If you believe the hype, the Hyperloop is the future of long-distance travel. For a while, however, it looked like that future would arrive first outside of the United States.
Since its first public test run in Nevada in May 2016, Los Angeles-based Hyperloop One has announced feasibility studies across the globe, in the United Arab Emirates, the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, the U.K., and Russia. While much of the initial discussion when the company was founded in 2014 focused on a potential Los Angeles-San Francisco route, the company's blueprint has been bereft of any formal plan to deeply explore development in the U.S.
Now, the startup is turning its attention back to America. On Thursday, the company announced that it has created a list of 35 potential routes from across the globe vying to be the world's first route. Of those 35 routes, 11 are in the U.S. They were chosen from submissions, largely put together by local governments.
According to a post on the company's website, the plan is to choose three of those routes for further study. The teams behind those three routes will work closely with Hyperloop One to analyze logistics and financing.
The candidates include routes linking:
- Miami and Orlando
- Boston and Providence
- Seattle and Portland
- Chicago and Pittsburgh
- Reno and Las Vegas
- Kansas City and St. Louis
- Los Angeles and San Diego
- a triangle connecting Houston, Dallas, and Austin
- three separate routes in the Rockies that run through Colorado
"We always thought that North America is going to be our biggest market globally," Nick Earle, Hyperloop One's head of global operations, told The Verge.
Financing might remain the rail's biggest obstacle. Leaked internal Hyperloop One documents last year revealed an estimated cost of up to $121 million per mile for a route in the Bay Area--placing a 107-mile route somewhere in the range of $11 billion. A route between Abu Dhabi and Dubai would run approximately $4 billion.
Hyperloop One currently has about $160 million in funding, though it's looking to raise another $250 million sometime this year. The company has said its goal is to create a track that generates enough volume to have an affordable price tag for passengers, around $20. According to USA Today, Hyperloop One will weigh local, state, and federal government's support of particular projects--and thus, their likelihood of getting funding--before deciding whether to move forward with them.
The Hyperloop, as originally outlined in 2013 by Elon Musk, would travel in a nearly airless tube. It would use magnets to levitate, and would travel upwards of 700 mph. Musk is not involved with Hyperloop One or its closest competitor, L.A.-based Hyperloop Transportation Technologies.
In May, Hyperloop One demonstrated a smaller scale version of its technology in the Nevada desert. During a five-second test run, it sent a pod down a track at 400 mph. The brakeless vehicle then came to a stop in a pile of sand.
The company tells The Verge that it expects its first full-scale public test run--which it has dubbed its "Kitty Hawk moment"--to take place sometime in the next few months. That run will take place on a two-mile track in Nevada, but with full braking mechanisms and no sand needed to bring it to a stop.
Hyperloop One also told The Verge it had delayed its progress in the U.S. until the political turmoil of the past several months settled down. President Trump, meanwhile, is yet to comment publicly on the Hyperloop, though he has pledged spending $1 trillion on U.S. infrastructure over the next decade.
Trump is yet to offer many details on that plan. Even so, Hyperloop One CEO Rob Lloyd has recently expressed hope that having Musk on Trump's economic advisory team is a positive, since he could potentially influence the president's decision-making when it comes to futuristic transportation technology.