In 2013, Elon Musk released a white paper outlining his Hyperloop concept, a new form of high speed mass transit that he apparently cooked up in his spare time away from running SpaceX and Tesla Motors. A handful of startups (including Hyperloop Technologies and the completely different Hyperloop Transportation Technologies) have sprung up to pursue building their own Hyperloop and now SpaceX says it will spur the efforts along by building a 1-mile long test track and hosting a competition for university and independent engineering teams to build their own Hyperloop transport pod prototypes.
The initial deadline for teams to declare their interest in competing is September 15, and SpaceX says the target date for the competition to be held at the Los Angeles-area company campus is June 2016. But before the final competition weekend, an earlier design weekend meetup will be held in January at Texas A&M University. This is where competitors will submit their design plans to be evaluated by SpaceX. It will also be a venue for companies to network with entrants and perhaps sponsor or otherwise contribute funds to the construction of a pod prototype for the competition weekend at SpaceX headquarters.
While the pod prototypes are to be built to "human scale," SpaceX says no people will be allowed to ride on the SpaceX test track during the competition weekend.
There's no mention in the overview document provided by SpaceX about potential prizes for competitors, but presumably the most successful designs could attract the interest of any of the companies currently working to develop their own Hyperloop designs. Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, for example, already plans to build a 5-mile demonstration Hyperloop of sorts in a planned community in California's central valley.
However, SpaceX says the knowledge gained through the competitive process will continue to be open-sourced, so perhaps the true prize here will be a great job at a Hyperloop startup?
More detailed rules for the competition will be released by SpaceX in August.