Who can design the best pod to run inside a test track? (credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX has selected 124 teams of mostly college student engineers to participate in a Hyperloop Pod competition at the end of January. The teams will present their concepts for pods, which will then compete on a test track next summer in front of judges from SpaceX, Tesla, and universities.

The hyperloop, as outlined by Elon Musk two years ago, would involve a pod or capsule moving at nearly the speed of sound inside a tube elevated above the ground. This kind of track system could provide rapid transportation between cities 1,500 km or less apart, Musk said, after which supersonic aircraft would probably be faster or cheaper. Passengers might travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco in just 30 minutes, according to Musk. The idea was hailed as visionary by some, but others have criticized it for being far from practical.

Although Musk has said he is focused on launching rockets with SpaceX and building electric cars with Tesla, he has nonetheless sought to nurture the project along by developing a functional prototype. To that end, he invited young engineers to propose ideas for a pod. The teams, from 27 US states and 20 countries, will have their concepts judged on January 29 and 30 at Texas A&M University in College Station.

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