Neither Elon Musk or his company SpaceX are formally developing a Hyperloop, the futuristic travel tech that Musk unveiled two years ago after months of speculation. As you’ll recall, the theoretical tube-based transportation system promises to speed people across the country, covering vast distances in a very short amount of time. But just because SpaceX isn’t developing Musk’s brainchild, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t helping the idea along.
Today, SpaceX announced that it will be hosting a Hyperloop Pod Competition, where teams of college students or engineers can try out their designs for the futuristic transportation system’s human-carrying pods. The basic idea of the Hyperloop is that one day in the near future, giant elevated tubes will ferry people in pods from city to city (think Los Angeles to San Fransisco, not New York to Los Angeles) at speeds of up to 800 miles-per-hour.
It’s a cool idea, but no one has built any of it yet (though Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, a startup unaffiliated with Musk and SpaceX, has plans to build a 5-mile-test track). So, to encourage innovation, SpaceX is building its own one mile test track where inventors can test their pod ideas in a half-scale environment.
The test track will be located in Hawthorne, California next to SpaceX headquarters (previously, Musk speculated that the test track would be located in Texas).
There will be two segments to the competition: teams can either choose to design a pod, system, or safety feature, and present their design on a weekend dedicated to showcasing only theoretical designs; or they can actually go ahead and build and demonstrate their pod on a later weekend. No firm dates have been announced yet, but SpaceX says that it is aiming to hold the competition in June 2016. Teams looking to participate must sign-up in advance on Space X’s Hyperloop Pod Competition website and can read the full rules here (PDF). SpaceX hasn’t announced what, if any prizes, the winning teams will receive, but at the very least, those who participate will have the satisfaction of knowing they helped move the Hyperloop from sci-fi closer to reality.