Hyperloop security

The Hyperloop is a new mode of transportation offering high-speed travel with minimal energy consumption. As for any transportation mode, the safety of the passenger is of paramount importance. The safety of the passenger can be guaranteed by looking at both the safety and security of the system. The safety system looks at the protection against hazards and dealing with accidents. Security deals with protection against threats and deliberate acts. This article will discuss the security in and around the Hyperloop infrastructure. The main challenges concerning security will be discussed. Furthermore, several security measures will be reviewed.

Challenges

Hyperloop tube: The European Hyperloop network stretches for many thousands of kilometres. These tubes are a critical part of the Hyperloop system and the security of the tubes is vital to operations. The challenge consists of ensuring cost-effective security along the entire length.

Turn-up-and-go system: The Hyperloop, as envisioned by most parties, uses a turn-up-and-go system. This system is based on paying for a trip rather than a seat, and being able to board a pod to a destination within minutes upon arrival. This offers freedom and flexibility to the passengers. However, security checks of passengers and baggage reduce this freedom by imposing extra waiting time before travelling with the Hyperloop. A balance needs to be found between long queues and the required security level at stations to ensure a well-functioning and safe turn-up-and-go system whereby the passenger flow is optimized.

Station security level: The last decade saw an increase in security measures implemented in airports around the globe. The new security measures resulted in different security levels for airports and railway stations. The safety ambition of the Hyperloop is similar to that of aviation. However, Stewart & Mueller (2014) concluded that the probability of airport threats does not justify the implemented security measures when making a cost-benefit analysis. Therefore, the security level of both airports and railway stations need to be considered when deciding what safety measures to implement in the Hyperloop.

Security measures

Now that the security issues of Hyperloop infrastructure have been discussed, a closer look can be taken at the security measures. The key factors that contribute to a reliable and consistent security system are technology, procedures and training (Setola et al., 2015). A combination of these three factors needs to be applied to the Hyperloop security system for it to be effective. The following security measures are an example of what can be implemented:

  • Passenger and luggage screening: The screening of passengers and baggage before entering a mode of transportation is a security measure present in almost all airports. The screening prevents dangerous or illegal objects from boarding the plane. The level of passenger and baggage screening increases security but also increases costs and waiting times. A compromise needs to be found that is feasible for implementation in the Hyperloop
  • Identity document checks: The Hyperloop is a mode of transportation whereby multiple borders are crossed during trips, therefore passengers have the obligation to identify themselves. As a result, identity documents have to be checked before entering a Hyperloop pod.
  • Security staff: Screening of passengers, checking identity documents and other security measures are only possible with trained staff and proper procedures. The Hyperloop security officers will be in charge of checking passengers and baggage. Moreover, they monitor stations and tubes, and will intervene during a potential threat. A trade-off  needs to be made between costs and improvement of security to determine the size of the security staff. Moreover, the tasks of the security staff needs to be reviewed to see what tasks can be automated.
  • Long-range thermal cameras: The Hyperloop tubes are placed above and underground. To minimize above ground threats to the infrastructure, the tubes will be monitored using long-range thermal cameras with a range of hundreds of meters.
  • CCTV at stations: Closed-circuit television (CCTV) enables constant and real-time monitoring of Hyperloop stations. Potential threats can be identified and security staff can intervene if necessary.

Conclusion

The security of the Hyperloop system is a complex topic. The complexity originates from the trade-off between security and passenger discomfort. The Hyperloop concept requires a constant passenger flow for the turn-up-and-go system to function properly. The security measures inside the Hyperloop station need to reach the required security level while at the same limit the disruption of the passenger flow. Moreover, cost-effective security measures need to be implemented along the tubes to protect them against external threats.

Setola, R., Sforza, A., Vittorini, V., & Pragliola, C. (2015). Railway Infrastructure Security, volume 27. Springer.

Stewart, M. G. &Mueller, J. (2014). Cost-benefit analysis of airport security: Are airports too safe? Journal of Air Transport Management, 35, 19–28.

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