Considering that just four years ago it was an idea cooked up by a busy billionaire in his spare time, today the Hyperloop is gaining serious traction in all corners of the globe. One of the startups vying to make it a reality, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT), has announced a partnership with the South Korean government and local universities to build the world's first full-scale Hyperloop system.

First described by Elon Musk in a 2013 white paper, the Hyperloop system would see passengers and cargo shuttled through near-vacuum tubes at close to the speed of sound. Such a system could see people traveling between Los Angeles and San Francisco in 30 minutes.

The agreement was actually signed back in January but only revealed this week, and sees HTT team up with the South Korean government's department of technological innovation and infrastructure, along with the Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building (KICT) and Hanyang University.

It involves the construction of a full-scale testbed, licensing of HTT's vacuum tube, levitation, propulsion and battery technologies along with the co-development of safety standards and regulations. The agreement is a multi-year partnership intended to build a new transportation system for South Korea, one which will be known as the HyperTube Express and carry passengers between Seoul and Busan in under 20 minutes, compared to the current three-hour drive.

HTT may be setting out to build the world's first Hyperloop but it is no guarantee, with fellow startups Arrivo and Hyperloop One also moving full-steam ahead with their plans. The latter in particular seems to be making solid progress, recently showing off a full-scale test track in Nevada and forming agreements with Russia, Finland and Dubai to explore the feasibility of a Hyperloop in those countries. It's too early to tell who will be first out of the gate, but the competition is certainly heating up.

"Tube travel changes the way people live and move, it has the opportunity to unite people," said Tai Sik Lee, KICT President. "The Republic of Korea continues its tradition of technological advancement and innovation by bringing this technology to life, the government has allocated the necessary resources, we finalized our preliminary research and now are getting ready to implement."

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