Meet the NYU Shanghai Hyperloop

In 2013, Elon Musk, founder and CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX introduced the term Hyperloop; a high-speed ground transport system. It is a technology that has the capacity to travel 1200 km/hr.  The idea consists of the tubes in which pods travel in have a reduced pressure resulting in less air resistance, which is why the pod can accelerate and attain an extremely high speed. Musk made the design a global challenge “geared towards university students and independent engineering teams” to give the opportunity for everyone who had an interest and innovative ideas to join in. The Shanghai Research Arm of the NYU Hyperloop team, initially with five team members but now a group of fifteen students, took on the challenge to design and research the pod.

The team traveled to Texas to showcase their ideas on SpaceX’s Design Weekend. Unfortunately, the team’s pod design did not make it to the second round. But SpaceX, currently running the design challenge, decided to merge the NYU Tandon School of Engineering and NYU Shanghai team. The New York campus was in charge of the designing and prototyping the Pod, which will be testing in January in the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition, joined by a few NYU Shanghai students. The former NYU Shanghai team is directing research efforts for determining where Hyperloop should first be built as part of the Hyperloop One Global Challenge. 

There were 100 teams that participated in Design Weekend, however, in the second round, there was only enough spots for twenty. After surviving the first round, the Shanghai Research Arm settled on promoting the construction of a Hyperloop tunnel from Shanghai to Hangzhou. Bringing the technology here seemed reasonable because China’s economy has been booming for the last thirty years. But at the same time China needs a revolutionized transportation system to stay in track. The government is expanding cities more than ever with an ambitious urbanization plan for the Twenty-First Century, the “National New Type Urbanization Plan (2014-2020).”

Most of the Chinese population is in rural areas and the government hopes to move about 250 million people to cities in tenyears time. And Shanghai is at the center of it all with an expected population growth of 10.8% in 2020. The urbanization plan contributes to huge inflow of migrants to Shanghai; also because of the hukou reform, now giving migrant workers the right to become urban residents and enjoy equal benefits, the population that lives in rural China has a huge incentive to move to cities. To ensure Shanghai has the potential to sustain the economic growth it has embarked on, China needs to find a way to balance the number of people moving to Shanghai in hopes of finding a better job and opportunities. The Shanghai Research Arm team believes that the Hyperloop technology would help to sustain economic growth by merging two cities, Hangzhou, a city with several manufacturing and start up businesses, and Shanghai, the financial center of China. The team did a rigorous investigation of current cargo and passenger flow, economic and political policies, population and economic growth in hopes to convince SpaceX to bring their technology here to China.

One of the major challenges Shanghai Research Arm faced was translating a document that is written in Chinese–since translating is a skill that requires understanding the topic really well. Finding unbiased information on Chinese economic and political policy posed a difficulty as well. Nonetheless the team has managed to use all of its resources–sometimes meeting the authors in person to get evidence that will support their plan. The Shanghai Research Arm has submitted its work and is now waiting for the results.

This article was written by Honey Asrat Lera. Please send an email to [email protected] to get in touch.
Photo Credit: Honey Asrat Lera

Author: Honey Asrat Lera

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