Innovation

The hyperloop race heats up as one startup begins building a full-size passenger pod

(Hyperloop Transportation Technologies YouTube screenshot)

(Hyperloop Transportation Technologies YouTube screenshot)

There's a new skirmish in the hyperloop race.

Elon Musk might be ahead of the game when it comes to developing the futuristic hyperloop transportation system, but his competition is gaining on him.

This week, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) announced that it's starting construction on its passenger capsule at its research and development facility in Toulouse, France -- a sign that the spunky startup might be more than just vaporware after all. HTT is working with Carbures S.A., a Spanish company that builds components and systems for use in aeronautics, defense, space and other complex technical industries.

The HTT passenger capsule will seat between 28 and 40 people, and is being designed to travel at more than 700 miles per hour. The commercial capsule, so reminiscent of The Jetsons, will be about 100 feet long, with a 9-foot diameter and a weight of 20 tons.

"Our dream of creating the next breakthrough in transportation takes a big step forward today," said Dirk Ahlborn, Co-founder & CEO of HTT.

HTT already has partnerships emerging with Abu Dhabi, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic regarding potential hyperloop system installations.

But it's still a crowded field. The original concept for the fabled transportation system, which is intended to move passengers and cargo at airline speeds for a fraction of the cost of air transportation, emerged from a conversation between Elon Musk and Silicon Valley angel investor Shervin Pishevar. The result was the company now known as Hyperloop One, which is also sitting on over $150 million in funding.

Hyperloop One is eyeing Dubai for its first commercial system, intended to connect Abu Dhabi and Dubai via hyperloop. However, Hyperloop One has long had the advantage over its competitors, having already demonstrated its technology on a test track in Las Vegas last year.

Simultaneously, Brogan BamBrogan, the former Chief Technical Officer of Hyperloop One, has launched his own hyperloop startup, Arrivo, following a very public lawsuit against Hyperloop One. The former SpaceX engineer has decamped to Los Angeles to seek out public-private partnerships to fund two test sites in the United States.

It's still up the air as to which firm is going to win the race to build a working hyperloop, but it's a sure bet the story won't be boring.