When you hear this, it is easy to think it’s a pretty crazy idea. How else would you describe those who think they can transport dozens of people from Milan to Rome in just half an hour? And yet Bibop G. Gresta’s project is already (well, almost) a reality: a train – sorry, capsule – that travels through an airless, frictionless tube and can reach speeds of around 760 miles an hour, even exceeding the speed of sound.
And this isn’t science-fiction; on the 20 October he presented his capsule prototype, created on behalf of Elon Musk. It is called Hyperloop and, to begin with, it will allow people to travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco, covering in roughly half an hour the same distance between Rome and Milan.
Let’s start from the beginning, when “Bipop” – a nickname that makes you think of the musical genre – was just Gabriele growing up between Terni, Tuscany and Milan in the seventies and eighties. With his passion for computers, rebellious spirit and open mind, at the age of 15, he was already the director of software development at the Italian division of Alpha Center (an American company). In the past, Gresta even worked as a TV writer for the Italian version of MTV.
Not bad, even if these have nothing to do with investments made in the last ten years. For some time, Gresta has lived in California, where he met Musk and, for four years, has headed Hyperloop Tranportation Technologies, the company chosen by the Paypal magnate to develop his latest visionary project: an ultra-high-speed transport system which, unlike previous attempts (remember the mega-expensive Concorde?), has a sustainable impact on the environment and is affordable for middle-class people.
Gresta is the leader of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies and dreams of enabling passengers to travel at the speed of sound; 760 miles an hour
With Gresta’s model, Hyperloop will achieve exactly that: a capsule that breaks the sound barrier, produces more energy than it uses, is supplied by solar panels, is available at an even lower price than a train, and is very safe. To those who ask him if there is anything to be afraid of boarding such a machine, Gresta replies that yes, we should be afraid of the means we take to reach the capsule, but certainly not of Hyperloop itself: “This system will be ten times safer than any other; you should be much more afraid of a car or an aeroplane”.
With his round glasses, chestnut-brown hair and slick way with words, Gresta is talking to some of the world’s leading figures: as well as Musk, he has met with David Cameron, Angela Merkel, rich Qataris and emirs from Dubai, who have commissioned a 90-mile section for the 2020 Expo.
For the moment, nothing is happening in Italy. But if we have to see it to believe it (and eventually invest), we won't have to wait long.