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Elon Musk’s Hyperloop pod race sees German team zoom to victory (again)

Germany’s Team TUM has finished first at the latest Hyperloop Pod Competition, with its vehicle reaching the fastest speed — 288 mph (463 kph) — along a straight, three-quarter-mile test track.

Designs based on the pods could one day be used for the Hyperloop, a proposed ultra-fast transportation system backed by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk that would use a near-vacuum to propel passenger pods at up to 760 mph (1,223 kph) through tubes above or below ground.

Student engineering teams from around the world are invited to take part in the design competition, which the organizers hope will spur innovation in the pursuit of one day creating the perfect pod to help make a full-fledged Hyperloop system a reality.

For the final round on Sunday, the Technical University of Munich’s Team TUM went up against Delft Hyperloop from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, and two Swiss teams — EPFLoop from École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, and Swissloop from ETH Zurich.

Taking place at the SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, Team TUM reached the fastest speed of the day, falling just 2 mph short of the 290 mph (466 kph) record that it set last year when it went by the name WARR Hyperloop.

The event organizers are yet to post a video of the speed runs, but we’ll add them to the top of this post if and when it becomes available. During its turn, Team TUM’s contraption had sparks and debris flying off it toward the end of the track, according to TechCrunch, though it managed to survive “mostly intact.”

The contest focuses on speed-based technology rather than the interior design of the pod. This means that at the current time, the pods are small — a bobsled is a common comparison — and fitted with battery-powered motor technology to propel the vehicle along the track in a tube that’s depressurized to a near vacuum, similar to the proposed Hyperloop design.

As for the rival efforts, Swissloop could only reach 160 mph (258 kph) while EPFLoop managed 148 mph (238 kph) with its pod. Delft Hyperloop suffered issues that forced it to halt its run a short way along the track, preventing it from clocking a speed.

Following Team TUM’s victory, Elon Musk tweeted that next year’s contest intends to shake things up a bit by using a much longer 6.2-mile (10-kilometer) tunnel that will also feature a curve.

Designed to be a transportation system for the modern age that would leave buses and trains in the dust, the Hyperloop system has garnered much interest from countries around the world. If it one day becomes a viable option for getting around, a Hyperloop journey between, say, San Francisco and Los Angeles would take a mere 30 minutes instead of up to six hours by car.

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