Photo via AP Images
Remember when Elon Musk claimed he was so busy with space and cars that he was willing to hand over developing a "Hyperloop" vacuum-sealed high speed train to everyone else — and then he went and started a tunnelling company? Well guess what, he might go back and make his own Hyperloop after all.
Elon Musk is probably thinking really hard about what to put in the tunnels he keeps spontaneously digging and proposing despite no government approval. He brought up a way of putting cars in the tunnels (which Hyperloop One already proposed itself). Now he wants to dig tunnels for his Hyperloop idea, according to a report from Bloomberg.
It would make sense for him to go back to the companies competing in his Hyperloop competition, considering the amount of resources they have been pouring into getting the vacuum-sealed, super-speedy transport design right. Bloomberg claims he's actually going to be kind of a jerk and not do that, because of course he isn't. From the report:
Last month, the SpaceX and Tesla Inc. chief executive officer revealed on Twitter that he'd received "verbal government approval" to build a hyperloop capable of ferrying passengers between New York and Washington, D.C., in 29 minutes. The tweet came as a shock to executives at the various startups racing to develop their own hyperloops based on Musk's specifications. Several of them initially expressed hope that Musk would simply dig the tunnels and perhaps choose one of their startups to create the physical infrastructure, which involves a tube-encased train travelling at speeds faster than an aeroplane.
Nope. A person close to Musk said his plan is to build the entire thing, including the hyperloop system. Musk also holds a trademark for "Hyperloop" through SpaceX, which could be used to prevent other companies from using the term, according to U.S. public records.
What a dick move! Hyperloop One is probably the most recognisable of the three startups that spawned off of Musk's original idea, and it's already pretty far along. The company's most recent test was for its transport pod, where it reached 309km/h, with the tepid goal of reaching at least 402km/h in later tests. It's unclear whether Hyperloop One or any other company will actually be able to accomplish speeds in excess of 483km/h safely.
The Bloomberg report accurately points out that Elon Musk getting into the game himself could be very bad news for the companies he inspired to start from nothing. It will be even more difficult to bring workers and investors on board with such a new concept when they are also betting against the industry clout of Elon Musk.
Here's a statement from Boring Co. on the rumoured Musk Hyperloop, via Bloomberg:
"While we're encouraged that others are making some progress, we would like to accelerate the development of this technology as fast as possible,'' Musk's Boring Co., a venture created to build roads that run through underground tunnels, said in a statement. "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.''
I'm not entirely confident that Musk and company will continue to let what is now the competition continue using the name they have trademarked, should one of the other Hyperloop companies manage to beat Musk to the punch in any respect. I'm no lawyer, but there's probably a strong argument to be made on the use of "Hyperloop" as generic language for the type of high-speed travel technology, like "train" or "car." We'll see if it ever has to be argued in court.
There have been previous issues and concerns from all parties involved over Musk's involvement in the development and image of the emerging Hyperloop technologies; Musk is annoyed that he's associated with companies he's not directly involved in, and the companies are frustrated that Musk continues to be the figurehead for the work they're developing.
Perhaps Musk's best solution is to just go ahead and get involved — it's just too bad he's probably going to screw over everything that's been accomplished so far. If you can't disassociate with them,
buy them challenge them?