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Hyperloop One Wants to Be "Amazon Prime on Steroids," but Where?

Just think of it as "broadband for transportation."

When you hear executives from Hyperloop One — gathered around a speaker phone from Las Vegas during this week’s CES — explain their vision for the futuristic transportation system, it’s easy to get excited. Imagine: coast-to-coast journeys made inside a few hours, or having delivered to your door a pair of custom sneakers that you designed and ordered that day.

“Just think of hyperloop as broadband for transportation,” Rob Lloyd, CEO for Hyperloop One, tells Inverse. “If you think of it as broadband for transportation you suddenly unlock a massive amount of change, and new applications; new thinking.”

Before that 700 mph broadband vision is realized, the first regional hyperloop — the tube-based transportation system originated by Elon Musk in 2013 — needs to be built. And that takes everyone involved, from government to business leaders, to get on board.

Another step toward actualizing the hyperloop was made on Friday, when 35 teams from regions all over the world were announced by the Los Angeles-based company as finalists in the “Hyperloop One Global Challenge.”

The open competition, announced by the company in May 2016, attracted 2,600 teams of engineers and urban planners who pitched their region as the ideal spot for a hyperloop. The 35 teams will present at three showcases across the globe — February 28 in New Delhi, India; April 6 in Washington, D.C.; and April 27 in London — to judges that will narrow the 35 to maybe a half-dozen or so.

“There doesn’t have to be one winner at each [showcase]; we actually want to be able to go forward with more than one,” Nick Earle, who oversees global field operations for Hyperloop One, tells Inverse. “There could well be multiple winners going forward. Right now, we’re keeping our options open.”

Also invited to those showcases will be government leaders, as a way to show them what hyperloop could do for their region. Earle says feedback from government (along with quality of the entry) will determine if Hyperloop One selects a region.

The finalists released by Hyperloop One, by region.

Some of the regions are as specific as a Boston to Somerset, Massachusetts, just a 50-mile trip. Others, like “US Midwest,” could include any number of routes. (The actual teams will be announced at the showcases this spring.)

The winning regions will get feasibility studies, which as any transportation nerd knows, are a crucial early step for any project. But Lloyd makes it clear that something had better come from those studies: “We’re not in the business of doing studies, we’re in the business of looking for hyperloops that can be built,” he says.

“We want to have three routes in production in the next five years,” he says later.

A rendering of what Hyperloop One wants its train-style pod to look like as it travels through a low-pressure tube at speeds of around 700 mph.

The end result is that one day, Hyperloop One systems will connect cities in a single region. Eventually, systems will connect — much like subway lines in cities — by linking together regions. While travel will be easier, shipping will be the thing that sees the most dramatic change.

“It’s Amazon Prime on steroids,” Earle says. “You don’t have to use a fleet of airplanes, you don’t have to use warehouses outside of cities to store goods, because you have to truck them in to meet that one hour deadline that’s in the contract for Amazon Prime.” He continues, “Autonomous cars will actually be able to go inside the Hyperloop. You actually can do door-to-door like never before.” The autonomous car idea was introduced when Hyperloop One announced its partnership with Dubai’s Road and Transport Authority to see if a hyperloop could be built in the Middle Eastern region.

The Company’s “Kitty Hawk” Moment

Around April, Hyperloop One will conduct a full-scale test of its system at its North Las Vegas testing facility.

“It’s one thing for us to talk about building it, it’s something different for you to actually go build it,” Josh Giegel, President of Engineering for Hyperloop One, tells Inverse.

Hyperloop One's open-air propulsion test in May 2016.

The full-scale test will occur about a year after it first tested its propulsion system (see above.) That test was publicized and the media was invited out to see what looked like a sled create a cloud of dust in the desert (Hyperloop One helpfully released this animated video to help us connect the dots).

The full-scale test of the hyperloop inside the 11-foot tube will also be very public.

Josh Giegel at the Hyperloop One metalworks.

