It's an interesting time for Virgin Hyperloop One, which saw one of its board members arrested on fraud and embezzlement charges in Russia last week and three other high-profile directors departing the board, according to Bloomberg. But that hasn't stopped the futuristic-transport startup from showing off its latest pod prototype, first for the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and now for the rest of us via the video above.
The charges faced by Russian billionaire and board member Ziyavudin Magomedov are reportedly unrelated to Virgin Hyperloop One, and he is appealing the arrest. The company declined to comment on the charges.
Following the arrest, the list of board members on the company's website was updated. Magomedov is still listed, but gone are Jim Messina, former adviser to Barack Obama, X Prize founder Peter Diamandis and former Morgan Stanley exec Jim Rosenthal. In their place are new board members Bill Shor, Yuvraj Narayan of shipping company DP World and Anatoly Braverman of Russia's sovereign wealth fund.
Ryan Kelly, a spokesman for Virgin Hyperloop One, said the changes have been in the works for a while. Both Messina and Diamandis remain shareholders and supporters of the project, he said, while Rosenthal left the board to focus on his new cybersecurity startup.
"The new board appointments reflect the changes made when Sir Richard Branson became chairman and the company raised new investment at the end of the last year," Kelly said. "They are not related in any way to Mr. Magomedov's recent arrest."
Virgin founder Richard Branson remains at the top of the company as chair of the board, and he was on hand to show off the company's latest Hyperloop pod design this week to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz.
Saudi Arabia is one of a number of locales exploring the feasibility of installing a Hyperloop system with the help of Virgin or competitor Hyperloop Transportation Technologies.
The company claims a route from Riyadh to Jeddah could reduce the travel time from 10 hours to 76 minutes, while extending beyond national borders to Abu Dhabi could turn an 8.5 hour trip to just 48 minutes.
Hyperloop as a concept was brought into the public consciousness by SpaceX and Tesla founder, who open-sourced a white paper on the near-supersonic tube transport back in 2013. He continues to work on the technology through the efforts of Tesla and his tunnel-digging startup,
The video from Virgin above appears to show a full-size pod prototype on an enclosed test track at the company's test facility in Nevada. How fast it's going is hard to say.
So far, or roughly a third of the speed it hopes to eventually achieve.
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