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Development company for Hyperloop emerges from stealth mode


November 1, 2013

An engineering startup is taking on development of a demonstrator Hyperloop (Image: Elon Musk/SpaceX)

An engineering startup is taking on development of a demonstrator Hyperloop (Image: Elon Musk/SpaceX)

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Well, Elon Musk can relax now. Having previously announced his intention to at least build a demonstrator of his Hyperloop transporter for high-speed, high-capacity inter-city transport, he now appears relieved to leave that task to HTT (Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, Inc). HTT is an engineering startup company operating under the wing of California-based JumpStartFund. It has developed basic organization and operational plans, as well as having established key partnerships to help navigate a path to a working Hyperloop.

Musk's Hyperloop has gained a vast amount of media attention over the past year or so. His proposal was for a dedicated low-pressure tube train to connect the Los Angeles and San Francisco city centers while reaching top speeds of about 800 mph (1,300 km/h). With a yearly passenger capacity of 15 million passengers, and half-hour transport between the most distant terminals, the Hyperloop made quite a splash as an alternative to open, above-ground high-speed trains.

HTT, a company organized by co-founders Dr. Marco Villa (former director of mission operations for SpaceX) and Dr. Patricia Galloway (past president of the American Society of Civil Engineers), is operating with very thin financial foundations. It is depending on crowdsourcing and crowdfunding to supply the initial needs of the company, which include obtaining needed goods and services by making strategic partnerships with a range of companies. HTT is selecting most of its workforce from a pool of scientists and engineers who are willing to commit time in exchange for equity in the company.

Of particular importance are HTT's deals with ANSYS for computer simulation resources, its partnership with material science development company GloCal Network Corp, and the UCLA Architecture and Urban Design department, whose role is to consider the social interface for the Hyperloop project.

At this point, establishing the technical, environmental, financial, social, and political foundations for the Hyperloop has been split into a long list of (relatively) small tasks, that will examine and design all aspects of a Hyperloop design. Provided this development work continues to flow well, then, according to interim CEO Dirk Ahlborn (founder and CEO of JumpStartFund,) as quoted in PC Mag, "... the next milestone will be presenting a white paper ... by the beginning of 2015, we want to have a scale model."

Looking for sites for a Hyperloop scale model (likely 1/10 full size) on which to perform engineering tests will commence next spring (Northern Hemisphere).

The Hyperloop is a remarkable concept, but there's likely a large pile of bugs and problems hiding under all the glitter. It will take a lot of work to turn this into a real project that someone will be willing to pay for, but if a single step starts a journey, then this journey is underway.

Source: Hyperloop Transportation Technologies

About the Author
Brian Dodson From an early age Brian wanted to become a scientist. He did, earning a Ph.D. in physics and embarking on an R&D career which has recently broken the 40th anniversary. What he didn't expect was that along the way he would become a patent agent, a rocket scientist, a gourmet cook, a biotech entrepreneur, an opera tenor and a science writer. All articles by Brian Dodson

Awesome, Japan can have their bullet trains, and we can skip over those with this tech.

Derek Howe

a scale model could actually be useful in delivering packages -- ups, fedex hyperloop delivery? imagine cross continent fast delivery service.


Unbelievably expensive to build track, trains that cost like airliners to build, and no flexibility in routing.


Why was the channel tunnel that connects Britain and France ever built? Commercial airliners already existed then. Purely political?

It seems like ultimately, a "train" that goes at a speed equivalent to (or faster than) planes would be more efficient than a plane because a plane typically cruises at 30,000 feet. That's a lot more circumference of the planet to cover than when traveling along the surface. Then there's also wind, maintenance of complicated engines, maintenance of plane structure to consider, etc., all with expensive aircraft-grade parts. It just seems that once the hyperloop has been around for a while and has had a chance to mature (like planes were given a chance to do), that the hyperloop might end up being the best choice for medium distance trips, or maybe even coast to coast trips.

