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It's Make or Brake for Hyperloop: What You Need to Know

Hyperloop could be the next big leap in mass transit, and after starting off as a simple idea from Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk in 2013, the dream could become reality today (May 11). That’s because newly renamed Hyperloop One (formerly Hyperloop Technologies Inc.) is finally ready to conduct the first open-air test of its magnetic propulsion tech on a track north of Las Vegas.

Update: In its open-air test north of Las Vegas, Hyperloop One's metal test bed hit 100 mph in just two seconds of 2G acceleration. While it was a short test, Hyperloop One's founders said the demo was more than enough to show that maglev trains could be deployed without excessive costs or infrastructure int he real world.

The reasons for all the hype around Hyperloop is that unlike traditional Maglev trains, which also use magnets for lift and propulsion, a Hyperloop could transport passengers at speeds upwards of 700 mph - fast enough to go from San Francisco to Los Angeles in less than 45 minutes. By comparison, the current fastest Maglev train in the world, the Shanghai Transrapid, tops out at just 270 mph.

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The way Hyperloop trains achieves these speeds is by using magnetically propelled train cars or pods that travel through a tube featuring air pressure that has been reduced to a partial vacuum. This eliminates much of the friction and air resistance that prevents traditional high-speed rail systems from achieving greater speeds, while also increasing the efficiency of the train’s magnetic drives.

However, Hyperloop One isn’t the only name in town. Competing company Hyperloop Transportation Technologies announced earlier this week that it had just licensed a technology called passive magnetic levitation that's even safer and cheaper than current Maglev propulsion tech.

Hyperloop was met with much interest when Musk introduced it in 2013. The concept seemed like an ideal alternative to California’s High-Speed Rail project which has been mired in budget concerns and political red tape since it was proposed back in 1996.

If all goes well on Wednesday, Hyperloop will have a sizeable nest egg to continue building out its system, as the company recently announced that it had raised $80 million in venture capital funding. And with the company looking to bring its transportation tech to other locales including Finland, Sweden and Switzerland, we could be looking at the begging of a new era for mass transit.

Sam is a senior reporter at Gizmodo, formerly Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag. Was an archery instructor and a penguin trainer before that.