Photos of the 11ft-diameter Hyperloop test track under construction in Nevada

Los Angeles-based startup Hyperloop One has made it its mission to build a rail system that levitates pods on magnetic skis and sends them through a low-pressure tube at 760mph. At a railway conference in Dubai on Tuesday, the startup showed the first images of the test track it has started building in southern Nevada, north of Las Vegas.

The test track is going to be 500m (or about a third of a mile) long and 3.3m (almost 11ft) wide. A press release from the startup said that it hopes to do a public test in the track in the first half of 2017.

Hyperloop One demonstrated its propulsion system at the Nevada site at a press event last May, where it sent a 10ft sled 116mph on some open-air tracks until the sled hit some sand and slowed down. But since that May press event, the company has faced a number of scandals and lawsuits that ended in several senior members of the company, including lead engineer Brogan BamBrogan, leaving the company.

In the latter half of the year, however, Hyperloop One closed some major deals with rail authorities in the United Arab Emirates, which will allow the company to conduct feasibility studies for its futuristic technology around a major population center. The startup has been contracted to build a cargo offloader for Dubai's port operator, and the feasibility studies will likely target both human and cargo transportation. In November, Hyperloop One released an artist's rendering of a system that queued up autonomously driving pods and shipping containers, which are loaded into a Hyperloop tube for express travel to their desired destination.

The concept of the Hyperloop was formalized in 2013 by Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who released a white paper on what he thought a super-fast rail system would look like. At the time, Musk said he was too busy with his two companies and urged research institutions and startups to take up the idea and run with it.

Hyperloop One has been the most audacious of the companies and research groups attempting to build the system. At the Middle East Rail conference, the startup's press release said that a Hyperloop pod would offer a 30-minute reach between UAE cities Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Al Ain, with the journey between Abu Dhabi and Dubai taking a mere 12 minutes.

There are, of course, real technical hurdles for Hyperloop One to overcome if it hopes to ease the traffic between those major cities, and it will be interesting to see how the company engineers around them.

A recent Hyperloop competition hosted by SpaceX offered some interesting real-world perspective. The company allowed research institutions and student teams to test their model pods on a three-quarter mile, 6ft-diameter test track built by the private space company. Only three teams actually got to run their pods the full length of the track in the low-pressure environment because depressurizing and then re-pressurizing the length of the track was so time-consuming, so airlocks on a real Hyperloop track would obviously be necessary. Several of the teams weren't able to get up to the speed they needed to make their pods levitate magnetically, and a "pusher" was needed on the track to help the teams reduce the weight of their pods.

While little additional information is available on Hyperloop One's nascent test track, Ars will be following for more details.

Listing image by Hyperloop One



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