The tubular transportation system of the future, hyperloop, is headed for Europe.
Hyperloop Transportation Technologies said Thursday that it had reached an agreement with the government of Slovakia to build a local hyperloop system, with the first section to be completed by 2020.
First envisioned by Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, hyperloop is a tube through which transportation modules carry passengers at high speeds on a cushion of air. The hope is that it will revolutionise long-distance ground transport by dramatically cutting travel times. It's currently being brought to life by two separate companies, one of which is HTT.
Until now, visions for making hyperloop a reality have been restricted to Californian soil. Though the technology is still in its conceptual phase, it looks like Europe will eventually benefit from the transportation setup too.
"A transportation system of this kind would redefine the concept of commuting and boost cross-border cooperation in Europe," Vazil Hudak, the Slovak Republic's minister of economy, said in a statement. Dirk Ahlborn, chief executive of HTT, hinted at "future developments with other regions of the world," though he didn't elaborate on where these might be.
HTT is hoping to use the hyperloop to connect the Slovakian city of Bratislava with Vienna and with Budapest, Hungary. The two journeys would take 8 and 10 minutes, respectively. It now takes about an hour to get to Vienna by train, and a little more than two-and-a-half hours to get to Budapest. Hyperloop could also connect the two sides of Slovakia, which are currently a four-and-a-half hour car ride apart.
"The next steps are identifying the perfect route, right of ways and construction requirements," an HTT spokesman told CNET. It's envisioned that the project will be financed through a public-private partnership project, he added.
Founded in 2013 thanks to a JumpStartFund crowdsourcing campaign, HTT is also currently working on a project in Quay Valley in California. It hopes to have the hyperloop up and running there in 36 months.
Rival company Hyperloop Tech is building a two-mile test track that it plans to start operating by the end of this year. It has a more modest estimate for when the final tech will be ready. It's expected to take about five years, CEO Rob Lloyd said last year at the Web Summit tech conference in Dublin.