HAWTHORNE, Calif.—On a hot, Southern California Sunday, 27 teams gathered to show off their model Hyperloop pods. But only three won a chance to load their pods into a low-pressure environment created in a 0.75 mile (1.25 km) Hyperloop test tube built by SpaceX next to the company’s headquarters. Those teams—from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, WARR (a student group within Munich Technical University), and Delft University of Technology—were determined to have some of the most sophisticated pods, capable of levitation, braking, and running on their own power.
Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk popularized the idea of the Hyperloop—a theoretical pod system that runs in low-pressure tubes, hovering along a track using magnetic skis to minimize friction. As Musk imagined it in 2013, the system would send pods up to 760 mph. But the CEO decided that he didn’t want to work on the project himself, so he made his ideas available to anyone interested in running with it. That spawned several startups as well as this competition for students and other private research teams.
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