Crash-test dummy

SpaceX on Tuesday opened up registration for its third Hyperloop Pod Competition, in which several different engineering teams will test their designs for a pod in the company’s 0.77-mile Hyperloop test track at its headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

During the second competition held in late August, the German team WARR Hyperloop earned top honors by running its pod at a record speech of 201 miles per hour.

Whether you’re an engineer interested in competing for Hyperloop supremacy, or just a passerby with a keen interest in what future high-speed transportation will look like, here are the crucial takeaways for the 2018 Hyperloop Pod Competition.

What’s the point?

Making a working Hyperloop pod safe for humans to use to zip from Los Angeles to San Francisco in just an hour is going to take a lot of time and effort to build and test. But for now, the competitions are focused on getting right one critical component of the Hyperloop: speed.

“The competition will be judged solely on one criteria: maximum speed with successful deceleration (i.e. without crashing).”

The other key rule is new, and highly relevant to making the Hyperloop work in a sustainable fashion:

“All Pods must be self-propelled. SpaceX will not provide an external Pusher.”

That means this time around, teams can’t take advantage of SpaceX’s pusher vehicle. Each pod needs its own method for getting a starting boost from which to accelerate.

Got it?

Who’s eligible?

Only student teams — in other words, those originating from an institution of higher learning — are allowed to compete. Returning teams are able to compete provided that they follow all of the essential rules, but only selected pods will be allowed to compete on the 0.77 mile test track during the final leg of the competition.

Speaking of which…

What exactly happens during the test?

The teams put their pod prototypes on the test track and let ‘em rip. It’s really that simple. They have to make it all the way through the test track without crashing. The pod that reaches the fastest top speed wins. Teams may be allowed to test their pods before the final test at SpaceX’s discretion, and SpaceX also reserves the sole right to decide who can access the track.

Be warned, however:

“No human or animal shall ride in any Pod or other transportation device used within the test track during this competition or during any pre-competition access.”

Leave your pets at home, people — there won’t be any opportunity for Laika II to pioneer some new fancy way of getting around.

Dummies only!

It’s not a mandate, but if you’re going to design a hyperloop for people, your prototype should probably include a space for a person, or crash-test dummy.

Dummy Passenger: While not a hard requirement, it is suggested that the Pod accommodate at least 1 dummy. The dummy does not have to be given a life support system, but should be physically in the Pod in a reasonable orientation for the duration of the test. The dimensions of the dummy are up to the entrants, who should be prepared to explain their choice of size.

Dates???

Any interested team must compete registration by 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time on Friday, September 29, 2017. You can look at the competition rules for a full list of tentative deadlines, but the other big thing to know is that the competition will be held sometime in the summer of 2018.