One of the potentially most innovative transportation concepts to come along in years has now got a little Game of Thrones vibe happening.
On Friday, Bloomberg reported that Tesla cofounder Elon Musk has confirmed plans to have one of his companies build its own Hyperloop system to connect New York City and Washington D.C. Musk had developed the basic Hyperloop concept a few years ago, but then placed it in the public domain and invited others to actually pursue it.
Which they did. Arrivo, Hyperloop One, and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies have been building out facilities and running tests and raising venture capital in an effort to advance and deploy the technology. Side note: Arrivo was created by a Hyperloop One cofounder who was pushed out. So this little club already had its share of vendettas and intrigue.
However, over the summer, another Musk company, the Boring Company, which has developed tunnel digging technology, revealed that it had received permission to dig a tunnel between NY and DC. There was some hope that maybe it was doing this and would then seek a partner to build the Hyperloop system.
Nope. In an official statement to Bloomberg, Boring said it would do it on its own. And it also contained an ominous line:
“While we’re encouraged that others are making some progress, we would like to accelerate the development of this technology as fast as possible,” said a statement from Boring to Bloomberg. “We encourage and support all companies that wish to build Hyperloops and we don’t intend to stop them from using the Hyperloop name as long as they are truthful.”
Truthful … about what?
Musk’s companies also control the trademark for Hyperloop, and Space X runs Hyperloop competitions. So he could make things uncomfortable for these other three companies, depending on how aggressively he plans to move into the Hyperloop business.
If he does, it would be bad news or these competitors. They’re not just some kids developing a mobile app. Together, they’ve built millions of dollars’ worth of infrastructure already to conduct tests. And they’ve struck partnerships with governments around the world to begin studying possible implementation and feasibility.
Of course, it’s a big world. And if this technology can ever prove itself, there is no doubt room for more than one company in this space, given the immense costs and investment needed to build even one segment.
Still, Musk’s entry is going to cause a lot of uncertainty until he further clarifies his long-term attentions. Not a lot of investors are going to be willing to bet against him.