Tech billionaire Elon Musk plans hyperloop high-speed acceleration and braking test

Another day and yet another seemingly unbelievable announcement from tech billionaire Elon Musk.

The Tesla and SpaceX CEO says his companies’ upgraded hyperloop transportation pod will undergo a test soon — with the aim of reaching half the speed of sound and then braking in less than a mile.

In a late Saturday night tweet, Musk teased the latest progress update in his effort to build a tunnel capable of whisking pods of travelers between cities at speeds of up to 700 miles per hour.

The upcoming test will try to have the pod achieve half the speed of sound, or roughly 381 miles per hour, and then brake within 1.2 kilometers, or approximately three-quarters of a mile, he tweeted.

Could anything possibly go wrong? The high-speed acceleration and braking in such a short distance is “kinda nutty,” he tweeted. But it will be “exciting either way,” he added.

Some of Musk’s millions of Twitter followers seemed divided about the proposed test goals.

Can’t wait to try hyperloop travel, enthused Twitter user DeviliciousMe.

However, TetriniMusic tweeted some skepticism about the potential results.

Musk first introduced his vision for a tube-based hyperloop transportation system in a 2013 white paper, outlining the possibility of a gridlock-busting idea that could make current modes of transit passe.

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In the years since, Musk has gained several potential hyperloop competitors, including British tycoon and airline magnate Richard Branson. In February, the Branson-backed Virgin Hyperloop One announced plans to build a hyperloop tunnel in India that would lop roughly three hours off the travel time between the city of Pune and a planned airport in Mumbai.

Last week, a Canadian startup called TransPod said it wants to raise $50 million for its own hyperloop technology aimed at ferrying passengers at speeds of more than 1,000 kilometers or roughly 622 miles an hour, Bloomberg News reported.

Musk hasn’t exactly been standing still. In October, the American Public Transportation Association tweeted that Musk was poised to a start a hyperloop project in Maryland. The tweet cited a Baltimore Sun report that said state officials had issued a conditional utility permit to let Musk’s tunneling firm, The Boring Company, dig a 10.3-mile tunnel beneath the Maryland-owned portion of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.

Musk tweeted at the time that full announcement was likely months away.

Separately, Musk used a series of tweets in March to refine his futuristic transportation vision. The tweets included an animation that showed a bus-like vehicle suddenly lowering itself deep underground where it joined a flowing artery filled with similar people-filled pods.

Musk described the new auto-less mission as a departure from his original concept for The Boring Company, which focuses on drilling tunnels beneath major urban centers. Initially, he planned to fill the company’s tunnels with moving platforms that carried passengers’ personal cars.

Musk has other problems and challenges to address while he works on the hyperloop venture.

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Some investors have signaled a potential loss of faith in the entrepreneurial maverick as production levels of his mass-market Tesla Model 3 electric car struggles to meet promised goals.

Tesla announced last week that Model 3 production is increasing so rapidly the pace may soon a “exceed even that of Ford and the Model T.”.

However, Musk and Tesla have gone through a recent bad spell amid a drop in the value of company’s shares, a spat with the National Transportation Safety Board and a debt rating downgrade.

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Contributing: Marcodella Cava, Nathan Bomey.

Follow USA TODAY reporter Kevin McCoy on Twitter: @kmccoynyc.

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