What if traveling at the speed of sound became a normal part of your daily commute? That’s one dream a group of Carnegie Mellon University students is closer to realizing as part of SpaceX Hyperloop, a worldwide competition created by mega-entrepreneur Elon Musk to develop a high-speed ground transportation system.
But how exactly does one stop an object traveling at more than 700 miles per hour?
That was one of the many questions covered last night during an event at CMU where the Hyperloop team revealed the pod prototype they spent more than a year and a half building. Made of steel and aluminum, and topped with a black, lightweight carbon fiber shell, the design recently topped 150 concepts presented at the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod competition in Hawthorne, CA.
CMU Hyperloop previously beat out 1,500 other teams to become a semi-finalist in the competition.
The event featured presentations by CMU Hyperloop founder Anshuman Kumar, lead engineer Karthik Chandrashekaraiah and marketing lead Lauren D’Souza. After the unveiling, audience members lined up to experience a virtual reality simulation that imagines what a ride in a pod would be like.
Using a state-of-the-art levitation system and aerodynamic design, the pod can currently travel through a tube at more than 220 miles per hour. Chandrashekaraiah said the braking system presented an especially big challenge since a split second delay in stopping would result in a “catastrophic failure.” To avoid any such disaster, they use a combination of magnetic braking and friction pads to bring the pod down from its top speed to a halt in 10 seconds.
Kumar credited the pod’s success to the 200 CMU students who contributed to the project since it began.
Opening with a quote from tech billionaire Peter Thiel—“In a world of scarce resources, globalization without new technology is unsustainable”—Kumar argued that Hyperloop emphasizes the need for new forms of transportation in a world plagued by disappearing fossil fuels and worsening pollution.
“If we are to achieve equality and sustain civilization, we have to develop new technology,” said Kumar. “We have to develop new ideas on to do more with less.”
Ultimately, he and his team focused on designing a pod system that was fast, efficient, safe, convenient, environmentally friendly and “mind-numbingly awesome.”
He also lauded SpaceX Hyperloop’s “anti-tribalistic” approach to solving problems, where “an army of startups or startup-like groups” from all over the world came together to develop a potentially life-changing form of transport.
The CMU Hyperloop team intends to move on to the next round of the competition this summer, a goal they plan on achieving with the support of sponsorships and a crowdfunding campaign launching on February 20.
See more photos of the CMU Hyperloop pod reveal below: