Hyperloop Pod Competition Seeks Top 10 Designs

You're going to see #BreakAPod on Twitter a lot this weekend.

SpaceX is hosting the first part of its Hyperloop Pod Competition at Texas A&M University, where 124 teams from around the country will gather to show off designs for a human-scale Hyperloop Pod. These pods could one day be flung down a commercial Hyperloop tube, making distant cities feel closer than ever. The top 10 competitors from Friday and Saturday’s event will test their pods on a one-mile, six-foot-diameter track in Hawthorne, California, this summer.

Though these are just first steps, it’s the most concrete the Hyperloop has ever been. When Elon Musk’s Hyperloop whitepaper outlined his vision in August 2013, it was met with equal degrees of enthusiasm and skepticism.

After all, a 700 mile-per-hour system that uses pneumatics to zip people between Los Angeles and San Francisco in around 30 minutes would completely revolutionize transportation as we know it. Unfortunately, it sounds too much like science fiction to many experts.

That hasn’t deterred the hopefuls. Two companies are already planning to build test tracks, to assess if the technology is viable for commercial use. You can be sure they’ll be paying close attention to what unfolds this weekend.

And what a weekend it will be. Teams from 20 countries around the world are taking part in the festivities. Most are adhering closely to the plans in Musk’s whitepaper, with a few modifications to ensure safety.

More interesting, however, is the way some teams, like the one from Carnegie Mellon University, have enlisted investors and business-minded experts to help actually present their design as more than just a prototype that proves a concept. It’s not enough to simply have something that will work — you need to also make it something the market will buy into.

Conceptual art for Hyperloop in Pittsburgh.

Hyperloop Transportation Technologies 

You can watch a livestream for the competition — though, to be clear, the design presentations are not open to the public. The awards will be presented on Saturday at 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Keep up with Inverse this weekend for our continued coverage of the Hyperloop Pod Competition.