For Elon Musk’s ambitious Hyperloop project, this year looks all set to be its most significant to date. Plans for not one, not even two, but three test tracks from different companies have already been made public, while on Saturday a student team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) triumphed in a contest looking for the best pod designs that could one day transport passengers between Los Angeles and San Francisco in just 35 minutes.
A total of 124 engineering teams from more than 100 universities across 20 countries took part in the keenly fought competition on Friday and Saturday at Texas A&M University.
Boston-based MIT’s winning design comprises a 250 kg (551 lb) passenger pod capable of hurtling along the proposed Hyperloop tube at speeds of up to 750 mph, its magnetic levitation system keeping it 15mm above the track as it hurtles between the two cities. Read more about it at hyperloop.mit.edu.
MIT’s winning team, along with 21 others selected for their impressive pod designs, must now attract funding to build their human-scale prototypes, which – and here’s the really exciting bit – they’ll get to test out later this year on a one-mile test track being constructed close to Musk’s SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California.
The entrants were judged on a variety of criteria, including “innovation and uniqueness of design; full Hyperloop system applicability and economics; level of design detail; strength of supporting analysis and tests; feasibility for test tract competition; and quality of documentation and presentation,” Texas A&M University said on its website.
The judges responsible for examining the myriad of design proposals included representatives from Texas A&M University, and SpaceX, as well as from Musk’s other company, Tesla.
Despite dreaming up the futuristic Hyperloop system, Elon Musk and his SpaceX team is more focused on marketing the project and encouraging other interested companies to take it forward rather than becoming too heavily involved itself.
The tech billionaire, who first spoke of his Hyperloop idea three years ago, turned up unannounced at the contest’s climax on Saturday, the surprise appearance reportedly receiving an ecstatic response from the 1,000 or so student engineers in attendance.
Addressing the competitors, Musk said, “I’m starting to think this is really gonna happen,” adding, “It’s clear that the public and the world wants something new, and I think you guys are going to bring it to them.”