This year saw many firsts in the travel sector, making travel faster, more sustainable and better in many ways. During our Smarter Travel Spotlight series we celebrated some of these accomplishments and looked to the future to see what travel could look like in years to come.
With Virgin Hyperloop One's CTO Josh Giegler as our guest editor, we explored many different parts of the future of travel. But what did we learn?
Hyperloop is something engineers dream of
Josh explained that the speed at which they are working to build the hyperloop system means that their team could achieve something most engineers can only dream of.
"How are we able to deliver this technology in such a short period of time? It reminds me of one of my favourite Einstein quotes, "The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education." It is no coincidence that our Test and Development hub sits right next to where cross-disciplinary design engineers are housed, separated only by a kitchen where employees from across the company mingle everyday for lunch. Some of our best ideas have come from late night whiteboard sessions, where we put our "team building" refrigerator to good use. The recognition that the builders and the tradesmen are just as important as the engineers, and that an aerospace engineer could perhaps have an unconventional civil infrastructure solution is what allowed us to rapidly and creatively integrate our solution.
"The dream of most engineers is to build something that no one has ever built before, something inspiring and something that will be here long after we aren’t. The goal is daunting, the challenge humbling but the reward of success is worth the sacrifice. We’re not building something just for us but for our children’s children. We owe them a future they deserve just like we live in the world as the Wright brothers envisioned over 100 years ago. We’re overdue for a seismic shift in transportation and hyperloop can be it.
"Roman roads, Spanish ships, the steam engine, the railroad, the internet - all spurred unprecedented economic growth. Those have led us inexorably here - to the fourth industrial revolution. What you notice about each of those is that they are a form of connection - whether digital or physical - each one a higher speed improvement over the last. The future demands that we build a physical connection to meet our ever growing needs - Hyperloop is the 21st century solution to the 21st century need for high-speed connection. Making travel fast, efficient, safe, effortless - it’s perhaps the greatest use of time, and creation of time, on earth. That’s why we spend ours creating it."
Flying is set to become more sustainable
This year, Virgin Atlantic completed their first flight powered by LanzaTech's sustainable jet fuel created from waste gases. Richard Branson met the plane on its arrival in the UK, he said:
"I was so proud to marshall the 747 into Gatwick and thank our team and customers for being a part of making aviation history. There was rapturous applause from the passengers and the crew – I could tell everyone was as excited as I was by the enormous potential of this new technology.
"Reducing carbon is a major priority at Virgin Atlantic – we’ve already taken a number of steps to reduce CO2 emissions, but this flight is a huge step in making this new technology a mainstream reality. There is no immediate replacement for long haul travel – and this technology is ready now and would have a significant impact on our carbon footprint.
"The LanzaTech process is so exciting because this fuel takes waste, carbon-rich gases that would otherwise go up the chimneys of steel and aluminium mills and gives them a second life – so that new fossil fuels don’t have to be taken out of the ground. It's incredible that the factories can make the steel for the planes and then the waste product can be used to power the plane. This is a great opportunity for UK industry as it supports our steel mills while also decarbonising them. "
Travel doesn't have to be stressful
"I’m feeling very Zen after enjoying the world’s first dedicated meditation flight with Virgin Australia. In partnership with app-based mindfulness platform, Smiling Mind, we soared above the Sydney skyline meditating at 30,000 feet.
"It was all to encourage people to use some of their flight time to practice meditation. We now have Smiling Mind’s app on our Virgin Australia in-flight entertainment system.
"Virgin Australia has also launched a new way for anxious people with our airline before flying. But meditation isn’t just useful for nervous flyers – it is for everyone. I’m new to meditation, but my son Sam practices it regularly and I am a huge believer in the benefits of looking after your mind as well as your body."