Elon Musk and his company Space X are hosting a year-long design competition for Hyperloop pods that will culminate in a run-off on a Hyperloop test in July 2016. Deadline to sign up for the competition is September 15, 2015.
Since first hinting about his plans for a nearly frictionless high-speed transit solution called Hyperloop two years ago, people have been entranced by the futuristic idea. Last year, Musk detailed his concept in an open-source white paper. In a nutshell, Hyperloop involves blasting pods down pressurised tubes at extremely high speeds. In the most popular example given, the transportation would get you from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 30 minutes. No more I-5? Where do we sign up?
Technically, or at least theoretically, the Hyperloop concept is possible, and more than one entity has already sprung up to try to make the futuristic dream a reality. Musk has said that he's not going to build the Hyperloop himself, but has expressed interest in helping the technology along. Most recently he said that he would fund the construction of a a test track to illustrate the technology.
The new competition will focus on the design of the pods for the Hyperloop. At this point we know very few details about the parameters of the competition, except for this timeline from the contest announcement paperwork.
We contacted Space X to find out if there would be any kind of a prize for the volunteers investing lots of time and energy designing for this. It's probably important to potential entrants if the designs will remain proprietary or be released under the open source parameters of Musk's white paper. "Full details will be released in August," we're told. "Thanks!" OK then! You're welcome.
Meanwhile, many publications are reporting that Elon Musk is "building a Hyperloop," and that's simply not accurate. From the competition page:
Neither SpaceX nor Elon Musk is affiliated with any Hyperloop companies. While we are not developing a commercial Hyperloop ourselves, we are interested in helping to accelerate development of a functional Hyperloop prototype.
The Hyperloop is a crazy and compelling idea that will no doubt draw in many interested private and educational institutions for this competition. But from a realistic point of view, it's still worth noting that even if lots of bright people can overcome the technical challenges of design, actually building an unproven infrastructure project of this magnitude is still a long way off.