Elon Musk's Vision Of A Supersonic Transit System Inches Closer To Reality

By Kim Bussing on March 12, 2017

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Photo Credit: Hyperloop Tech

In August 2013, billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk released a 57-page white paper concept for Hyperloop — a supersonic mass transit system between high-traffic cities that lie within short distances. The founder of Tesla Motors and SpaceX envisioned it to be a frictionless system where pods inside low-pressure, vacuum-sealed tubes would transport passengers and cargo at up to 760 miles an hour — approximately the speed of sound. Powered by solar energy, it would be strong enough to withstand extreme weather and earthquakes.

The entrepreneur believed that the affordable transit system, which would drastically shorten travel times (the current six-hour trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco would be reduced to 35 minutes), would afford harried commuters a better lifestyle. In addition to saving precious time traveling, it would also allow them to live in an area of their choice, rather than one close to the work.

Image Credit: Delft University

While Musk made it clear that he was too busy to undertake the task of creating Hyperloop, he hoped his blueprint would inspire others. He was not disappointed! His vision spurred both entrepreneurs and students into action. In June 2015, to enable high school and university students to showcase their ideas, SpaceX announced a multi-stage Hyperloop Pod Competition.

At the initial round in early 2016, 115 finalists, selected from over 1,200 submissions from around the world, presented their ideas to a panel of experts. Thirty teams with the most promising concepts were asked to build prototypes and invited to compete at the “Hyperloop Pod Competition I” in Hawthorne, California from January 27 to 29, 2017.

Delft University’s pod making its way through the Hyperloop Track (Photo Credit SpaceX)

The twenty-seven models (three teams were unable to meet the deadline) built primarily by university students from six countries were first put through rigorous structural tests, outdoor runs, and a vacuum chamber test. After these, only three were deemed suitable and allowed to run through the 1-mile Hyperloop test track built by SpaceX.

Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands received the highest overall score for its green and white, 14.7 feet long, prototype that housed miniature passengers, including one named Elon. Though the pod was unable to complete the track, the judges were very impressed with the team’s ability to achieve a sleek design without compromising on safety and efficiency.

MIT received the prize for safety and reliability (Photo Credit: MIT.edu)

Technical University of Munich’s entry, Warr Hyperloop, the only one to reach the end of the test tunnel, took home the award for the fastest run. According to team member Marianna Avezum, it was the group's decision to disable the magnets and use wheels to reduce friction that helped achieve the speed. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology team, which won for best design at the primary contest in 2016, went home with the award for safety and reliability.

Though successful, the pods, which only managed to reach speeds of between 56 — 58 mph, have a long way to go to achieve Musk’s desired 760 mph. SpaceX is now challenging new and returning teams to step it up at the “Hyperloop Pod Competition II.” Scheduled for this summer, it will focus purely on maximum speed.

Technical University of Munich’s Warr Hyperloop was the only one to complete the loop (Photo Credit: Warr Hyperloop via Facebook)

This is not the only effort underway to bring Musk’s radical idea to fruition. Privately funded startups Hyperloop One and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) are also trying their best to be the first to create the lightning fast transit system. On March 7, Hyperloop One unveiled “DevLoop,” a 1.8-mile long full-scale prototype track built in North Las Vegas, Nevada that will test both track and pod systems within a few months. Meanwhile, HTT is forging plans to build a network of routes in Europe, connecting Vienna, Bratislava, and Budapest. Given all these efforts to make Hyperloop a reality, it’s very likely that supersonic travel is in our near future!

Resources: spacex.com digitaltrends.com, endgadget.com, dailymail.co.uk, newatlas.com

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  1. What is Hyperloop?
  2. How will it help commuters?

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“According to team member Marianna Avezum, it was group's decision to disable magnets and use wheels to reduce friction that helped achieve the speed.”

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182 Comments
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  • brianMonday, March 20, 2017 at 5:13 pm
    awsome
    • dudeMonday, March 20, 2017 at 3:46 pm
      cool
      • Happy Monday, March 20, 2017 at 3:46 pm
        Amazing!
        • coderme
          codermeMonday, March 20, 2017 at 1:53 pm
          Wow! One step closer to our typical vision of the future!
          • Tricky Monday, March 20, 2017 at 1:50 pm
            had very good info and was intresting
            • huddyMonday, March 20, 2017 at 1:43 pm
              #sowanttorideone
              • huddyMonday, March 20, 2017 at 1:43 pm
                well sort of
                • Miracle Monday, March 20, 2017 at 12:39 pm
                  You are so a amazing how do you do it It is so amazing how you can do such a thing Ps where are you located.
                  • Anonymous UserMonday, March 20, 2017 at 11:53 am
                    I think this will NEVER happen, hypersonic speed would be a super bad idea especially in a vacuum chamber like that. It will also NEVER reach a top speed of 750 mph. The fastest land vehicle went 763 mph and, even in a vacuum chamber there is something called FRICTION it slows things down with DRAG. So many people have proved that it is not going to be able to happen, and thats IT.
                    • Miracle Monday, March 20, 2017 at 10:46 am
                      Omg you really did that that is like so amazing

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