Hyperloop One, a Los Angeles company working to develop futuristic transportation technology, conducted a successful test of its high speed transportation technology Wednesday in the desert outside Las Vegas.
The seconds-long, outdoor demonstration by Hyperloop One featured what appeared to be a blip of metal gliding across a small track before disappearing into a cloud against the desert landscape.
A fully operational hyperloop would whisk passengers and cargo in pods through a low pressure tube at speeds of up to 1,207 km per hour (750 miles per hour). That could make it possible to travel from Montreal to Toronto in half an hour or Toronto to Vancouver in just three.
Maglev technology would levitate the pods to reduce friction in the city-to-city system, which would be fully autonomous and electric powered.
Brogan Bambrogan, a former engineer with Elon Musk's SpaceX company, said he was happy with the results of the test.
"That's what it was supposed to do. So we always like it when engineering tests go that way," said Bambrogan, Hyperloop One's co-founder and chief technology officer. "Technology development testing can be a tricky beast, so you never know on a given day if things are going to work exactly like you want."
A day earlier, the company had announced the closing of $80 million in financing and said it plans to conduct a full system test before the end of the year. It also announced that it was changing its name from Hyperloop Technologies to Hyperloop One.
Hyperloop One builds off a design by Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who has suggested it would be cheaper, faster and more efficient than high speed rail projects, including the one currently being built in California.
Speaking on the eve of the first demonstration test of the propulsion in the Las Vegas desert, Hyperloop One CEO Rob Lloyd tried to dispel criticism that the technology is unproven and better suited for science fiction than practical use.
"It's real, it's happening now, and we're going to demonstrate how this company is making it happen," he said at a press conference.
He likened hyperloop technology to the emergence of the U.S. railroad system and the era of prosperity it ushered in.
The idea has skeptics, including professor James Moore II, director of the University of Southern California's Transportation Engineering Program.
He credited Musk for the new idea on how to move objects through tubes, but said backers would face myriad public policy issues before it's installed on a large scale, including questions about safety, financing and land ownership.
Such roadblocks are keeping self-driving vehicles off the road decades after the idea was born, he said.
"I would certainly not say nothing will come of hyperloop technology," Moore said. "But I doubt this specific piece of technology will have a dramatic effect on how we move people and goods in the near term."
Competition for location
Lloyd also announced a competition to determine where the first Hyperloop One system should be built, with an announcement expected next year.
Early applications could centre around ports — possibly replacing the trucks and trains that carry cargo from ships to
factories and stores.
New investors include 137 Ventures, Khosla Ventures, Fast Digital, Western Technology Investment (WTI), SNCF, the French National Rail Company, a force behind high speed rail in Europe, and GE Ventures.
BamBrogan said the company's engineering team is focused on finding efficiencies to reduce the cost of building a hyperloop.
"We want to deliver all the value that hyperloop can deliver — the safe, the efficient, the on demand, the fast. But, we want to deliver it at a cost basis that is absolutely transformative," he said.
Hyperloop One has competition in the space, including Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, a crowdsourced company that last month signed an agreement with the Slovakian government to build a hyperloop connecting Slovakia with Austria and Hungary.