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Commercial Hyperloop race heats up

Image: Hyperloop Trans concept
A cutaway shows Hyperloop Transportaion’s concept for a passenger pod supported by passive magnetic levitation. (Credit: Hyperloop Trans)

This is a big week for the Hyperloop, a high-speed transportation concept that waslaid out three years ago by Elon Musk, the tech mastermind behind SpaceX and Tesla: One California-based startup is talking about the magnetic levitation system it plans to use for its prototype, while another will be showing off its test track in North Las Vegas.

Neither company is associated with Musk, but both are hoping to capitalize on his concept. If such systems are built, passengers will be able to board levitating pods and zoom through tubes from the San Francisco Bay Area to Los Angeles in about a half an hour, at nearly supersonic speeds. The cost of building such systems is expected to amount to billions of dollars. That suggests only one company will win out.

Today, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies announced that it was licensing a system known as passive magnetic levitation or Inductrack to get its pods off the ground. The system was developed by the late Richard Post and fellow researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Labs.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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