Ever since Elon Musk, CEO of both Tesla Motors and Space X, published a 58-page technical white paper called Hyperloop Alpha, the world of transportation and technology has eagerly awaited for his vision to become a reality.
A system in which people and cargo could travel in sealed pod-like cabins propelled by powerful electromagnets travelling through a partially-evacuated cylindrical tube built above the ground, Musk said at the time that he believed Hyperloop could become a viable alternative to air travel but, due to his own commitments, wouldn’t be able to work on it himself. Instead, he released Hyperloop Alpha as an open-source material, encouraging academics and entrepreneurs to take up the baton and make Hyperloop a reality.
Since then, we’ve seen several companies vie for hyperloop supremacy, racing to build the first working Hyperloop prototype that each hopes will propel them to a place in the history books and we presume, a tidy profit to boot. Alongside those commercial efforts, Space X, working with Texas A&M University (and Hyperloop Tech, one of the commercial Hyperloop startups), is operating its own competition to find the best Hyperloop pod designs among high schools, colleges and universities around the world.
And with the first stage of that competition — the Hyperloop Design Weekend — due to take place this weekend in Texas, SpaceX has now chosen the construction company which will build the test facility in Hawthorne California where SpaceX and the winning team will test their designs.
As The Verge detailed yesterday, SpaceX has selected construction giants Aecom to build its own Hyperloop test facility next door to Space X’s facility in Hawthorne, California. The test track, almost a mile in length, will be constructed using a non-magnetic sub track and will measure six feet in diameter. Raised above ground on stilts, as Musk envisioned commercial Hyperloops will be, the track will be constructed over the coming months in preparation for the Hyperloop Pod Competition finals this summer.
Aecom, one of the world’s largest and most prestigious construction companies, is no stranger to high-tech projects. Based in Los Angeles, the Fortune 500 company has offices around the world and reported global earnings of $18 billion for the year ending September 2015. Responsible for the Barclays Center arena in Brooklyn, New York, the company is currently in the middle of building London’s Crossrail tunnel, one of the most challenging construction projects undertaken in the UK’s capital city to date.
Aecom is also responsible for the Alameda Corridor freight rail expressway in Southern California, and has worked on plenty of other transit projects of different sizes and types over its long history. Consequently, its involvement in the construction of SpaceX’s Hyperloop test track isn’t exactly surprising.
As TheVerge notes too, this isn’t the first time the massive construction company has been involved with Hyperloop projects. At the time of writing, it is also in talks with Hyperloop Transportation Technologies — the other major commercial entrant into the Hyperloop space — about building its own test track (which shouldn’t be confused for the Hyperloop test facility being built by Hyperloop Transportation Inc., just north of Las Vegas, Nevada).
“Aecom has designed and built some of the world’s most impressive transportation systems, so we appreciate how the development of a functioning Hyperloop with SpaceX can dramatically expand the ways people move across cities, countries, and continents,” said Michael Burke, Aecom chairman and chief executive officer in an official statement accompanying the announcement yesterday.
But while the company welcomes SpaceX’s custom, it’s also careful to point out that it isn’t interested in any sort of exclusivity arrangement.. at least not at the moment. “Multiple groups are involved in Hyperloop development efforts, and AECOM has not endorsed or validated any technology or approach,” a company spokesperson added.
As an entirely new form of zero-emission transportation which could at least theoretically eliminate all but the longest of long-haul intercontinental flights, we’re excited to see just what happens when the first Hyperloop test tracks and capsule designs are tested later this year. And so too are our readers, based on the number of hits one particular Hyperloop story got last year.
With that in mind, you can be sure we’ll be keeping a close eye on both the construction and the designs as they transition from the drawing board into the real world.
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