Hyperloop's first track could be built in Dubai

Hyperloop One explains Middle East plans
Hyperloop One explains Middle East plans

Dubai is surging ahead in the race to build the fastest mass transit network on the planet.

The city is exploring possible routes for the first ever Hyperloop, a high-speed transportation system that uses a pipeline to carry passengers and goods in levitating capsules.

"[Dubai] is our number one priority so we will do everything to make that happen," said Hyperloop One CEO Rob Lloyd, speaking after signing the company's first commercial deal with local transport authorities.

Hyperloop One is also considering the feasibility of building tracks in other countries, including Russia, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the U.K.

But Dubai now has a head start and its first passenger track could be operating by 2021.

One of the routes being considered -- between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates -- is 102 miles and typically takes more than an hour by car. Hyperloop would cut that journey time to just 12 minutes.

hyperloop pod
What the inside of a Hyperloop pod may look like

Dubai is home to the world's busiest international airport. Using Hyperloop, passengers could be in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, within 48 minutes, and Doha, the capital of Qatar, in 23 minutes.

"As the central global transport hub, pursuing the implementation of a Hyperloop in the UAE makes sense," Lloyd said.

Related: The Hyperloop dream just got one step closer to reality

Here's how it works: Electric propulsion moves a capsule, or autonomous vehicle, along the pipe in a low pressure environment, to reach speeds of at least 740 miles per hour -- unprecedented for a ground-based system.

In May, Hyperloop One had its first public test of its acceleration technology and announced that it had raised $80 million in new funding.

Dubai's DP World, the world's third largest port operator, has also invested $50 million and is already working with Hyperloop One on a cargo track planned for 2020.

The Hyperloop: 11 things to know

The technology is being developed in the United States but the plan is to marry that innovation with the transport routes in the United Arab Emirates, and eventually the Gulf region.

"Demonstrate the prototype, have a viable idea, then have the discussion about how to finance it, how to regulate it but we can prove it works. This is the show me technology and were going to show the world," Lloyd told CNNMoney.

Hyperloop is the vision of Elon Musk, the man behind Tesla and SpaceX, who made the technology patent-free in a bid to encourage international scientific collaboration around the futuristic concept.

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