The Hyperloop, a proposed system of high-speed cross-country travel that could someday replace trains and even domestic flight, will enter testing later this decade.
The project will be developed and operated by Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT), a 'crowdsourced' company launched in 2013.
The brainchild of Elon Musk, founder of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, the Hyperloop was first detailed nearly two years ago in a 57-page document that outlines a 10 year development and construction program with a $6 billion budget.
Although an expensive proposal, the Hyperloop would still be considerably more affordable than the $68 billion earmarked for a new train line in California.
Earlier this year, Musk hinted that Texas had been singled out as a likely host for a pilot program, where a test track for “companies and students to test out their pods”.
Now, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies has announced that it will begin construction of a five kilometre test ‘loop’ in California next year at an estimated cost of $125 million.
Elon Musk’s proposal claims a theoretical top speed of 800mph (1287km/h, faster than most private passenger jets) along a route that would cover the 643km Los Angeles to San Francisco gap in about 30 minutes.
In local terms, a trip between Melbourne and Sydney could potentially be completed in around 40 minutes.
But, with ‘only’ five kilometres to play with, HTT expects to limit its test pods to 200mph (321km/h - the top speed of Lamborghini's Gallardo LP 570-4 Squadra Corse).
HTT is a ‘crowd-sourced’ startup, utilising the talents of designers and engineers that are already employed elsewhere. Around 100 people are involved with the Hyperloop project, working in exchange for stock options.
Another company with a similar name, Hyperloop Technologies, has launched with plans of its own and a goal of achieving US$80 million in funding later this year.
For now, however, it appears HTT is leading the race to shoot a solar-powered passenger bullet down a vacuum-sealed barrel.