If you have an idea for how the Hyperloop ultra-fast transit system should work, SpaceX wants to hear from you. The company, headed by Hyperloop inventor and serial entrepreneur Elon Musk, is launching a design competition soliciting designs for Hyperloop pods–the human-transporting car that will glide on the fast track–and it’s building a mini-test track to test their designs.
The Hyperloop, a 400-mile transport tube expected to cost $8 billion, would enable a 30-minute commute between Los Angeles and San Francisco (currently about a five-and-a-half-hour drive). The system would allow for speeds of up to 800 miles per hour, thanks to its unique, low-friction design. The SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition is geared toward student engineers and independent engineering teams. SpaceX’s own engineers will likely build their own pod for demonstration purposes, but it won’t be eligible to win the competition.
To date, the Hyperloop concept has been explored primarily by private companies with no affiliation with SpaceX or Elon Musk, who famously released a white paper detailing the Hyperloop concept in 2013.
Although SpaceX has stayed out of commercial Hyperloop development, Musk and his team are still eager to see the futuristic transit concept come to fruition. This competition marks SpaceX’s first official involvement in Hyperloop construction. Last month, a startup called Hyperloop Transport Technologies (not affiliated with SpaceX or Musk) announced plans to build a five-mile, $100 million prototype track in California. This is just one of the third-party companies working on the Hyperloop concept in some form.
Entries in SpaceX’s official pod design competition are due September 15. In January 2016, SpaceX will hold a design weekend at Texas A&M University, where a panel of judges will evaluate the designs. The contest will culminate in a competition weekend in June 2016, where engineers can test their human-scale pod designs on a one-mile Hyperloop track built by SpaceX near its Hawthorne, California headquarters.
More details about the design criteria and demo day specifics will be forthcoming, but for now you can read a broad overview of the competition timeline on SpaceX’s website.