The race to get us racing through near-vacuum tubes close to the speed of sound is heating up. Hyperloop Technologies, one of the startups looking to commercialize Elon Musk's futuristic transport concept, has announced plans to commence testing on an open-air track in Nevada next month, with a view to hitting speeds of 700 mph (1,126 km/h) by the end of 2016.

Not to be confused with Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, another startup formed in 2013 that is developing its own 5-mile test track in Quay Valley, Hyperloop Technologies is looking to move cargo around in addition to people. It also happens to have some big names at the wheel, notably XPrize Foundation chair Peter Diamandis and former SpaceX engineer Brogan Bambrogan.

To confuse things just a little further, Elon Musk's SpaceX is in the process of building its own 1-mile test track and will host a competition among university and independent engineering teams to build their own transport pod prototypes.

But Hyperloop Technologies is looking to get out ahead of the competition. It has reached an agreement to start testing on a site of around 50 acre (20.2 ha) in Nevada in early 2016. The construction materials for what it calls the Propulsion Open Air Test will start rolling in this month, with operations to begin in January.

The track will stretch over around 1 km (0.62 mi), but rather than actually shuttling along a passenger pod, it will be used with a test vehicle capable of hitting 540 km/h (335 mph) in two seconds in order to put the company's linear electric motor through its paces.

Hyperloop Technologies considers this the first step toward a full-scale 3 km (1.86 mi) test track where pods will be levitated and zipped through low-friction tubes at 700 mph (1,126 km/h). Though the company is anticipating this track to be completed and in use by late 2016 or early 2017, it is yet to decide on a location. Its publicly stated goal is to deliver a fully operational Hyperloop system by 2020.

The video below gives a brief overview of the Propulsion Open Air Test.