A 760 mph, solar-powered pod trainOur society claims to value highly creativity and entrepreneurship, but sadly it doesn't seem to put as much emphasis on thinking big and actually aiming to solve hard problems. The result? Hordes of very smart people are designing one more social media app for your smartphone, or working on Wall Street, writing high frequency trading algorithms to skim fractions of pennies millions of times a day. That's why we need more people like Elon Musk. Despite already being the CEO of two companies working on very hard things, and being chairman of a third company, when Musk heard about plans for California's high-speed train, he took time from his busy schedule to invent a new form of transport that he thinks could be better all around (cheaper, faster, safer, cleaner, etc). In his words:
When the California “high speed” rail was approved, I was quite disappointed, as I know many others were too. How could it be that the home of Silicon Valley and JPL—doing incredible things like indexing all the world’s knowledge and putting rovers on Mars—would build a bullet train that is both one of the most expensive per mile and one of the slowest in the world? [total cost: $68.4 billion, max speed, 220 MPH, and it wouldn’t be finished until 2029]
How fast would the Hyperloop be? The journey from L.A. to San Francisco would take about 35 minutes at an average speed of 598 mph (962 km/h), with a top speed of 760 mph (1,220 km/h) in the middle part (you accelerate for a while, and then decelerate for a while at the end, so you don't go at the top speed for the whole trip).
Elon Musk has said that he's too busy to try to make it himself, and others have created a company to try to make it happen, but he still wants to help, as he mentioned in the past:
Will be building a Hyperloop test track for companies and student teams to test out their pods. Most likely in Texas.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 15, 2015
Also thinking of having an annual student Hyperloop pod racer competition, like Formula SAE http://t.co/HV9BLCoMb8— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 15, 2015
So to encourage development, SpaceX, Musk's space company, is sponsoring a pod competition that will take place a year from now on a 1-mile test track the will be built at its Californian facility:
Since we first unveiled the idea for a new high-speed ground transport system called the Hyperloop back in 2013, there has been a tremendous amount of interest in the concept. We are excited that a handful of private companies have chosen to pursue this effort.
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.
For this reason, SpaceX is announcing an open competition, geared towards university students and independent engineering teams, to design and build the best Hyperloop pod. To support this competition, SpaceX will construct a one-mile test track adjacent to our Hawthorne, California headquarters. Teams will be able to test their human-scale pods during a competition weekend at the track, currently targeted for June 2016. The knowledge gained here will continue to be open-sourced.
Break a pod!
Those who are interested in participating need to fill the form here before September 15, 2015.
Here is the short promo video for the competition:
Here's a possible route for the Hyperloop between L.A. and San Francisco:
More details on the Hyperloop can be found in our post here: Elon Musk unveils Hyperloop, a futuristic, solar-powered supersonic pod-train