Elon Musk first proposed Hyperloop transit in 2013, but the innovator responsible for Tesla and SpaceX has yielded to outsiders to test and build the technology. In response to that challenge, Hyperloop One (formerly Hyperloop Technologies, Inc. rebranded as to not be confused with Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, a competitor) conducted its first test today on a track north of Las Vegas. Meanwhile as reported on Slate and The Verge, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies has simultaneously been working on a different passive magnetic levitation system developed by Lawrence Livermore National Labs. For those unfamiliar, Hyperloop is a tubular transit system that relies on maglev (magnetic-levitation) technology to transport passengers or cargo at speeds in excess of 700 miles per hour, in other words, traveling from Los Angeles to San Francisco in half an hour.
Hyperloop One’s test this morning, which according to engineers and Gizmodo is called a “propulsion open-air test” (POAT) is the first public display of the electromagnetic propulsion system developed by Hyperloop One. “If all goes according to plan a roughly 10-foot sled containing the propulsion motor will zip forward on tracks, for about two seconds, at 116 miles an hour,” says Georgia Wells of The Wall Street Journal. “[And then] it should crash into a pile of sand, since the company hasn’t yet built brakes for the contraption. The sled won't carry any passengers.” The company hopes to test a fully-operational model of the system by the end of the year.
In addition, on Tuesday Hyperloop One announced a new list of partnerships in what amounts to a who’s who of contemporary design, engineering, infrastructure, and financing, including Aecom, Amberg Group, Arcturan Sustainable Cargo, Arup, Bjarke Ingels Group, Cargo Sous Terrain, Deutsche Bahn Engineering & Consulting, FS Links, Grid, KPMG, and Systra.
Some of the company’s plans include working with Aecom to develop port infrastructure in Los Angeles and Long Beach intent on reducing emissions and delays. Arup will investigate potential geographic locations for Hyperloop passenger proposals. And FS Links, sharing Hyperloop One’s interest in the development of economic super-regions connected through transit infrastructure, is interested in developing greater connectivity between Sweden and Finland. Bjarke Ingels Group has been brought on board to theorize and develop the human spaces, still-unimaginable, that would be required for a passenger-friendly future for Hyperloop.
“Traditionally, the work of an architect is to design buildings for the same known program – a residence or a workplace - and try to squeeze in a marginal improvement here or an elegant design solution there,” says Bjarke Ingels. “With Hyperloop we are not only designing a futuristic station or a very fast train – we are dealing with an entirely novel technology with the potential to completely transform how our existing cities will grow and evolve - and how new cities will be conceived and constructed.”
The inclusion of BIG echoes the sentiment of Rem Koolhaas in a bio he penned for Ingels inclusion in the 2016 list of Time’s 100 Most Influential People, stating “he is completely in tune with the thinkers of Silicon Valley, who want to make the world a better place without the existential hand-wringing that previous generations felt was crucial to earn utopianist credibility.”
As noted by Gizmodo, “transportation and tunneling partners from Amberg Group (Switzerland), Deutsche Bahn (Germany), and Systra (France)...alludes to the fact that the first hyperloop will likely not be built in the US, but in a country with fewer regulatory restrictions.” Or as noted by Maya Kosoff for Vanity Fair, considering the possibility of California-corridor, “The land rights necessary to build such a track over private and public land, for instance, could be a major headache, and the estimated $6 billion price tag for such an endeavor is staggering—not to mention the provisions necessary to ensure safety when human beings in pod-like contraptions are traveling at the speed of sound.” Only time will reveal which exciting trajectories and possibilities are enabled by Hyperloop technology, but in the meantime, we are privy to one of the most exciting transit advancements since the dawn of the Jet Age.