SNV Story No. 2: Swisspod Technologies SA

Imagine traveling eco-friendly from Geneva to Zurich in 17 minutes

Swisspod is a Swiss transportation technology company, founded in 2019, leading the development of the most sustainable, efficient and comprehensive Hyperloop solution that will enhance connectivity between people and cities. In an interview with Gila Cohen Kropf from Swisspod Technologies, we will dive into this fascinating idea and how they will make it happen.

Image caption: Traveling by letter shoot: a sustainable and energy-efficient, high-speed solution

SNV: What is Swisspod Technologies’ vision for the future of transport?

Swisspod: Swisspod is a spin-off of the Hyperloop Competition sponsored by Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Our core mission is to change the way people travel by connecting every major city using sustainable and energy-efficient, high-speed Hyperloop solutions. This new mode of transportation will be subject to minimal operational disruptions as it is not affected by adverse weather conditions. Our Hyperloop system runs in an underground tunnelling infrastructure that is earthquake-resistant, and protected from strong winds and storms, ensuring a smooth traveling experience for passengers on board.

By 2050, we envision a continental Hyperloop network that will facilitate collaboration between cities, accelerate human progress, and create a more prosperous future for generations to come. In Switzerland, a passenger from Geneva will be able to hop on a Hyperloop pod and get off in Zurich in just 17 minutes, whereas today he/she needs to take a 3-hour train or a 1-hour flight.

SNV: Which awards and achievements are you particularly proud of?

Swisspod: Both Swisspod founders, Denis Tudor and Cyril Dénéréaz, have won multiple awards in Hyperloop Competitions organized by SpaceX in the US between 2016 and 2019. These include distinctions for: “Best Design”, “Innovation Award”, “Most Reliable System”, and “3rd place for Speed”. Notably, Swisspod was named by Greentech Festival 2020 as a top 3 European startup for its commitment to sustainability and was selected as a top 3 finalist by the 2020 Swiss BIC of CERN Technologies for its innovation in the mobility sector.

Image caption: Green Tech Festival 2020: Swisspod breaks through as a top 3 European startup

SNV: What makes Swisspod Technologies an exciting employer for you?

Swisspod: From a professional standpoint, the development of pioneering technology, even more so a new mode of transportation, encompasses a complete range of engineering and business disciplines. Hyperloop is one of the most complex engineering innovations in the transportation industry today - a challenge that ties in well with my engineering and business administration expertise as well as my background in aviation safety and security. Swisspod offers the perfect combination of professional engagement and a sense of meaningful purpose. We walk the talk by upholding our commitment to creating value and delivering on our promises to the community most sustainably and efficiently.

From a personal standpoint, it is all about the Swisspod team, our most powerful vehicle for continuous progress. Our incredibly diverse, international, and multicultural team keeps our vibrant working platform active 24/7 by discussing new ideas, comments, and observations. Our guiding principle is ‘everyone is involved in everything’ and we all share the same purpose: to make Hyperloop a reality. Everyone who joins our mission, be it an employee, investor or strategic partner embodies our core values geared towards building a future we all care about.

Image caption: Swisspod’s recipe to success: «everyone is involved in everything»

SNV: Working in a highly innovative market, do standards already exist, or are they being designed simultaneously to the development process?

Swisspod: At the moment, Hyperloop transportation is neither regulated nor standardized, since it is a disruptive technology whose boundaries are yet to be defined. At first glance, operating in a less certain environment may appear discouraging, but in reality, it is one of the most fascinating aspects of working on Hyperloop development. Institutional and industry stakeholders have already launched the process of designing a sound governance structure for this emerging market. This framework will allow the better navigation and alignment of standards with the ongoing technical developments of Hyperloop.

Image caption: Swisspod does not only offer an exciting playground for engineers, but also holds a promise for the future

SNV: What does the standardization roadmap of Swisspod Technologies look like? How do you plan to make Hyperloop a safe mode of transportation?

Swisspod: We want to promote a regulatory framework and the development of technical standards to ensure the operational safety of Hyperloop technology. This would be achieved through the rigorous application of testing, certification, quality management, and continuous process innovation. Our state-of-the-art engineering and R&D efforts promise to deliver the highest quality of Hyperloop design that irons out safety concerns. Therefore, our road map to Hyperloop standardization includes:

  • Developing a standardized Hyperloop functions and systems inventory (technical and commercial)
  • Mapping relevant standards from existing modes of transport, mainly space, aviation, and rail
  • Identifying standards that can be adopted/adapted for Hyperloop purpose (gap analysis)
  • Addressing the missing standard elements required for Hyperloop
  • Work with institutional and industry stakeholders to develop Hyperloop specific standards

Image caption: Hyperloop Competition 2019 with Elon Musk: The EPFL team received multiple awards for their engineering innovation

SNV: As the Head of Risk, Regulations, and Standards, what sort of activities are you carrying out or supervising?

Swisspod: Swisspod’s ultimate mission and responsibility are to ensure safe transport for passengers and cargo. My function evolves around commercial and operational risk identification and mitigation. Regulations and standards play a crucial role in risk mitigation and are essential for Hyperloop engineering and development. Consequently, my immediate priority is developing the regulatory and standardization structure for Hyperloop.

From a standardization point of view, we are working on the business and operational aspects of Hyperloop transport. The ISOlution platform is an interactive tool where stakeholders are working to review, vote and decide on policies, structures, and processes.

