Hyperloop pod reaches fastest speed yet in Elon Musk’s latest contest

The Hyperloop has a need for speed and a team of students from the Technical University of Munich is providing it.

At the third SpaceX pod contest on Sunday, Germany’s WARR Hyperloop team pulled off a hat-trick of wins for the fastest self-propelled pod ride by taking its design to an impressive 290 mph (466 kph).

As well as beating its own previous best of 201 mph, WARR’s effort also smashed the existing Hyperloop speed record set by Virgin Hyperloop in December, when its pod hit 240 mph. It posted a video (below) of the winning ride on Twitter.

WARR faced off against more than 15 rivals from around the world, including second-place Delft Hyperloop from the Netherlands, and third-place EPFLoop from Switzerland. Technical difficulties scuppered both teams’ chances of victory, leaving Delft Hyperloop with a top speed of 88 mph, while EPFLoop’s effort reached only 53 mph.

The teams’ unmanned vehicles were sent along a 0.8-mile (1.5 km) ground-level test track at the SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk first proposed the Hyperloop idea for an ultra-fast transportation system five years ago, and since then he’s been using the regular contests to give students the opportunity to develop the pods.

If the ambitious plan one day becomes a viable transportation option, it’ll carry people inside a near-vacuum environment at speeds of up to 760 mph. At that rate, a journey between Los Angeles and San Francisco would take a mere half hour as opposed to six hours by car.

While several firms are currently working on developing the track technology for the Hyperloop, it is engineering students who are being encouraged to design the pods that passengers could one day ride in. WARR is making serious progress, as its first effort scored it a speed win at the debut contest in January 2017, when its design reached just 58 mph.

In another indication of how the pod technology is advancing, this latest contest was also the first where teams no longer had the option to propel their pod with a so-called “pusher” vehicle, meaning that all the pods had to be self-propelled.

Musk made an appearance at Sunday’s event, taking time to encourage the participants and congratulate the winners. He commented that the skill and ingenuity displayed by those taking part in the contest “kinda blows my mind.”

A number of countries are interested in using the Hyperloop technology for domestic transportation projects. Talks are already taking place with two of the biggest companies that have ambitions for developing large-scale Hyperloop systems, namely Virgin Hyperloop and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies.

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