Set faces to fun, because one company trying to bring Elon Musk’s ambitious dream of a high-speed passenger transit system to life is one step closer to reality. Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT), based in Florida, has announced that it has filed a construction permit to begin building its first test track, located in Quay Valley, California.
Hyperloop, for those of you not yet living in the future with the rest of us, was an idea unveiled by SpaceX and Tesla CEO Musk back in 2012. It involves using vacuum-sealed tubes to move passenger pods at incredibly high speeds, up to 1,225 kilometers per hour (760 mph). This could supposedly take people from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 30 minutes.
Musk, though, did not want to work on the concept himself; he simply released a design document to the public for others to develop. And that they did, with two companies – HTT, and the confusingly similarly named Hyperloop Technologies – both announcing they would build test tracks, in California and Nevada respectively.
“After over two and a half years of research and development our team has reached another important milestone,” said Dirk Ahlborn, CEO of HTT, in a statement. “This will be the world’s first passenger-ready Hyperloop system.”
The 8-kilometer (5-mile) test track is to be built alongside California’s I-5 freeway, from which everyone “will be able to see our activities,” according to Ahlborn. The company is expecting to have the test track ready to go by 2017, with a public opening in 2018. It’s not clear if this Hyperloop will transport passengers, though, or if it will just test its capabilities with unmanned pods.
If construction is approved, HTT plans to first study the ground to see where the pylons that support the tube will be placed. This will be followed by “mapping procedures with drone technology” to work out the best position for the tube, which will be placed under intense strain by the high-speed pods.
This is just one in a number of exciting Hyperloop developments that at least fill us with some hope of seeing Hyperloop become a reality. Next week, SpaceX and Hyperloop Technologies are starting a two-day pod design competition at Texas A&M University, with a $50,000 (£35,000) prize, while the latter is already building its own track in Nevada.
Of course, this is all in a very early stage at the moment, so don’t expect to be jumping into a Hyperloop pod from San Francisco to Los Angeles any time soon. But this latest development is exciting, nonetheless. The future really is now.