Elon Musk Says Other Hyperloop Companies Aren't Moving Fast Enough

Elon Musk smiling in a black shirt and black blazer during an interview
Flickr / jurvetson

Elon Musk may have invented the modern Hyperloop, but he never intended to build one himself. Or at least, that’s what he’d always said.

“Elon published the Hyperloop paper in August 2013 as an open source design, with the hope that others would rapidly bring it to market,” a Boring Company spokesperson tells Inverse. “He said at the time that he would only seek to commercialize Hyperloop if after a few years other companies were not moving quickly enough.”

And it seems the other company’s time has come: While cities are drawing our their dream routes and a handful of companies are racing to complete the first high-speed vacuum train, most haven’t achieved Hyperloop success, at least according to Musk.

The one functioning prototype — Hyperloop One “dev loop” in Nevada — hit 192 miles an hour this month:

But that pace isn’t fast enough for Musk, and at this early developmental stage, is slower than the still-in-development California bullet train Musk has famously derided.

A "Hyperloop passenger transport capsule conceptual design rendering" as seen in Elon Musk's 2013 Hyperloop Alpha whitepaper.

"Hyperloop Alpha"

“While we’re encouraged that others are making some progress, we would like to accelerate the development of this technology as fast as possible,” the spokesperson told Inverse. “… At the Boring Company, we plan to build low cost, fast-to-dig tunnels that will house new high-speed transportation systems. Most will be standard pressurized tunnels with electric skates going 125+ mph. For long distance routes in straight lines, such as NY to DC, it will make sense to use pressurized pods in a depressurized tunnel to allow speeds up to approximately 600+ mph (aka Hyperloop).”

The first signs of Musk’s Hyperloop pivot came July 20. In the tweet read round the world, Musk wrote, “Just received verbal govt approval for The Boring Company to build an underground NY-Phil-Balt-DC Hyperloop. NY-DC in 29 mins.” While many were focused on the shady word choice (what is “verbal government approval” anyway?), other Hyperloop builders were reportedly feeling nervous.

“The tweet came as a shock to executives at the various startups racing to develop their own hyperloops based on Musk’s specifications,” Bloomberg reported. The assumption was that Musk’s Boring Company would dig the tunnels and Hyperloop One or another manufacturer would build the train itself.

Musk’s track record of results in transportation, computing, AI, and aerospace — although none of those records are without black marks — should be considered serious competition to Hyperloop One and less-established hyperloop companies, many of which are staffed with former SpaceX engineers. Josh Giegel, Hyperloop One’s president of engineering, and Brogan BamBrogan, founder of Arrivo, another hyperloop startup, are both SpaceX alumni.

Not only did he write the first white paper and come up with the proof of concept, but his company SpaceX owns the Hyperloop trademark, which allow companies to protect their intellectual property, as well as the domain name and the Twitter account. In this case, Hyperloop One and others using the term “hyperloop” to describe their trains could be in violation of trademark law.

“We encourage and support all companies that wish to build Hyperloops and we don’t intend to stop them from using the Hyperloop name as long as they are truthful,” the same Boring Company said in a statement. Truthful, in this case, could mean anything, but it likely means Musk will only let persist other “hyperloops” that meet Musk’s ideal speeds. Needless to say, nothing currently in development fits the bill.

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