The Hyperloop, Elon Musk’s futuristic tube that would supposedly “move people and things at airline speeds for the price of a bus ticket,” came one (magnetized) inch closer to development last week with Hyperloop One’s announcement of 35 semifinalists in its Global Challenge.
“The Global Challenge kicked off in May 2016 as an open call to individuals, universities, companies and governments to develop comprehensive proposals for using Hyperloop One’s disruptive transport technology in their region to move passengers and freight point-to-point, swiftly, and on-demand,” the company explained in a release. Hyperloop’s design calls for people to board pods that are whisked through a tube from Point A to B — think the pneumatic tubes at a bank drive-through.
The 35 semifinalists were picked from a sea of 2,600 and represent 17 countries, with 11 teams chosen from the U.S.
One winning team hails from Columbus, Ohio. Implementation there, the Columbus Dispatch reports, could move residents “to Chicago in 30 minutes or to Pittsburgh in 15 minutes at more than 700 mph. You could work eight hours every weekday in Columbus but live in Chicago or Pittsburgh.”
Hyperloop One’s announcement follows a rocky 2016. After publicly testing its technology in the Las Vegas desert to much fanfare, the company was sued by former CTO and Co-Founder Brogan BamBrogan (no, that was not the name on his birth certificate), who alleged nepotism and mismanagement on the part of another executive.
But, scandal aside, the company’s wildly imaginative people-mover could have major implications for cities — from transforming city-to-city relationships (between, say San Diego, Fresno and Sacramento) with speedy between-routes, to reimagining how open-source transportation gets made.
For now, the 35 semifinalists await a next round of judging. According to Hyperloop One’s press release, which also promises “the world’s first full-scale test of a Hyperloop” in 2017, the remaining teams will now be reviewed by a panel of experts in transportation, technology, economics and innovation.
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.