Back in 2013, Elon Musk detailed his vision for a futuristic mode of transportation called the hyperloop. Musk graciously shared his research with the public, because he had no intention of developing the invention – but that’s all changing now. Last month the Tesla Inc. CEO revealed that he received “verbal government approval” to build a hyperloop that can transport passengers between New York and Washington D.C. in a mere 29 minutes – and according to a confidante, Musk is planning to build the entire hyperloop system himself — from the physical infrastructure to the tube-encased train.
The news came as a shock to startups that have been developing Hyperloops to Musk’s specifications. After all, Musk holds a trademark for the “Hyperloop” through SpaceX which could be used to prevent other companies from building them, according to U.S. public records.
Musk acknowledges that his vision is now a direct threat to other start-ups which have raised hundreds of millions from venture backers. However, he is not discouraging other companies from developing underground tunnels. Musk said in a statement, “While we’re encouraged that others are making some progress, we would like to accelerate the development of this technology as fast as possible. We encourage and support all companies that wish to build Hyperloops and we don’t intend to stop them from using the Hyperloop name as long as they are truthful.’’
Among the three startups that publicly welcomed Musk’s involvement was Hyperloop One, whose chairman is Shervin Pishevar. Pishevar said on Wednesday that the company recently completed a second phase testing in Nevada, where a pod reached speeds of 192 miles per hour and traveled a distance of 1,433 feet. The company’s ultimate goal is to match Musk’s plan for the hyper loop to travel 700 mph. “It’s going to take many, many brilliant minds and commitment from many people to push it forward,” said Pishevar. “I’m a huge believer in him.”
Related: Elon Musk-inspired Hyperloop Hotel could be the future of travel
Musk and SpaceX have a huge advantage over other companies striving to develop a high-speed hyperloop. Not only does SpaceX own @Hyperloop on Twitter, it also owns the website Hyperloop.com. SpaceX was also granted registration for the Hyperloop trademark in April. For this reason, other start-ups are considering adopting a new company name whilst utilizing Musk’s plans — or improving upon them.
For now, Musk is focused on bringing the hyperloop to the East Coast whereas competitors are honing in on different regions. While it is more than likely the companies will find agreeable ways to coexist, all bets are off now that Elon Musk and his team are part of the race.
Images via Shutterstock, Linkedin, TED
How do you make the tube over long distances strong enough to contain a vacuum? What material do you make it out of that is light enough, cheap enough and strong enough to contain a vacuum? How much would the material cost and weigh? What happens if the tube depressurizes? How do you stop all the capsules in the tube being destroyed by the change in pressure in the event of an accident? How do you contain depressurisation and repressurize? How to you provide a means of escape for passengers in a vacuum tube several hundred miles long? This is all fantasy and people are eating it up. Maybe Musk has a solution that no one has thought of. It makes great science fiction, but the science and engineering make it seem impossible.