Do the hyperloop logistics just not calculate out to a profitable outcome?

If nothing else, even if it's less efficient, the fact that it relies on alternative energy instead of jet fuel is surely something that weighs heavily on the positive side of the scales.

What about the track building would be expensive? Is the track and tunneling itself expensive, or are regulations and property price gougers artificially inflating the price? How did the federal government address that issue when laying down the inter-state freeways? If the track is laid along pre-existing tracks and freeways (as I believe is the plan), then will there be any regulation or price gouging to fret?


One of the main issues with the Hyperloop is the human factor, which is commonly overlooked.

Will people be prepared to travel in what appears to be a cramped tube at high speed with no windows? personally, i have my doubts. There are issues with claustrophobia, disability access, and what would you do if the journey was more than 30 minutes and you really needed to use the bathroom? It would be like being stuck in a tiny horizontal high-speed lift/elevator.


One major issue I had with this design is that they basically rely on having airport type security which oversteps its bounds on what should be allowable searching in some areas.

You also can not join the transportation system anywhere. You have to go to a major station. A transportation system that doesn't use main stations and uses vehicles for six people max would be more preferable.


I hope that the Hyperloop will be built. The idea is not new, though. 20 years ago in Switzerland the idea of a "Swissmetro" was proposed, but the system was not built because of lack of funding and of political backing. Please refer to www.swissmetro.ch


The real advantage of the Chunnel is that cargo does not have to be put on ships, even if using a Train Ferry the time and energy involved makes the Chunnel very efficient. Not to mention traffic doesn't stop for bad weather.


Meanwhile, here in UK, our illustrious government is planning to spend up to £80bn - or who knows how much - on a so-called high speed train that will still use limiting 18th century technology, i.e. steel tracks and wheels. One wonders if they should have invited Mr. Musk to tender. It makes my blood boil to know that British Rail (as was) were working on Mag Lev monorail and gas-turbine power way back in the 'sixties....but it was all sold off to the Japanese, if I recall correctly. The mind boggles at the ineptitude of politicians and their vested interests!


Hyperloop is an "above ground" sealed tube- there seems to be some confusion about this among the readers.

Hyperloop is inherently limited by its design to near 800 mph speeds therefor it is a midrange transport system.

Hyperloop is not fail safe and at speed any system failure or disruptive event would mean the likely death of all passengers.

At low speeds recovery from power loss expose the passengers to potential hypoxia, loss of oxygen and death along with outgassing of bodily fluids into the near vacuum of the Hyperloop tube environment.


It is all a rich man's toy. Consideration of what one well placed IED could do to it should bring Mr Musk back down to earth. Though I doubt that the Hyperloop project would survive the fall.

Mel Tisdale

This concept has real problems with the advent of terrorism. A well placed explosive would kill many and shut the thing down for a long time. You could secure the tube but along say 500 miles it would be near impossible and definitely not profitable.

Daniel Harbin

The hyperloop os a fundamentally good idea - especially at a limit under 1000 mph. But, the idea that you have to sit down the whole time and not have bathrooms or emergency water/food is flawed. People have bodily needs and the unexpected happens.

This is not a subway where the doors can be opened and people can walk along a service path. It's a low-pressure tube with outside air that won't be adequate to breath. It should be treated like airline travel.

Still, a great concept!

Timothy Rohde

Whether or not this gets government money, the research phase - which may be the end of it - should have concrete applications in many variations of the already-proven high-speed rail systems.

As I understand it, that 30-min. estimate is not for downtown to downtown, but assuming it is this becomes a virtual transporter (like in Star Trek). I hope that there is significant rather than token emphasis on the social implications of this, and even that the part of the team that does this should be more objective and not have to do it for possible future equity or only class credit.

Todd Edelman, Slow Factory


hyperloop test fixture introduction: www.youtube.com/watch?v=PwQXLz-_f9M

Gary Truesdale
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