North Carolina’s most famous snowbirds, brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright, are having a moment 113 years after their historic first flight on the state’s Outer Banks. Hyperloop — the crazy-fast train that promises to fire passengers and goods through vacuum tubes at more than 600mph — tested its prototype in Nevada last month. Hyperloop One founders called it their “Kitty Hawk moment.”
Hyperloop was first proposed by Elon Musk, most famous for car company Tesla (N.C. sales woes notwithstanding) and space exploration. Musk, busy with these projects and building his “gigafactory,” open-sourced hyperloop as a modern-day Manhattan Project. Anthony Foxx, former Charlotte mayor and U.S. Secretary of Transportation, called the technology the country’s next “moon shot” when he delivered the keynote speech at January’s SpaceX Hyperloop pod contest.
As Hyperloop Transportation Technology showed off initial designs for its pod, the reactions to riding in an oversized bank tube, no matter the speed or whether it’s made from material straight out of “Captain America,” have been mixed.
Two companies have emerged as frontrunners to make hyperloop a reality. Hyperloop One was cofounded in 2014 by Brogan BamBrogan, a former SpaceX propulsion engineer, and venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar. The company recently raised $80 million in funding and has more than 150 employees. It changed its name to avoid confusion with the next closest competitor, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies.
HTT designed the pod, above, but HyperLoop One successfully tested its propulsion system in May, a milestone CEO Rob Lloyd called the company’s “pre-Kitty Hawk moment.” He expects the company will have its “real” Kitty Hawk moment by the end of this year.
The Wright brothers shipped their flying machine to the Outer Banks, endured years of skepticism, risked life and limb and had no financial backers for their invention (all told in the excellent 2015 “The Wright Brothers” by David McCullough). What would they make of the hyperloop?