A quick story of how we got where we are.
As our population grows at an ever-increasing rate, the demand for alternative forms of transportation will transpire concurrently. In the summer of 2013, Elon Musk released a rather detailed paper discussing the capabilities and design of a Hyperloop system. Relying on low-pressure tubes, capsules can be transported at both low and high speeds through the length of the tube while riding on a supported cushion of air. This paper has spawned a large response from both academic and the private industries.
Enter Hyperloop One. The privately-held company is currently seeking out to reinvent transportation by eliminating the barriers of time and distance by utilizing the concepts and ideas presented by Elon Musk, who is in not an investor or affiliated with Hyperloop One, just a supporter. The company’s goal is to have three systems in operation by 2021 that validate our ability to design, finance and build a safe, revolutionary transportation technology that scales. What better way to innovate a new technology for cheap? Get cheap labor in the form of students from the academic sector of course!
Hyperloop One Global Challenge did exactly that. The worldwide competition had more than 2,600 teams registered from more than 100 countries with 35 semi-finalists competing in the second competition last week. First place team WARR Hyperloop from Technical University of Munich, achieved 201 mph. Tesla-branded Hyperloop pod hit 220 mph a few days later. So what’s the next step?
These pods are currently not holding humans, only testing and validating current propulsion technologies. Another challenge to overcome is reducing drag, which is imperative to achieve higher speeds, as the pods are still a long way of reaching supersonic. Still, Musk thinks he can “get past 500 km/h next month with a few tweaks or maybe tiny pieces,” according to his Instagram post announcing the speed record. The competition has been a great medium to collaborate private and academic industries to get proof of concepts on the table and tested, now engineering and tinkering will help take the pods to faster speeds in the months to come.
Below is an on board video of the WARR pod reaching 201 mph and an explanation of the Hyperloop project.
Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author and not of NASA.