Based on the conceptual high-speed transportation system originally designed by Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, the hyperloop is an open-sourced technology that encourages other companies to take the foundational ideas and develop them further into original and unique projects. As of 2016, there are three companies building hyperloop tracks, all of which have been planned for the United States until now. Hyperloop Technologies Inc. (HTI), led by CEO Rob Lloyd, is building a short 3-kilometer (1.9-mile) test track in North Las Vegas, Nevada to test lightweight prototype pods. Meanwhile, Elon Musk's company SpaceX is getting Los Angeles-based AECOM to advance construction on a 1.61-kilometer (1-mile) test track at its headquarters in Hawthorne, California. Finally, a third crowd-sourced company called Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT), led by CEO Dirk Ahlborn, is began construction this summer on an 8-kilometer (5-mile) track in Quay Valley, California, halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. HTT is the company that has reached a deal with the Slovakian government to begin building the first phase of a hyperloop across Central Europe.
The track will link the cities of Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest, where an estimated 201-kilometer (125-mile) link between the first two cities will transport passengers in just 8 minutes, while an estimated 80-kilometer (50-mile) link between the second two will transport passengers in just 10 minutes. The hyperloop company says it may also be possible to travel from one side of Slovakia to the other in just 25 minutes, from Bratislava and Košice, a 402-kilometer (250-mile) distance that currently takes about four and a half hours by car.
Image source: Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT)
"A transportation system of this kind would redefine the concept of commuting and boost cross-border cooperation in Europe," Vazil Hudak, Slovak Republic's Minister of Economy said in a statement. The company’s CEO, Dirk Ahlborn, also hinted a possibility for "future developments with other regions of the world," although no specifics were mentioned by name.
Dirk Ahlborn, CEO, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT)
"Slovakia is a technological leader in the automotive, material science, and energy industries, many of the areas that are integral to the Hyperloop system," Ahlborn continued. "Having a European Hyperloop presence will incentivize collaboration and innovation within Slovakia and throughout Europe."
Meanwhile, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) – not to be confused with Rob Lloyd’s Hyperloop Technologies Inc. (HTI) – hopes to have its Quay Valley, California project up and running by 2018. While Musk’s company is taking the traditional venture-funded approach, raising over $37 million in equity, Lloyd’s crowdfunding effort takes place on JumpStartFund.com, where accredited investors can pitch in their spare change and help the project become a reality at significantly cheaper costs than traditional rail infrastructure.
YouTube - Hyperloop Progress Underway (HTT)
While an agreement between Hyperloop Transportation Technologies and the government of Slovakia has been signed, there has yet to be a concrete blueprint for the actual tracks. Austria and Hungary have yet to sign onto the project, and various funding stages will need to gather enough attention and support in order to incentivize the three-country project.