The futuristic hyperloop transit system, first envisioned by the entrepreneur Elon Musk in 2013, could be carrying its first passengers through Central California in three years.
During the CNBC Tech Summit in Davos this week, Chief Operating Officer at Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) Bebop Gresta said the company is already filing a building permit with Kings County to build the first operational hyperloop, which will not be a test track.
“In 36 months we will have the first passenger in the first full-scale hyperloop,” he added.
As outlined by Musk two years ago, the concept is based around pressurised capsules moving along a giant pipe at just below the speed of sound, driven by linear induction motors and air compressors.
The Southern California-based HTT is one of two companies currently competing to make the proposed system a reality, with plans to expand it across the entire country in the future. If the project succeeds, the distance between Los Angeles and San Francisco, for instance, could be measured in minutes rather than hours.
According to Gresta, construction of the first five-mile track will likely commence in the second quarter of this year, with a full-scale city-to-city hyperloop being a possibility within five years, but not in the US.
“This will be the world’s first passenger-ready Hyperloop system,” HTT Chief Executive Dirk Ahlborn said in a statement. “Everyone traveling on California’s I-5 in 2016 will be able to see our activities from the freeway.”
To bring Musk’s vision to life, HTT is crowdsourcing expertise from over 10,000 people who work at places like NASA and SpaceX by day and dedicate their expertise to the project on their free time in exchange for stock options in the company.
A similar, albeit slightly less ambitious, effort is currently underway from HTT’s rival Hyperloop Tech, set to open its two-mile test track by the end of 2016.
Speaking at the Web Summit tech conference in Dublin last year, the company’s CEO Rob Lloyd was a bit more reserved in his predictions as to the exact date of hyperloop technology becoming ready for public use, which, according to him, could happen in about five years’ time.