As we have discussed many times at this blog, the world of transportation technology is undergoing radical and wrenching changes. Almost daily there is news about electric cars, autonomous (driverless) vehicles, drones and even space rocket transportation.
One of the new technologies — and one that we have discussed frequently at this site — is hyperloop. This technology is still in the early development phase, but has the following essential features.
- “Trains” travel along tubes from which the air has been removed. Hence, there is very little air resistance.
- The “trains” are magnetically levitated — they do not actually touch anything — there are no tracks. Hence there is no wheel/rail friction loss.
- The maglev system incorporates linear motors that propel the modules. Hence there are very few moving parts and so there are few internal friction losses.
But, before this new technology can be adopted for general use, we must address the two questions that engineers always ask when starting a new project. They are:
- Will it work? and
- Is it safe?
In order to address the second question we will be presenting a paper at the ‘LoopTransPort’ conference at the University of California in July of this year. The title of the paper is ‘Hyperloop Safety Study’. Details to do with the two day program are available here.
The theme of the paper is that the safety challenges that the hyperloop industry is facing are similar to challenges faced at one time or another by other industries. These include the nuclear power industry, the offshore oil and gas industry and the chemical industries. In spite of the very different nature of the technologies between them, many lessons can be learned from these other industries. The reason for this is that safety is basically a management topic, not a technology issue. Therefore, the safety management practices developed in one industry can often be successfully used in another area.