Hyperloop One, the company behind a futuristic transportation system once touted by Elon Musk, is calling it quits.
Hyperloop One merged with a shell company earlier this year, according to documents seen by Bloomberg. As part of the merger, the company will reportedly sell off its remaining assets, shut its offices, and sack its remaining employees by the end of 2023. Game over, it seems.
Hyperloop One was a high-profile start-up that dreamt of blasting people from city to city through nearly airless tubes.
Musk was one of the early advocates of the high-speed transport system, which seemed like something straight out of a sci-fi movie. In 2013, he started putting together concepts for the Hyperloop using teams of engineers from his other companies, SpaceX and Tesla.
“Hyperloop is a new mode of transport that seeks to change this paradigm by being both fast and inexpensive for people and goods. Hyperloop is also unique in that it is an open design concept, similar to Linux. Feedback is desired from the community that can help advance the Hyperloop design and bring it from concept to reality,” the paper reads.
“Hyperloop consists of a low-pressure tube with capsules that are transported at both low and high speeds throughout the length of the tube. The capsules are supported on a cushion of air, featuring pressurized air and aerodynamic lift. The capsules are accelerated via a magnetic linear accelerator affixed at various stations on the low-pressure tube with rotors contained in each capsule,” it continues.
Riding off the hype generated by Musk, the company Hyperloop Technologies was established in 2014. It then changed its name to Hyperloop One in 2016 and then to Virgin Hyperloop One after being acquired by Richard Branson’s company.
Millions of dollars were poured into the company and some half-decent progress was made, including crewed tests on their 500-meter (1,640-foot) track back in 2020.
However, the technology met several significant engineering hurdles. In 2022, the company announced a major rejig of strategy, saying it would focus on transporting cargo instead of human passengers. A series of job cuts followed and Branson sold Virgin's stake in the project, reverting the company name to Hyperloop One.
Despite capturing the attention of the world’s biggest tech investors – not to mention nearly half a billion dollars in funding – it appears the pipe dream of Hyperloop One was too ahead of its time (or perhaps just an overly ambitious pipedream).