an example of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Dubai gets all the tourists, and Abu Dhabi is where all the business people are. But Abu Dhabi has Ferrari World and the theme parks on Yas Island. So if you could get to Abu Dhabi in 12 minutes, a Dubai hotel could say, “I’m going to offer you a tour to a theme park for the afternoon and you’ll be back in Dubai for dinner”. You can’t do that today.

This brings huge opportunities. Take the UK. Most tourists only come to London. Why don’t they visit the Lake District, Windsor, Bristol or Bath? Because it’s a pain to get there. If you own a hotel in any of those places, with the Hyperloop you could get people to visit, before they go back to London for their flight. Suddenly your market is much bigger – and the same applies to London.

If you’re a hotelier you can go after new audiences, audiences that are further afield.

Click: Do you foresee that Hyperloop routes will be mainly to tourist destinations?

Earle: I do believe so. At the end of the day what this model needs is ridership. Tourism could be the single biggest use for this technology. Let’s look at Lax to Las Vegas. If you could get people to fly into LAX and transfer to Vegas via Hyperloop and the portal was inside the MGM – that would be amazing. You could even have a slot machine in the pod. And same with Abu Dhabi: if you are going to a Disney-themed park, that theming could start in the pod. So the experience starts when you get to the pod, not to the destination. I think tourism is going to be one of the first early adopters, because it will drive volume.

Click: How do you envision this Hyperloop-connected world?

Earle: The first thing you’ll see are intercity links – like Mumbai to Pune. And then maybe Delhi to Chennai. So you’ll start to see individual links develop. And eventually those links will connect together. For example, 22 cities in the USA will all be five hours apart.

Metcalfe’s Law states that the value of the network is proportional to the square of the number of connected modes. So if you connect 10 points it’s got a value of 100. And if you connect 20 points it’s got a value of 400. So the more cities that connect, the more valuable the network is. It’s exponential.

People will say, “I don’t want to have to travel to the centre of Mumbai to get to Pune – I actually want to go from my house”. That’s where autonomous cars will come in, or if you have a parcel, that’s when a drone will arrive. In the networking industry that’s called the first mile and the last mile, and it’s powered by Wifi. Plus, containers won’t go on trucks they’ll go on tubes, so all those trucks come off the roads too.

So the answer to your question is that you’ll be able to go door to door on demand like never before, from anywhere to anywhere – within a continent – by a combination of first and last mile travel, which is Uber, and then by Hyperloop. That will cause an explosion of connectivity and a explosion of opportunity. And this is what will play out probably over the next 15 years.

Interview by Phoebe Germaine Maddox. Hero image: credit to Kendall Ruth

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