The mythic Hyperloop takes an actual step toward becoming real

A small step.
A small step.
Image: HTT/JumpStartFund
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Ah, the Hyperloop.

The super high-speed rail system first dreamed up by Elon Musk was the stuff of fantasy until a team of 100 engineers from places like Nasa and Boeing formed Hyperloop Transportation Technologies and promised to turn Musk’s idea into reality. Led by CEO Dirk Ahlborn and with the assistance of some UCLA graduate students, HTT said that it would create a version of the 800 mile per hour train service—originally meant to transport passengers between San Francisco and Los Angeles—within a decade.

Today, HTT has made the first step toward that goal. The company has signed a deal to develop a five-mile Hyperloop track in Quay Valley (pdf), halfway between San Francisco and LA. Construction is to start next year. The trains won’t reach 800 mph (many more miles of track are required to reach those speeds), but they’ll give the company a chance to see whether or not the technology actually works in a public setting. The project will cost $100 million, raised through an expected initial public offering of HTT later this year.

Musk, the busy CEO of Tesla and SpaceX who was thought to have abandoned his idea, is now building a test track too, this one in Texas. But his is to fine tune the technology of a potential Hyperloop system, apparently, rather than to figure out how to integrate it into a community.

Previously Quartz was skeptical of HTT’s ability to secure land for the project (among other difficulties), but the partnership with Quay Valley—a private settlement— sidesteps that obstacle for now. It remains to be seen whether HTT can navigate political and economic channels to develop the project on a larger scale.

It’s a small step toward realizing Musk’s dream. But we’re still a long way from a massive system of interconnected above-ground tubes transporting Americans across the continent.