It might one day be possible for Hyperloop to deliver goods straight to your front door. That was one of many intriguing announcements made by Hyperloop One executives at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas on January 7.
The most interesting vision was put forward by Hyperloop One’s head of global field operations; Nick Earle, in an interview with Inverse. Earle sketched out a vision for Hyperloop’s future that would make it the most disruptive advance in ground transportation since the automobile.
“It’s Amazon Prime on steroids,” Earle told Inverse. “You don’t have to use a fleet of airplanes, you don’t have to use warehouses outside of cities to store goods, because you have to truck them in to meet that one hour deadline that’s in the contract for Amazon Prime.”
What Earle is envisioning is a series of fulfillment centers connected by Hyperloop. At the centers orders would be fulfilled and loaded onto Hyperloop Pods for shipment to the final destination. One intriguing twist on the technology might enable Hyperloop to reach your doorstep.
Autonomous Cars in the Hyperloop
“Autonomous cars will actually be able to go inside the Hyperloop,” Earle said. “You actually can do door-to-door like never before.”
He did not reveal how that would be possible, but I imagine that the vehicles would drive into a pod or cargo container that would be shot through the tube. That sounds a great deal like the Auto Train; an Amtrak service that lets people ship cars, boats, and other vehicles from the Washington, D.C., area to Orlando, Florida.
Using such a system delivery vehicles could be loaded at the fulfillment center and shipped to their final destination. That would make delivery more efficient than with the present system. Currently a package shipped from Indiana to Colorado might be loaded into a truck, hauled to an airport, offloaded, loaded onto a plane, flown to its final destination, offloaded, loaded onto another truck, hauled to a local facility, loaded onto another truck and hauled to a final destination where it would be loaded onto a delivery truck.
Hyperloop could be the Future of Delivery
Eliminating all that would greatly reduce the cost and time involved in delivery. That would greatly reduce the costs of goods, but it might also eliminate vast numbers of jobs in the process.
It might create a sort of ultimate Amazon Prime which would allow you to order almost anything and have it deliver to your door in a few hours. This would be made possible by a seamless delivery system.
One has to wonder how brick and mortar retail would be able to compete with such a system. Using it Kroger would be able to ship food directly from its network of processing plants to customers’ homes. Pharmaceutical houses might be able to eliminate pharmacists and ship drugs directly to patients’ homes. Apple might be in a position to ship your new iPhone straight to your doorstep from the factory.
Another variation might be cargo containers that are packed at the fulfillment center and shipped to a local destination where they would be loaded on trucks. The trucks would deliver the packages in the containers to the customers.
Such a system might also be used to haul people via special pods; or vans, that would drive into the Hyperloop. The pods would pick passengers up from their homes or hotels, and drive to Hyperloop for the trip to the final destination.
Broadband for Transportation
All this fits in with the vision that Hyperloop One CEO Rob Lloyd has outlined for the technology on many occasions.
“Just think of Hyperloop as broadband for transportation,” Lloyd told inverse. “If you think of it as broadband for transportation you suddenly unlock a massive amount of change, and new applications; new thinking.”
If he is correct Hyperloop would disrupt manufacturing, distribution and retail in the same way the internet has revolutionized the transmission of information. Today, a person with broadband and a decent computer can pull up almost any piece of information he or she wants often for free.
If Lloyd’s vision for Hyperloop comes true, the same thing might happen with goods and services which would be a far greater paradigm shift. The effective result of that would be the annihilation of distance. It would also make a large percentage of the existing infrastructure including brick and mortar stores superfluous.
Why would anybody build a local store or a regional distribution center if you can ship everything straight to the customer at lower cost via Hyperloop? Would traditional retail even be necessary under such a system?
Instead of selling through retailers Proctor & Gamble would just ship laundry detergent directly to customers. A factory farm in Arizona would be able to cut out the middle man and ship produce directly to customers in Boston, in January.
What all the truck drivers, cashiers and store managers will do for a living in such a world is open to question. Where will they work if there are no retail stores, or the only retail stores are a few specialty boutiques. Unemployment on a massive scale might be one of the results of Hyperloop.
Hyperloop Test Might Take Place in April
We need to start thinking about these ramifications of Hyperloop because the first full scale test of the technology might occur as early as April of this year, Inverse reported. Hyperloop One executives think they might be able to hold their public test or demonstration of the technology, the Kitty Hawk moment in North Las Vegas in April.
Lloyd’s team is confident of success that they might even open the event up to the public but did not reveal a specific date. They also have even bigger plans for the near future that are even more staggering.
The test is what Lloyd calls the fundamental prototype. That prototype will demonstrate the technology’s viability and serve as a test platform for improvements.
Three Hyperloops could be running in Five Years
“We want to have three routes in production in the next five years,” Lloyd told Inverse. Hyperloop One just completed the first stage of its Global Challenge and picked 35 potential routes around the world.
The teams behind the 35 routes will make presentations to Hyperloop One executives at showcases in New Delhi, Washington D.C. and London. After the presentations the judges will narrow the choices down to around a half dozen routes.
That does not mean a Hyperloop route will be built on each route. Instead Hyperloop One will conduct feasibility studies to see if it is possible. Three of the locations will be chosen for actual Hyperloop routes.
A likely possibility is that Hyperloop One might build one passenger line, one freight route and an underwater connection to demonstrate the technology’s viability. More systems might be constructed if funds or resources become available.
We need to start considering the implications of Hyperloop now because it might nearly be here. Our world might be a very different place in just a few years because of Hyperloop.