Hyperloop One is apparently in desperate straits, the unicorn nearly laid off 300 employees because it was close to running out of cash, The Los Angeles Times reported.
The company was rescued by a $50 million infusion of venture capital from DP World of Dubai and Russia’s Caspian Venture Capital, Axios reported. The same story claimed that billionaire celebrity Sir Richard Branson has been named Chairman of Hyperloop One’s Board of Directors.
Branson and his Virgin Group were among the investors who sank $85 million in Hyperloop One in October. Hyperloop One is having some other problems, founder, managing director and Chairman, Shervin Pishevar, has taken a leave of absence after five women accused him of sexual harassment.
Hyperloop One Founder accused of Rape and Sexual Harassment
Pishevar stepped down on 5 December after Bloomberg exposed the allegations, Ars Technica reported.
Those troubles are the least of Pishevar’s problems; the venture capitalist was reportedly arrested for rape in London in May 2017. The rape investigation was dropped because of a lack of evidence, a letter from the Comptroller and the Solicitor City of London indicates.
Pishevar has also sued a Republican consulting firm called Definers, which he accused of running a smear campaign against him. He did not say why Definers is out to get him.
After those allegations, it might be a good idea to remove the word Virgin from Hyperloop One’s name. Having a name with sexual connotations seems like lousy PR for a company plagued by sexual harassment charges.
Hyperloop One Hits new Speed Record
There is some good news at Hyperloop One; the company tested its XP-1 prototype pod at 387 kilometers per hour (240 miles per hour) on 19 December 2017, Ars Technica reported.
The speed is higher than that achieved by the fastest regular commercial train service in the world the French Train a Grand Vitesse (TGV), Ars Technica reported. The TGV regularly travels of speeds around 300 KPH or 186 mph. It is still slower than the TGV’s fastest speed of 515.3 kilometers per hour (320 miles per hour).
Another record that Hyperloop One will have to beat is that set for a maglev (magnetic levitation) train. A Japanese maglev set a speed record of 603 KPH (374 mph) while carrying passengers in 2015.
The next big milestone that the X-P1 will have to hit is to move at those high speeds while carrying passengers. There are also some serious problems with the Hyperloop infrastructure; including pressurizing and de-pressurizing the system.
To achieve those speeds, Hyperloop One has to lower the pressure inside its tubes to the equivalent of 200,000 feet (60,960 kilometers) above sea level. That allows the pods to move at speeds rivaling those of fighter jets and airliners.
The record was achieved at Hyperloop One’s test track in North Las Vegas, Nevada. That means Hyperloop One is still the leader in the Hyperloop race despite all its problems. More funding and responsible leadership are needed. Hopefully; Hyperloop will be able to lure somebody like Bill Gates to join its board, and gain some respectability.
The extra funding should enable Hyperloop One to start testing its pods with human beings and animals in them sometime next year. That will undoubtedly lead to new controversies and probably attract the attention of animal rights protestors.