“There are a lot of crazy ideas out there, but when ideas are associated with someone like Elon Musk it feels like, OK, this is something.”
— Anshuman Kumar, 22, leader of the Hyperloop team at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, according to BloombergBusiness. Kumar is one of 20 CMU students going to Texas this weekend for a never-held-before competition sponsored by SpaceX, whose CEO is the man most associated with the Hyperloop
Musk first hyped The Hyperloop, a super fast, levitating transit system, in a 2013 paper after being disappointed by plans for California’s high-speed rail system. The billionaire serial entrepreneur didn’t just complain — he wrote a 58-page report suggesting an alternative that he said could take people from San Francisco to L.A. in half an hour.
Others had been working on a hyperloop idea before then, as we covered on SiliconBeat. But Musk is the tech rock star who has captured the public’s imagination and is inspiring a new generation of bright minds.
There are also a couple of L.A. companies battling to be the first to make the idea work: Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, which recently said it had filed permits to build a 5-mile test track in Quay Valley, and Hyperloop Technologies Inc. (HTI), which is a sponsor of the SpaceX contest.
The two-day SpaceX competition at Texas A&M University this weekend is drawing students from 20 countries, about 120 college teams and three from high schools. An unknown number of students will advance to the finals this summer in Hawthorne, California, where Space X is based and where they can show off their designs on a full-scale, 1-mile test track.
“Everyone wants to be associated with the Hyperloop movement,” Kumar said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Musk, who once said he was “too strung out” to work on the Hyperloop himself, isn’t expected to show up at the contest. SpaceX notes on its contest website that it isn’t affiliated with any companies working on the technology.
Photo: Elon Musk in 2013, the same year he wrote the Hyperloop paper. (Nhat V. Meyer/Mercury News archives)