Marvin Ammori, General Counsel, Hyperloop One, speaks to TRENDS about the sustainability of future mobility while keeping in mind the fast moving technology and ongoing transformations.
How everybody is talking about new innovative concepts that are shaping the transportation sector. Hyperloop is one of the most revolutionary concepts of all. How do you look at the future of mobility globally as well as in this region?
Mobility is one of the areas that are going through massive disruptions right now. If we look at the pace in which things are developing in this sector, there would be many revolutionary changes in the next 10 to 15 years from now.
The way people will get around will be completely different as compared to how it is happening today. They won’t be driving perhaps. They will be going around in autonomous vehicles, there will be vertical take-off and landing planes, people might have their personal drones and they will travel in them. Well that is all on the consumer side and of course my view is that the one backbone or one central force stitching all of these elements together will be Hyperloops — connecting people from city to city and from region to region.
From the consumer side, it sounds very interesting, as there will be many advancements. But how things will develop on the logistics side?
Now on the logistics side, the way in which your Amazon package gets delivered will totally change, also the way your shoes get assembled — all of that is going to change. And if you look at our company, we have already started working in this direction by doing extensive research and developing new software and hardware. We are very serious toward evolving logistics infrastructure in a very hassle-free manner and so far results are encouraging.
In fact some of the biggest companies are also interested in the logistics sector, like one of the biggest investors is DP world, right here in Dubai. And these companies see a clear transformation in how goods are moved, for example right now the things are on the ship, there is a container, then they are moved via trucks — all of this is going to change drastically. We are going to have autonomous trucks and even the containers on the ship might actually change into some other futuristic smart concept. And certainly, the rate of change may increase too in the next 10-15 years. We are very optimistic about this.
So a big transformation is anticipated in the coming years. According to you, how it will affect the social fabric of the cities and societies?
This is almost like early internet days. However, once one or two of these new things hit the market, there will be more number of novel concepts, which you cannot even predict at this point of time, that would happen. Like you will have autonomous vehicles and connected Hyperloops — these are the things that will change the cities and also the way the cities are designed.
Soon we will have new idea of cities, like a city of factories, rather than a mere residential city. You will have a new kind of suburbs where you can live in one area and shop in another in a very smart manner. And advanced transportation is set to play a big role in transforming our cities and future.
Can you give one example of how this will change the common man’s life?
Let me give you one example. There are places where you can go for weekends now — you may drive two to three hours out on Friday, then come back (next day) and you might spend the remaining weekend home. But if you are in an autonomous vehicle that has a comfortable sleeper facility, you can drive seven hours away or eight hours away overnight, reach a place that is out of your usual zone of weekend holiday at this time. And if you have Hyperloops connecting such places, wonderful things will be possible. You can then live in the New York City and you can come to Washington DC everyday for work.
Technology is playing a crucial role in making all this reality. If we talk about the concept of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, what would you say are the cutting edge technologies that will facilitate in this journey?
For this, I will give you two examples — one will be an actual technology example and other will be an example of a process.
So, in terms of actual technology — you couldn’t have built a Hyperloop even 10-20 years ago because you did not know about the software, the process, the power of data, the sensors — you didn’t have any of that.
You really really sophisticated computer systems to keep the Hyperloop on its magnetic wave and to make sure that it is controlled properly. You need very complicated computer systems to make sure that it’s almost like the air traffic control, where one should know very precisely where to go and where not. You need sensors to scan through all the information that you are getting as rapidly as possible and make sure it is safe and efficient. You need stimulation software so that you can actually stimulate a lot of the testing and can design much more quickly than the process of developing a prototype. This all was not possible if technology was not this developed. For example in case of gauging an impact of a car crash, if you had thought about what was happening 30 years ago — you had to actually put dummies in the car and then crash them. This must be done to find out the degree of fatality. However, today, with the help of technology, you can actually design a software and come out with accurate conclusions.
Besides, on the process side, it is about the way we build the hardware is influenced by the way softwares have been developed. We have a software model adopting the hardware very quickly today. You can design it on computers, you test it on the systems and you can trust the final results. This kind of process allows you to design and build much perfectly and much more inexpensively in terms of capital. The process from the software innovation side that the world has learnt from the Silicon Valley is actually being used in a lot of industries.
If we talk about this region, Dubai and Saudi Arabia are doing a lot of new things when it comes to transport, for example a Hyperloop is expected to come up between Abu Dhabi and Dubai that will reduce a nearly two-hour journey to just 15 minutes. How do you look at this region?
Let us be very clear that Dubai-Abu Dhabi route hasn’t been finalized yet, but my company is betting very big on this region. You know, we see a lot of potential in Dubai, especially because we are spending a lot of time here.
We are very sure that Dubai is going to be the future accelerator. We have three offices, one in Los Angles — the main engineers’ office, the second in Nevada — where we have a test site and the third is here in Dubai. This clearly shows that this region is an important one for us and we are pursuing some serious initiatives here.
I read books like Leadership Dubai Style, and I am familiar with the way authorities work here. Our team has also done good work here — so what do we see here? We see a lot of different ways to partner with emerging businesses in the Middle East. Existing opportunities are really exciting.
Recently we were talking about emerging businesses in the region, and pretty much everything that was discussed, was related to equal systems, talent pipelines and meaningful partnerships. We see a lot of forward thinking in the government and we look forward to more collaborations. In fact, we will be as much a Dubai company as much an American company. If it was some other part of the world, we would have operated differently.
Saudi Arabia is experiencing many new things under the dynamic leadership of Prince Salman. From allowing women to drive to establishing smart cities — the country is moving ahead quickly. How do you look at the Kingdom from the business point of view?
We hope to extend our business there. We have been a part of various national level events in the Kindgom in the past few years. We are planning some more meetings with the leadership and the decision makers in the country. The smart city NEOM is a big project and we would like to see how we can contribute in this project. So yes, it is a big market for us and we are very much interested in collaborations there.