These activities include but are not limited to:

  • document reviews, comments for corrections, and/or additional information
  • ballots for proposals
  • suggestions for alternatives and solutions
  • internal discussions and alignments (our engineering team)
  • external discussions and alignments (with other Hyperloop companies, other relevant stakeholders)

Being actively involved in this holistic process, I deliver constructive feedback by the Swisspod team and make sure that they are taken into account. In this way our engineering and standardization processes are aligned.

SNV: Why have you decided to become a member of SNV and what are your benefits out of it?

Swisspod: We believe that industry participation and the creation of a harmonized Hyperloop community are essential to a successful and swift introduction of Hyperloop to the market. Being a member of the SNV enables us access to national and international standards. By having a working environment for “Hyperloop Systems”, we work interactively with other countries and international cooperation is enhanced. This communication tool is very crucial and particularly useful in reinforcing a structured approach during the pandemic when physical meetings are not possible and voting associated with document processing is done interactively on the ISOlutions platform.

Image caption: Standardization is essential to achieve operational excellence and ensure safety of Hyperloop

SNV: Which standards are particularly important for you to follow?

Swisspod: Safety and energy efficiency are our key priorities and therefore in the short-term, we are concentrating on regulation, standards and the development of energy-efficient transportation. Safety regulations will provide the framework for standards which will have a direct impact on the design, testing and certification of Hyperloop.

We are members of the European Commission Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking and the Joint Technical Committee JTC20 on Hyperloop Systems. These platforms host a community of regulators, standardization associations, Hyperloop companies and industry experts. Members focus on the new regulations and standards required for Hyperloop.

SNV: Do you perceive standards as more of an expense item or a revenue opportunity?

Swisspod: Transport safety and energy-efficiency are fundamental elements in achieving future revenue and profitability on an international scale. Established case studies indicate that standardization is essential to achieve operational excellence independent of geography and product variations. A prime example of this is the aviation industry which is highly regulated and standardized - aircraft manufacturers and airlines work from different locations around the globe, yet they speak the same language in terms of standardization.

SNV: Which other companies are developing Hyperloop technologies and how are you working with them?

Swisspod: Within the Hyperloop standardization scope of Shift2Rail and the JTC20, we are working closely with European (Hardt, Nevomo, Zeleros) and North American (Virgin Hyperloop One, Hyperloop Transport Technologies and Transpod) Hyperloop companies. We aspire to stand as a unified front in shaping an industry landscape in which Hyperloop will prosper, therefore our collaboration with these companies extends beyond prescribed meeting structures.

Within the Hyperloop regulatory scope, we have access to the US NETT council (Non-Traditional and Emerging Transportation Technology) publications. The NETT council invites companies to actively participate in and shape the creation of a regulatory framework for Hyperloop and we are thrilled to be part of this initiative in the US.

We are very pleased to be cooperating with all these different stakeholders on the formulation of standards and regulations for the Hyperloop industry. We are convinced that this collaborative approach will bring forward the launch of safe and cutting-edge Hyperloop technologies to the market.

Swisspod Technologies

Swisspod is a Swiss transportation technology company, founded in 2019, leading the development of the most sustainable, efficient and comprehensive Hyperloop solution that will enhance connectivity between people and cities. Swisspod’s pioneering electric system is capable of transporting passengers and cargo faster than a plane and as conveniently as a train – with just a fraction of the environmental footprint. In 2020, Swisspod was named by the Greentech Festival as a top 3 European startup contributing to sustainability and selected by Swiss BIC of CERN Technologies as a top 3 finalist for its innovation in the mobility sector.

Swisspod was founded by two multiple-award winners of the SpaceX Hyperloop Competition, CEO Denis Tudor and CTO Cyril Dénéréaz. Denis is a graduated valedictorian with a BSc in Electrical Engineering, pursuing his Ph.D. in Optimal Hyperloop Design at EPFL- featured in Forbes 30 Under 30 and Ten Outstanding Young People from Europe. Cyril Dénéréaz is a Mechanical Engineering Lead of the EPFL Laboratory of Mechanical Metallurgy (LMM) and a Team Leader at Swiss Air Forces responsible for fighter-jet engine and fuel systems. Swisspod consists of 35 multidisciplinary experts and engineers that share a passion for disrupting high-speed travel.

Hyperloop

Hyperloop is a new electric & land-based mode of transportation that allows for scalable and fast travel between distant cities. It consists of two main elements - the capsule (also called Pod, hence the name Swisspod) and the infrastructure. The autonomous electric Pod travels free of air resistance, through a sealed low-pressure tube at speeds close to the speed of sound (about 1200 km/h!).

Gila Cohen Kropf

Gila Cohen Kropf is an Israeli-Swiss proud mother of two students, living in Switzerland since 1999. She holds a Bachelor of Technology and a MBA with concentration on market research. Gila joined Swisspod with more than 20 years of experience in the aviation industry. She worked for Swissair, Swiss International Air Lines, IATA the International Air Transport Association and for DSV-Panalpina. Her expertise in Risk and Governance covers Safety, Supply Chain Security, Sustainability, Cross-Border Facilitation and Quality. Inspired by Denis Tudor’s, Swisspod’s CEO, interview with CNNMoney Switzerland, she identified the development of Hyperloop as transport’s next big challenge. Her Israeli “Start-Up Nation” approach combined with her “Swissness” found home at Swisspod. As Global Head of Risk, Regulations and Standards, she plans to implement the strict regulatory and standardization frameworks of the aviation industry to ensure that safe and secure high-speed tunnel transport becomes a reality in the near future.

Gila Cohen Kropf

Head of Risk, Regulations, and Standards at Swisspod Technologies SA

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