Student engineers set a speed record in Elon Musk’s hyperloop competition

When Elon Musk says “jump,” engineers say “how high?”
When Elon Musk says “jump,” engineers say “how high?”
Image: AP/Damian Dovarganes
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Competition drives innovation, but not usually at exactly 284 mph.

Students from the Technical University of Munich set a speed record yesterday (July 22) in SpaceX’s third annual Hyperloop Pod Competition. The competition first launched in 2015 to accelerate development of the hyperloop, Elon Musk’s futuristic transport system that theoretically shoots aerodynamic pods of passengers to their destination through giant tubes. Without the friction of the natural environment, the pods can travel at blistering speeds.

The german students’ pod won the competition for the third time, outpacing rivals from the Netherlands’ Delft University and the Lausanne Federal Polytechnic (EPFL) in Switzerland. Though the record speed of 284 mph is impressive, Musk believes the pods in the hyperloop will eventually be able to travel twice as fast, making a 380-mile trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco a mere 30 minutes. A litany of companies are trying to turn Musk’s theories into practice. 

Musk made an unannounced appearance at the competition. He inspected the teams’ pods and cracked jokes with the event’s attendees.

“This is really the first opportunity to create a new mode of transport,” he told the students. “That’s really what this competition is about: things that could radically transform cities and the way people get around.”