Musk’s Hyperloop changeup casts pall over rival fast-trackers
SpaceX, Tesla CEO won’t just dig tunnels, but says he’ll build super-fast rail system
Elon Musk introduced his vision for a futuristic mode of tubebased transportation called the hyperloop in 2013. In an exhaustive white paper, he laid out a body of research conducted with his team at Space Exploration Technologies Corp., demonstrating the system’s viability and seemingly offered it as a gift to the entrepreneurial community.
“I don’t have any plan to execute because I must remain focused on SpaceX and Tesla,” he said in a conference call at the time.
He apparently changed his mind. Last month, the SpaceX and Tesla chief executive officer revealed on Twitter that he’d received “verbal government approval “to build a hyperloop capable of ferrying passengers between New York and Washington, D.C., in 29 minutes.
The tweet came as a shock to executives at the various startups racing to develop their own hyperloops based on Musk’s specifications. Several of them initially expressed hope that Musk would simply dig the tunnels and perhaps choose one of their startups to create the physical infrastructure, which involves a tube-encased train travelling at speeds faster than an airplane.
Nope. A person close to Musk said his plan is to build the entire thing, including the hyperloop system. Musk also holds a trademark for “Hyperloop” through SpaceX, which could be used to prevent other companies from using the term, according to U.S. public records.
The billionaire’s unexpected entry into the hyperloop business could threaten the ambitions of three startups, which have raised about $200 million combined from venture backers.
“While we’re encouraged that others are making some progress, we would like to accelerate the development of this technology as fast as possible,” Musk’s Boring Co., a venture created to build roads that run through underground tunnels, said in a statement.
“We encourage and support all companies that wish to build Hyperloops and we don’t intend to stop them from using the Hyperloop name as long as they are truthful.”
Publicly, the three main hyperloop startups greeted Musk’s involvement with optimism, while also trying to demonstrate progress in their own projects. Entrepreneurs said they discussed their plans with Musk’s deputies and took his public pledges not to compete at face value.
Musk plans to hold another hyperloop competition at SpaceX later this month.
Elon Musk says he received “verbal government approval” to build a rail system to ferry passengers between New York City and Washington in 29 minutes.