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Elon Musk invites developers to test prototypes for Hyperloop on one-mile track in Los Angeles
SpaceX, the company that dreamt up a radical transport system that would shoot a compartment full of passengers down a narrow tube using compressed air, is inviting prospective developers to test out prototypes and share designs.
Hyperloop – billed as the “transport of the future” when it was first announced two years ago – aims to cut the journey time from Los Angeles to San Francisco to just 30 minutes. The trip currently takes around six hours by train or one hour and 15 minutes by plane.
Founded by American entrepreneur Elon Musk, SpaceX has announced it will hold a Hyperloop pod competition weekend in June 2016.
In a statement, the company said: “While we are not developing a commercial Hyperloop ourselves, we are interested in helping to accelerate development of a functional Hyperloop prototype.”
In order to aid this development, SpaceX will invite prospective developers to test out prototypes and share their designs for the new transport system at their headquarters in Los Angeles.
Since Musk first unveiled the designs and put SpaceX’s work into the public domain, groups of engineers and university students have been working on Hyperloop technologies.
One such group, Suprastudio, recently released its own white paper, which claimed the new transport system would rival the introduction of the Panama Canal in terms of its scope and impact.
The Hyperloop concept was initially designed in response to the high-speed rail initiative joining up Californian cities San Francisco and Los Angeles that is reported to be the most expensive public works project in US history.
In his white paper, Musk denounced the project as “a bullet train that is both one of the most expensive per mile and one of the slowest in the world”. Once built, the high-speed train will take around three and a half hours to travel from San Francisco to LA.
SpaceX’s designs for a low pressure tube mounted on the central reservation of the interstate highway propose instead to propel passengers between LA and San Francisco at an average speed of 598mph. The technology to make this possible has been described by Musk, according to the Daily Mail as a “cross between a Concorde, a railgun and an air hockey table”.
There have been many critics of Hyperloop since the concept was unveiled. The Economist has questioned Musk’s estimation of costs – which Musk says will be $60bn cheaper than the high speed rail link – saying it was “unlikely to be immune to the hypertrophication of cost” which had beset many other public works.
Russell Brandom, writing for The Verge, claimed the competition announcement does not bring a fully functional Hyperloop any closer, as the test track will be too short to allay concerns about the technology’s safety and cost.