In The Loop

Here are the 10 winners of Hyperloop One’s global challenge

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The 10 routes selected by Hyperloop One as winners of their global competition. (Courtesy Hyperloop One)
The 10 routes selected by Hyperloop One as winners of their global competition. (Courtesy Hyperloop One)

Are we one step closer to zipping around in pods at hundreds of miles per hour? One company would like us to think so. Hyperloop One announced last week that 10 winners have been selected in their global competition for potential Hyperloop routes.

The hyperloop was the brainchild of tech entrepreneur Elon Musk. Musk proposed the hyperloop as a form of passenger and freight transportation in which pods travel at incredible speeds through nearly frictionless tubes, essentially allowing for Jetson-like travel between cities at a highly reduced time.

The CEO and founder of Hyperloop One, Shervin Pishevar, met Musk during a 2013 humanitarian trip to Cuba and presented Musk’s white paper on the Hyperloop to President Obama only months later. Less than a year after that, Pishevar had founded his own company, Hyperloop Technologies, Inc. (now Hyperloop One), in a garage. Mobilizing his extensive background in venture capital to get the project off the ground, he has already funded one of the world’s first full-scale systems test of a Hyperloop project on a test track in the Nevada desert.

The company announced its selection of 10 winning teams from a pool of  35 semi-finalists. The winners demonstrated the “strongest routes” for potential Hyperloop lines. The list will not seem intuitive to many, but below are the routes that were selected.

United States

  • Chicago-­Columbus-­Pittsburgh
    488 miles, proposed travel time: 47 minutes
  • Dallas-Laredo-Houston
    640 miles, proposed travel time: 46 minutes
  • Cheyenne-Denver-Pueblo
    360 miles
  • Miami-Orlando
    257 miles, proposed travel time: 25 minutes

Canada

  • Toronto-Montreal
    400 miles, proposed travel time: 39 minutes

United Kingdom

  • Edinburgh-London
    414 miles, proposed travel time: 50 minutes
  • Glasgow-Liverpool
    339 miles, proposed travel time: 47 minutes

Mexico

  • Mexico City-Guadalajara
    330 miles, proposed travel time: 38 minutes

India

  • Bengaluru-Chennai
    208 miles, proposed travel time: 23 minutes
  • Mumbai-­Chennai
    685 miles, proposed travel time: 63 minutes

Why did a route from Cheyenne to Pueblo win, you may ask, rather than one that connected San Francisco to Los Angeles or New York to D.C.? In Hyperloop One’s global competition, the latter two routes weren’t proposed to begin with, for what we can only speculate are political reasons. Both are routes that Musk has talked openly about his proposals for creating under the auspices of two companies he’s CEO of – SpaceX and Tesla.

According to Hyperloop One’s website, however, the Colorado route would support the state’s “population growth and emerging industry sectors,” such as biotechnology, technology and aerospace. The route between Bengaluru and Chennai would support an industrial corridor that is becoming “one of the fastest growing economic regions in India.” The link between Edinburgh and London even aims to – by the company’s humble claim – “reduce the country’s socioeconomic inequalities and rebalance growth in the region.”

Of course, behind such grandiose language there’s a much more complicated story. The selection of winning routes entails no commitment to actual construction in the future, but rather to technical and feasibility studies to see whether each of the proposed projects are economically feasible and commercially viable. AECOM will serve as an engineering consultant for the Colorado route.

A vital question remains: Who is Hyperloop for? Surely a form of transportation with such astronomical construction costs won’t be cheaper than an Amtrak ticket, and the company hasn’t detailed its ticket pricing plans. Some skeptics have argued that if Hyperloop One had any real commitment to equity in transportation, maybe those same funds would be better reallocated to repairing the nation’s existing, decaying infrastructure. Those who have experienced the New York City metro system’s “summer of hell” will probably understand this argument intimately.

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