How GCC could speed ahead in post-COVID-19 world

The willingness to embrace bold technologies such as Virgin Hyperloop will define the leading nations of tomorrow

  
With investment from Dubai based DP World, Virgin Hyperloop makes history today as the first passengers successfully traveled in a Hyperloop pod. Image courtesy Dubai Media Office Twitter handle.

With investment from Dubai based DP World, Virgin Hyperloop makes history today as the first passengers successfully traveled in a Hyperloop pod. Image courtesy Dubai Media Office Twitter handle.

Out in the desert of Nevada, I had the true pleasure to see history made before my very eyes — to witness a dream — with the first major transportation mode in more than 100 years coming to life.

I have always believed that technology is there to serve people. Seeing the first people ride the Virgin Hyperloop (pods inside vacuum tubes carrying passengers at high speeds), I envisioned what this new sustainable mode of transportation would mean for the planet, what the speed would mean for the movement of people and cargo, and the vast potential of integrating digital advancement with physical infrastructure.

The willingness to embrace bold technologies such as Virgin Hyperloop will define the leading nations of tomorrow. Those who do not invest in such “Earthshots” will be stuck at the starting line and will lack the resilience to respond to 21st-century challenges.

For example, at DP World, we invested $4 billion over four years in digital technology and — in contrast to the decline in the rest of the industry — we are delighted to report that third quarter volumes turned positive across our three regions with DP World throughput growing by 1.9 percent year-on-year.

Throughout the UAE, we are fortunate that we adopted digital technology 20 years ago. Today we are well prepared to emerge stronger from this (coronavirus disease) crisis, but we need to continue to keep ahead of the curve.

In the transportation space, Virgin Hyperloop is defining the curve. This recent passenger test — the first in the world — was a defining milestone which demonstrated the maturity of Virgin Hyperloop technology.

The technology the team has built is leagues beyond anything I have seen before.

A lot of people may think of Virgin Hyperloop as a fast train, but really it has more in common with a fully autonomous, electric vehicle in a completely dedicated lane. Pod movement and the logistics process is fully automated, and pods can be routed in real time using predictive modeling.

Machine learning is utilized to create relationships and insights into how the system is performing, discover new ways to optimize efficiency, and fix issues

before they become problems using these predictive analytics.

Most importantly, what this technology provides for the passenger is exceptional, on-demand service that is far better than other options today. The system is mixed-use and will revolutionize the market for high-priority, palletized goods — such as essential food and medicine.

Imagine, with Virgin Hyperloop we could connect all Gulf cities in less than an hour, powered by zero-emission transport completely unplugged from the grid. A transport system such as this in the region could move close to 45 million passengers per year leveraging solar panels which cover the tube.

We are not just investing in new technologies, we are reinvesting in the next generations and bringing high-tech jobs to the region.

Yes, this is a time of crisis, and certain industries are being hit hard. However, our responsibility to future generations is to take this devastating challenge and turn it around in the light until we see the solutions, the opportunities for a better future. Those who do this, will lead the world of tomorrow.

• Sultan Bin Sulayem is chairman of Virgin Hyperloop and DP World.

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