You leave your office in Denver, arrive at Union Station, and hop aboard a podlike car. Once you’ve settled in, the capsule whooshes into a dark tube. A mere hour and a half later, you pop out in San Francisco, ready to spend the weekend with a friend.
This scenario represents the possibility of hyperloop technology, a theoretical method of ground transportation that moves faster than a jet through a vacuum-sealed tunnel. Although its potential sounds like something out of an Octavia Butler novel, a new partnership between Switzerland-based Swisspod and Pueblo’s MxV Rail could make Colorado the cradle of hyperloop travel.
Swisspod traces its roots to Reddit, where, in 2015, Denis Tudor learned about a hyperloop competition sponsored by Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Tudor’s team won Best Design, and the blueprint became the jumping-off point for Swisspod’s 40-meter track at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, the first hyperloop testing facility in Europe. The startup’s success in Lausanne, where Tudor is a Ph.D. student, earned Swisspod enough investment money to fund a larger prototype that will cost millions of dollars and cover a 40-acre tract of land. Where has the 28-year-old decided to locate his potentially world-changing track? Pueblo, of course.
That’s because the city is home to the Transportation Technology Center, a facility built in the 1970s by the U.S. Department of Transportation to assess hovertrains. MxV Rail, a private contractor, has been running the place since 1998, analyzing all manner of technologies, from a welding method to join tracks more securely to software designed to model the risk of derailment. “They’re one of the greatest companies in the industry when it comes to testing transportation technology,” Tudor says.
Construction of Swisspod’s site is scheduled to begin this month, with Pueblo standing to benefit immediately, says MxV Rail president and CEO Kari Gonzales, thanks to the influx of high-paying engineering and construction jobs. Long term, the MxV-Swisspod collaboration could renew the flagging hopes of hyperloop’s proponents, who have found it difficult to turn potential into reality (passengers keep getting tossed about by the G-force speeds). In February, Los Angeles–based Virgin Hyperloop, the only company to record a successful run with humans, laid off half its staff to refocus on moving cargo instead of people. But Tudor says Virgin’s announcement won’t change his trajectory. Between Swisspod’s dream-big mentality and MxV’s experience, the partnership may give hyperloop the push it needs to finally cross the finish line.
(Read more: Does Hyperloop Still Have a Future in Colorado?)