Elon Musk’s tunnel startup The Boring Company plans to begin “full-scale” testing of hyperloop, a still theoretical transportation system that sends passengers in autonomous electric pods through a tube at speeds in excess of 600 miles per hour.
Musk tweeted out the update Monday, just a day after announcing the company would attempt to build a working hyperloop and less than a week since The Boring Company raised $675 million at a $5.7 billion valuation.
Musk first floated the idea of hyperloop in a white paper published in 2013. Musk didn’t personally pursue the project and instead shared the basic engineering plans and encouraged others to take on the challenge. SpaceX, another Musk company, also hosted a hyperloop competition between 2015 and 2019 for students and hobbyists to design and build a subscale prototype transport vehicle. A one-mile hyperloop test track, itself a prototype, was constructed in October 2016. Other companies, including Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) haven’t deployed any commercial operating versions of the proposed transport systems yet.
Until these past few days, Musk’s public commentary and activity around hyperloop had seemed to fizzle with the exception of the annual contest. And even that shifted from the hyperloop pod to tunneling. In September 2021, The Boring Company hosted the Not-a-Boring Competition, which challenged engineers to build tunneling machines. Technical University of Munich, or Tum, won the overall competition. Tum has won previous hyperloop competitions as well.
The Boring competition is coming back in 2022 with teams invited to design, build and race their own tunneling machines at TBC’s factory in Texas. Teams will compete in four categories, including the fastest to complete the tunnel, design, accuracy of the tunnel and tightest turn.
The idea of hyperloop has attracted other engineers, researchers, startup founders and even Virgin’s Richard Branson. Despite years of effort and some progress, there is not yet a working example of the system anywhere in the world.