It's no secret that we have a travel problem. Getting around town takes too long, roads are congested, and if you want to travel between cities, taking a slow train doesn't exactly work out.

But that's a problem Elon Musk is trying to solve with his companies The Boring Company and SpaceX. And on Sunday, SpaceX's 2019 Hyperloop Pod Competition showed that brilliantly.

The competition asked teams who built pods for the Hyperloop to speed through the one-mile tube at SpaceX's headquarters in Hawthorne, California. The winning time, by team TUM Hyperloop, set a new speed record of 288 miles per hour, four miles per hour faster than the previous record. The team was formerly known as WARR Hyperloop and set the record last year at 284 miles per hour.

Needless to say, supporters of the hyperloop movement were impressed by the performance. And Elon Musk said that the company plans to make the hyperloop contest even more sophisticated next year by building a Hyperloop tube that'll be nearly ten times longer with curves, requiring vehicles to navigate the course while still maintaining speed.

Perhaps most importantly, the new record showed there's far more improvement to be made. While 288 miles per hour is certainly nothing to scoff at, the Hyperloop technology has a theoretical maximum speed of 760 miles per hour. It's possible, then, that as time goes on, companies can create dramatically faster transportation.

Indeed, the competition on Sunday was little more than an attempt by SpaceX, The Boring Company, and Musk himself to prove again that fast travel is not only feasible, but doable.

The competition is an important component in building out the Hyperloop concept. It gets teams developing technologies for Hyperloop and helps SpaceX and The Boring Company find issues in their planning and technology and find solutions. It also helps build interest in a technology that will need consumer and corporate buy-in to become ubiquitous.

The Hyperloop technology aims at solving a transportation problem where costs are skyrocketing and annoyances run high with a solution that's faster, cheaper, and impervious to the impact of weather. Sunday's competition was a bid by Musk and his companies to prove that. And it was also an opportunity for interested parties, including companies in the transportation market, to see ways to improve upon that.

One of the reasons TUM Hyperloop was only able to beat its previous record by four miles per hour -- and miss by a wide margin its goal of hitting 373 miles per hour -- was because it suffered from damage that forced the team to make an emergency stop.

Luckily, no one was in the pod, but the damage is still something that needs to be addressed. The pod that TUM Hyperloop used was less than six feet long. Eventually, Hyperloop will need to carry passengers far and wide.

For business owners, then, there are real problems to be solved, even in the latest and most advanced transportation technology. And as promising as it might be, Hyperloop still requires significant improvement to get to where it needs to be. The companies operating in the space that can get it there -- and quickly help the technology grow -- will reap the reward.

Just ask Elon.

Published on: Jul 22, 2019
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