Elon Musk has announced a new step forward in the Hyperloop project. Speaking onstage at the Texas Transportation forum, Musk announced the development of a test facility for the innovative air-rail system, including a five-mile track. A location has yet to be confirmed, but Musk said it would be "most likely in Texas." It's unclear when Musk's test facility would open, but when it does, it will be the first physical incarnation of the idea he unveiled 18 months ago.
Will be building a Hyperloop test track for companies and student teams to test out their pods. Most likely in Texas.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 15, 2015
Also thinking of having an annual student Hyperloop pod racer competition, like Formula SAE http://t.co/HV9BLCoMb8— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 15, 2015
In subsequent tweets, Musk said the track would be used as a place "for companies and student teams to test out their pods," suggesting he'll be leaving the project open to any groups that want to work on it. A crowdfunded California project has already begun building models for possible Hyperloop pods, although they have yet to produce a working prototype. The team has also suggested modifications to Musk's initial design, like ventilating the tube with a mix of gases rather than simple air, but it's unlikely Musk's new test track will accommodate the changes.
The test track wouldn't address the Hyperloop's most serious challenges, like securing right-of-way while laying out a course straight enough to withstand the system's tremendous speeds, but it's an encouraging sign for anyone worried Musk had abandoned the idea entirely. The Tesla and SpaceX founder has rarely mentioned the Hyperloop project in the time since its initial announcement, putting more focus on the forthcoming Tesla Model 3 or SpaceX's ongoing struggle to safely land its Falcon rocket. But today's news of a test track suggests that Musk hasn't given up on the Hyperloop, and the dream of electromagnetically propelled transport is alive and well.