(TNS) -- Now that the super-duper lickety-split transit system called hyperloop has passed its first real-life test, its underground pod zipping along 70 miles-per-hour in a tube across the Nevada desert, what’s next for this Elon Musk-inspired transportation project?
Los Angeles-based Hyperloop One, which took Musk’s 2013 idea and ran with it, has raised $160 million so far to develop the clean-energy conduit to move people and merchandise at airline speeds but at a fraction of the cost of air travel. Using a linear electric motor to accelerate and decelerate an electromagnetically levitated pod through a low-pressure tube, the hyperloop system could one day carry human and non-human cargo at speeds of up to 620 miles-per-hour with no turbulence.
The recent test, which Hyperloop One lauded as its “Kitty Hawk moment,” took place in May but was announced this week. And while the company’s Josh Giegel said the test proves that “we’re ready to deploy it to the rest of the world,” can we really expect to see people being shot through tubes at high speed any time soon?
Here’s a look forward:
Musk’s SF-to-LA Plan Looks like a No-Go
While Musk’s original idea suggested the hyperloop would take passengers between California’s two major urban areas, the folks at Hyperloop One have other ideas. The SF-LA proposal presented a lot of challenges, starting with the fact that a second transportation mode would be needed to get passengers from the edges of those cities, where the tube would end, and into the downtown areas. So the company is focusing instead on planning routes outside the US and has published its first detailed business case for a 300-mile route between Helsinki and Stockholm. That one would tunnel under the Baltic Sea to connect the two capitals in under 30 minutes.
Slowly But, Theoretically, Surely
The company says it will now test target speeds of up to 250 mph. To do that, engineers have juiced up the pod’s motor by a factor of ten since their last test and it should soon be flying along the company’s “Devloop” vacuum-sealed, 1,640-foot test track outside Las Vegas.
Three Years and Counting
Hyperloop One has told investors and the public that its goal is to deliver a fully operational system by 2020.
The Middle East is Calling
The company is developing passenger and cargo system routes in the United States, Finland, the United Arab Emirates, Russia and Switzerland. It’s also in early talks with the Indian government to build one in India.
Leaner and Meaner
With its announcement of the successful test in May, the company also unveiled a more sophisticated pod that will be used for future tests. Dubbed the XP-1, the 28-foot aluminum and carbon fiber pod will simulate transporting passengers and cargo through Hyperloop’s network of high-speed tubes.
Step by Step
The company says it will keep running tests at DevLoop over the coming months to “validate its next-generation components and software.” Next phase: sending the Pod gliding along longer and longer stretches of track at faster and faster faster speeds.
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