California may have produced the horrorshow traffic that prompted Elon Musk to pitch the hyperloop, but it’s hardly the only place eager to ditch cars for levitating pods hurtling through tubes at speeds approaching the sound barrier. India wants in, too.
Today, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, one of the companies formed to realize Musk’s vision of tube travel, announced it has signed a deal with the state of Andhra Pradesh, in southeast India.
Working with the state’s economic development board, HTT will spend six months studying possible routes for a hyperloop connecting the cities of Vijaywada and Amaravati—a move that would transform a 27-mile, hour-long drive into a six-minute whoosh. And then, over an undisclosed period of time, the Los Angeles-based company says it will build the thing.
The India deal is just the latest for HTT, which also plans to build networks of tubes in South Korea, Slovakia, and Abu Dhabi. But to make all—or any—of that happen, the company’s 800 engineers (most of whom have day jobs and work on this in their spare time, in exchange for stock options) must first master the practical aspects of the hyperloop. That means building and maintaining a near-vacuum state across miles of tubes, propelling levitating pods through them, getting people or cargo into and out of those pods, and much more.
The company has not publicly demonstrated a working system, but CEO Dirk Ahlborn is confident. “We are ready to build,” he told WIRED in June. “Technology is not an issue.”
That seems good enough for the folks running Andhra Pradesh. “In order to boost its image and emerge as the frontier city in future technology, Amaravati is looking forward to collaborating with Hyperloop Transportation Technologies,” Krishna Kishore, CEO of the state’s economic development board, said in a statement.
Meanwhile, HTT’s rivals are pushing ahead, too. Hyperloop One, the mainstream favorite to deliver the transportation transformation, recently fired its 28-foot pod through a test tube at nearly 200 mph. Musk himself has decided to build his own hyperloop, and is testing his own design.
But making the hyperloop work isn’t the real challenge here; the physics are quite straightforward. Even regulation may not be the toughest hurdle, as the companies can cherry pick routes where local powers are keen to host the future of travel. The real difficulty lies in making a transportation system that can compete on price and practicality with established airlines, train companies, and private cars.
However that clash pans out, the Indian front is now part of the battlefield.