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

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT - SARAH MCBRIDE Bloomberg

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.

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