It’s an engineer’s dream: being able to compete in front of revolutionary Elon Musk using a technology he created.
Teams from around the world came to SpaceX’s headquarters recently for the first ever Hyperloop competition and the chance to showcase their creations that could transform the future of transportation.
What is Hyperloop?
Elon Musk, mastermind behind SpaceX and Tesla Motors, first created the concept of Hyperloop when he published a paper about it in 2013. The basic idea behind Hyperloop is to increase the speed and efficiency of mass transportation.
The proposed Hyperloop system involves two huge tubes traveling between San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Passengers board pods that travel through the tubes at speeds of more than 700 miles per hour, making a trip that normally takes around six hours by car last only 35 minutes.
Magnetic accelerators running the length of the tube would provide propulsion for the pods. Similar to how a puck glides over the surface of an air hockey table, the pods would be surrounded with a pocket of air in the low pressure tube to keep passengers safe.
The idea is that Hyperloop allows people to avoid the time, cost, and pollution that comes through most other forms of transportation. The system is best used for cities that are within around 925 miles of each other.
The Hyperloop concept is still largely theoretical, but Musk is pushing for further development to speed up the process.
Although he created the idea, Musk isn’t actually developing the system himself and is instead hoping to inspire engineers and students to take it on.
In an effort to encourage developers and engineers to speed up their development, Musk announced a series of worldwide competitions, the first of which was held recently.
The competition challenged teams to create the best Hyperloop pod with the goal of testing it on a real track.
With the announcement of the competition, excitement came from all corners of the earth. The entire competition involved events spanning nearly two years, with the grand finale taking place just recently.
Most of the teams came from colleges and universities, but others were formed with co-workers or even strangers who met on the internet.
In total, 27 teams joined the competition. The teams’ pods varied in design, presentation, and science, with many showcasing magnetic levitation and other innovative technologies.
The preliminary rounds focused on the design, manufacturing, and operation of the pods. Just three teams made it to the final round and were able to participate in the main event—racing their pods through a mile-long tube.
The results of the competition were a pleasant surprise to SpaceX employees. They didn’t except a pod to travel 50 miles per hour, and the top speed reached was 58 miles per hour.
The trophy for the overall best score went to Delft University of Technology from the Netherlands, though all teams in attendance agreed that the real prize was being able to participate in such a momental event on SpaceX campus.
The competition seemed to have achieved its goal of pushing innovation for transportation and engineering.
“What this is really intended to do is to encourage innovation in transport technology,” Mush said. “To get people excited about new forms of transport, things that may be completely different from what we see today.”
SpaceX built the mile-long Hyperloop test track and is currently beginning construction of its tunnel under Los Angeles. The eventual goal is to allow people to use it as a way to bypass the city’s notoriously bad traffic, with the possibility that the tunnel could also be used to house a full Hyperloop track.
Due to the first competition’s success, SpaceX announced there will be more global competitions coming soon, with the next taking place in summer 2017 that will focus entirely on speed.
“It’s ultimately going to be something that inspires the world and results in real transportation technologies that help make people’s lives better,” Musk said.
Hyperloop is still just a concept, but the success of the first-ever global competition shows that engineers and travelers are excited about the concept of alternative transportation.
With a greater emphasis on the design and development of high-speed travel, we may be jetting around the world faster than ever before we know it.