Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 15 July 2020

CORONAVIRUS

Virgin Hyperloop to collaborate on research with Abu Dhabi's AI university

The agreement further deepens the LA company's ties to the region

A Virgin Hyperloop One XP-1 pod. Bloomberg
A Virgin Hyperloop One XP-1 pod. Bloomberg

Abu Dhabi's Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI) signed a preliminary agreement with Virgin Hyperloop to collaborate on research to develop the futuristic transport system.

“Virgin Hyperloop will change the way we move around the world," Dr Sultan Al Jaber, the university's chairman, said at the virtual signing. "MBZUAI will help enable this by providing access to some of the world’s most talented AI professionals, as well as superior research facilities, which can contribute to realising Virgin Hyperloop’s vision.”

Elon Musk came up with the idea for hyperloop technology in 2013, and challenged engineers to develop a sustainable, high-speed transportation method using low-pressure tube trains. Two Los Angeles companies, Virgin Hyperloop and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, are now racing to make this concept a reality.

The potential of artificial intelligence, which is fundamental to Virgin Hyperloop’s future operations, will form the basis for joint research opportunities between MBZUAI, the world's first graduate-level AI research university, and the company.

Once the technology is ready, Virgin Hyperloop One is aiming to transport passengers at speeds of up to 1,080 kilometres per hour, nearly three times faster than a conventional high-speed rail.

While Virgin Hyperloop is in talks about possible commercial projects in several US states, it has a longstanding presence in the UAE and Middle East.

In March, Saudi Arabia issued a trade licence for the company following a national pre-feasibility study on using hyperloop technology to transport people and goods. The study found a hyperloop would cut the travel time from Riyadh to Jeddah to only 46 minutes.

DP World, the Dubai-based ports operator, and the Abu Dhabi Capital Group are also major investors in the firm, with DP World's chairman and chief executive Sultan Bin Sulayem also serving as chairman of Virgin Hyperloop.

MBZUAI chairman Dr Sultan Al Jaber and Virgin Hyperloop chairman Sultan Bin Sulayemat the virtual signing on Tuesday.
MBZUAI chairman Dr Sultan Al Jaber and Virgin Hyperloop chairman Sultan Bin Sulayemat the virtual signing on Tuesday.

"We can transport people and high-priority goods at the speed of an airliner, moving them between economic zones, cities and emirates," Mr Bin Sulayem said, as he signed the agreement with Dr Al Jaber.

"The UAE’s education sector, through partnerships such as our new collaboration with MBZUAI, will have a meaningful role in enabling and driving this very exciting and growing industry.”

MBZUAI will welcome its inaugural class in January 2021, starting four months later than originally planned as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Graduate students can still apply to MBZUAI through the university’s website to register for the 2021 class.

Updated: June 30, 2020 07:10 PM

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