Elon Musk Hails Teams of First-ever Hyperloop Competition and Talks About Tunnel He’s Digging for SpaceX

Three student teams got through the engineering gauntlet and sent their Hyperloop pods through a mile-long tube to test a new mode of transportation today.

The pod races were the climax of this weekend’s first-ever Hyperloop competition – hosted by SpaceX at its headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., and backed by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who came up with the Hyperloop concept in 2013.

Twenty-seven teams, including a squad from the University of Washington, brought their fast-moving, high-tech machines to Hawthorne for testing.

But there was only enough time for three of the teams – coming from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands and Germany’s Technical University of Munich – to pass all of today’s required preliminaries and make a tube run under full race conditions.

“We completed all tests and were ready to go, as were a few other teams,” David Coven, one of the leaders of the UW Hyperloop team, told GeekWire in an email. “There just wasn’t enough time to race each of the teams.”

The German team, known as WARR Hyperloop, clocked the fastest time of the three, traveling through the vacuum tube at a maximum speed of 94 kilometers per hour (58 mph). Delft won the overall prize, based on the points given for design and safety as well as for speed.

The biggest star of the show was Musk himself. Students flocked around the billionaire as he strode past the teams’ booths and inspected the hardware.

“You’ve done incredible work,” he told them during an afternoon gathering. “Well done.”

Musk said the volunteer effort was just one step along a path he hoped would eventually lead to a transportation network that’s capable of carrying people at near-supersonic speeds between San Francisco and Los Angeles in about a half-hour.

“What this is really intended to do is to encourage innovation in transport technology,” he said. “To get people excited about new forms of transport, things that may be completely different from what we see today.”

SpaceX built the enclosed test track, which Musk said was “the second-biggest vacuum chamber in the world, after the Large Hadron Collider.” But it was up to the teams to build the scaled-down test pods, which showed off magnetic levitation and other exotic technologies.

One team, Japan’s Keio Alpha, designed the components of its pod so they could be carried in the luggage of team members as they made their way to SpaceX’s headquarters, which is about six miles from Los Angeles International Airport.

Musk gave a shout-out not only to SpaceX’s Hyperloop tube, but also to his plans to dig a tunnel that could provide a short cut through Los Angeles’ tangled traffic.

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SOURCE: GeekWire, Alan Boyle