There is a small handful of groups working in earnest on making Elon Musk's dream of a hyperloop a reality, but none are so high profile as Hyperloop Technologies. The year-old company, which emerged from stealth this year with a splashy profile in Forbes, is backed by a passel of successful investors including Shervin Pishevar, who owns a significant stake in Uber. The team has met with Musk about its plans; built a three-acre campus outside downtown Los Angeles; and is working to close an $80 million round of investment.
As of today, Hylerloop Technologies also has a CEO. The company today announced it has hired Rob Lloyd, former president of Cisco. Over a 20-year career there, Lloyd managed most of Cisco's global business, the company says. He joined Hyperloop Technologies last month to oversee its first big test: the construction of a 2-mile test track at the LA campus. The company has hired 50 people so far with plans to grow that number significantly, Lloyd told The Verge.
Hyperloop Technologies' test track under construction in LA
Assuming Hyperloop Technologies closes the round — which has been open since at least February — it plans to complete construction of its test track by 2016 or early 2017, Lloyd says. That makes it the second outfit with plans to open a test track as early as next year. JumpStartFund is backing a confusingly similar-sounding company named Hyperloop Transportation Technologies. That company says 400 people are now working on its core team, although it's not clear how many are working full time. (JumpStartFund uses a crowdsourcing model where people can earn stock options through part-time work.) That project could open in the California town of Quay Valley next year, its CEO said in February.
"You'll probably see a family of solutions evolve."
Lloyd's company plans to start by shipping freight, not people. But ultimately it plans to do both, Lloyd says. "As we move forward, you'll probably see a family of solutions evolve that meet different needs." In the meantime, it's brought on Emily White as an observer on its board. White, a former Google and Facebook executive, was most recently Snapchat's first chief operating officer. White joins a board that also includes Joe Lonsdale, a co-founder of Palantir; Jim Messina, a former White House deputy chief of staff; Peter Diamandis, founder of the X Prize Foundation; and David Sacks, who founded Yammer.
It's exciting to see test tracks starting to come together, but as we noted in June, the biggest problems with the Hyperloop remain unanswered. Safety concerns may limit it from ever reaching its promised speeds of close to 800 miles per hour, and right-of-way issues may make it impractical to build lengthy stretches of track between urban centers. And with technology this untested, the cost could stretch from the estimated $6 billion into the tens of billions.
But the only way forward is to test, of course. Now that it has a CEO and a rough plan to launch, we'll see what Hyperloop Technologies can deliver.