RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Crowds gathered outside RTP’s Frontier campus today to get a sneak peek at what the future of mass transit might look like — in just a little under a decade.

Spoiler alert: it looks like one giant, enclosed white pod.

Virgin Hyperloop One — Richard Branson’s transportation tech company that is working to commercialize the high-speed concept called the Hyperloop — hauled its Experimental Pod-1 (XP-I) onto the parking lot on Friday, as part of its multi-stop national roadshow.

Hyperloop’s marketing project manager Sarah Lawson was on hand to give passersby the low-down on the pod, described on a placard out front as “akin to the Wrights’ Flyer, which ushered in a new transportation age.”

Hyperloop’s Experimental Pod-1 (XP-I) parked on RTPs Frontier campus on Friday.

The first-generation vehicle uses magnetic levitation and electric propulsion to glide swiftly through an enclosed, low-pressure tube, holds up to 27 people – and can go up to 600 miles per hour.

“You can imagine connecting Raleigh to Durham and Chapel Hill — those travel times with Hyperloop would be under 10 minutes,” she told those who stopped to take selfies next to the stationed vehicle.

Hyperloop is aiming to be safety certified by 2024.

“That’s our big next step — building a longer test track, achieving higher speeds and proving to the U.S. government that it’s safe,” added Lawson. “In terms of passenger operations, you could be riding Hyperloop in North Carolina  in 2029.”

Hyperloop’s marketing project manager Sarah Lawson explains the latest technology.

But how safe is it?

“We get asked that a lot,” she said. “It’s going to be one of the safest forms of mass transportation. It’s fully autonomous. There’s no human error.”

Kevin Hines, 59, from Apex, was among those who came out to catch a glimpse.

“It doesn’t look like much sitting here, but I understand the concept,” he said. “I’d definitely take a ride in it, for sure, if I could.”

Brian Lopez, 23, a computer programmer who works in RTP, also stopped by.

“Why not? I take a lunch break and see something that potentially affects RTP,” he said. “It’s cool technology. The numbers that they’re saying do I terms of cost efficiency and speeds are interesting. I’m still just not sure how it’s going to impact my life.”

How to make Durham-to-Chapel Hill a 10-minute commute? Think hyperloop