Remember a few years ago when Elon Musk wanted to build a “hyperloop” system that could allow people to travel from LA to San Francisco in half an hour? His plate was pretty full at the time, so Musk put the idea online in hopes that someone else would follow through.
He won’t be disappointed. Two firms stepped up to manufacture a hyperloop prototype, a design competition is being held at Texas A&M University, and a test track is under construction near SpaceX’s headquarters. (Source: “Hyperloop Race Picks Up Speed,” The Wall Street Journal, January 21, 2016.)
There are a lot of people passionate to bring Musk’s vision into reality.
But first, what is the hyperloop anyways? When Elon Musk first introduced the idea, he vaguely described a pressurized tube that had passengers sit inside a pod. The pod would levitate on a thin stream of air, shooting forward at speeds above 700 miles per hour.
Although the idea has morphed slightly since then, it could still transform the way we travel between cities, states, and maybe even continents.
Battle of the Hyperloop Makers
The first firm to pioneer hyperloop technology could well own the sector, which explains why these two companies are locked in fierce competition.
Hyperloop Technologies, one of the two main rivals, is a quintessential Silicon Valley startup. The company saw an opportunity for disruption and is trying to make its mark on history. It has loft-style offices and a $37.0-million war chest from a recent funding round.
The other company is called Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, which is frustratingly similar. However, this firm is a mishmash of engineers and scientists who have day jobs elsewhere.
Many have invested cash, time, and effort in pursuit of the transformative change that a hyperloop system would bring. They started work on a five-mile test track after first getting it approved by the California state authorities.
However, both firms seem convinced that the first generation of full hyperloop systems will likely be built outside of the United States. There are plenty of governments in the Middle East and Asia that are in dire need of transportation infrastructure and can be more lenient with regulations.
Regardless of where it’s built, the important fact is that Elon Musk’s vision of high-speed transportation seems to be coming alive.
Hyperloop Gets Credibility Bump
The idea of revolutionizing ground travel is so strange to most people that they dismiss it as a pipe dream. Even many engineers and scientists are skeptical of whether or not the project can be pulled off.
After all, even if the technology is perfected, there’s still the small matter of making it financially and politically feasible. What the hyperloop needed was for an established player to lend it some much-needed credibility and that finally happened this week.
SpaceX is building its own test track near the company’s headquarters, so it can hold another design competition (the first competition is this week at Texas A&M). To build the track, SpaceX hired AECOM, a major player in the infrastructure sector.
Sorry haters, there’s very little doubt left that the hyperloop will become a reality.