“For us, taking this concept and actually building it, and testing it, and showing people — allowing them to see it, to touch it, to smell it if they want — is really, really important,” Giegel explains. “We’ve felt that way for a long time, that it’s one thing for us to talk about building it; it’s something different for you to actually go build it.”

Incoming U.S. President Donald Trump has made infrastructure projects a big part of his economic plan, which could translate to a friendlier government for Hyperloop One. In the weeks after the election, Lloyd said he was hopeful for a Trump administration, but said Hyperloop One had not reached out to the transition team about its projects.

“Our instincts are that the work that we’re doing is going to be extremely well received when the people get into place,” Lloyd said Friday, before predicting this: “I think we’re going to be a very, very important part of the next three or four years in terms of the potential infrastructure that U.S. looks at.”

As for Musk, who will always be remembered as the father of the hyperloop, he made another visit to Trump Tower on Friday and has already been appointed to a Trump policy forum.

But with the full-scale test, Hyperloop One just might move out of Musk’s considerable shadow completely, but as Giegel puts it: “I think he’ll always have a big part of it.”

“We’ll forever be indebted to him for giving us kind of the idea, but we definitely changed the technology quite a bit from the original white paper,” Giegel says. “It’s more than just a train, or a pod in a tube. We’re taking it to a level of connectivity and really being the high-speed backbone of the future transportation network.”

Media via Hyperloop One, Getty Images / David Becker

Samsung's Galaxy S10 Series Already Spells Trouble for the 2019 iPhones

Watch out Apple.

Samsung celebrated the tenth anniversary of its Galaxy S handset series by launching four Galaxy S10 models alongside its Galaxy Fold foldable phone. The quintet of devices comes with an arsenal of game-changing display, camera, and specs that redefine Samsung’s flagships. All five were debuted at the company’s Unpacked event in San Francisco and London Wednesday.

Which Soundbars Have the Best Quality? Try These 5 Brands

Upgrade your entertainment sound system with the subtle--but transformational--addition of a soundbar.

If you’ve ever wanted to host a screening party, or you just really want to enhance your own entertainment experience, a soundbar might be a very welcome addition. But what is it? If you’ve ever seen magazine photos of a brilliant entertainment system, chances are you’ve seen an ambiguous looking long black box fixated somewhere in front of the TV. It’s basically a wireless speaker, meant to deliver optimized surround sound and bring the movie theater experience to your living room.

The Best of Nintendo Switch Chargers, Docks, and Cases

Protect your investment and charge with ease with these must-have Switch accessories.

The Nintendo Switch is among the most innovative gaming consoles to come out since the PlayStation Portable. It’s cool in and of itself, but the accessories that you can pair with it are next level. Cases for the Nintendo Switch are nothing like what we used to get for our Gameboys — there is often a slot for your cord and games!

13 Robots You Can Buy to Feel Like You're Living in the Future

Take control of the robots before they control you.

We’ve come a long way since the Roomba hit shelves in 2002, when we had the first inkling that personal robots could become attainable for the average household. Movies, like 1987’s RoboCop imagine life way in the future seemingly predicted our current reality with eerie accuracy.

As technology exponentially advances, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility to soon live in a world where humans can spawn babies with robots, or artificial intelligence wipes out humankind. It’s heavy stuff.

OpenAI, Former Elon Musk Firm, Is on the Brink of a New A.I. Era

The company is making great strides.

OpenAI, the non-profit organization that researches artificial intelligence, co-founded by Elon Musk in 2016, has been making big advancements — even after Musk parted ways amid disagreements about its direction. Researchers have developed systems that can play games, write news articles, and move physical objects with groundbreaking levels of dexterity.

OpenAI has caused controversy with its research. Last week, it announced the development of a language model, GTP2, that can generate texts with limited prompts. Given the human-written prompt “Miley Cyrus was caught shoplifting from Abercrombie and Fitch on Hollywood Boulevard today,” the system produced a believable complete story that continued with “the 19-year-old singer was caught on camera being escorted out of the store by security guards.”