CMU Hyperloop marketing lead Lauren D'Souza. Photo by Amanda Waltz.

What if traveling at the speed of sound became a normal part of your daily commute? That’s one dream a group of Carnegie Mellon University students is closer to realizing as part of SpaceX Hyperloop, a worldwide competition created by mega-entrepreneur Elon Musk to develop a high-speed ground transportation system.

But how exactly does one stop an object traveling at more than 700 miles per hour?

That was one of the many questions covered last night during an event at CMU where the Hyperloop team revealed the pod prototype they spent more than a year and a half building. Made of steel and aluminum, and topped with a black, lightweight carbon fiber shell, the design recently topped 150 concepts presented at the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod competition in Hawthorne, CA.

CMU Hyperloop previously beat out 1,500 other teams to become a semi-finalist in the competition.

CMU Hyperloop founder Anshuman Kumar (left) and lead engineer Karthik Chandrashekaraiah (right) unveil their pod. Photo by Amanda Waltz.

The event featured presentations by CMU Hyperloop founder Anshuman Kumar, lead engineer Karthik Chandrashekaraiah and marketing lead Lauren D’Souza. After the unveiling, audience members lined up to experience a virtual reality simulation that imagines what a ride in a pod would be like.

Using a state-of-the-art levitation system and aerodynamic design, the pod can currently travel through a tube at more than 220 miles per hour. Chandrashekaraiah said the braking system presented an especially big challenge since a split second delay in stopping would result in a “catastrophic failure.” To avoid any such disaster, they use a combination of magnetic braking and friction pads to bring the pod down from its top speed to a halt in 10 seconds.

Volunteers experience Hyperloop speeds in the virtual reality simulator. Photo by Amanda Waltz.

Kumar credited the pod’s success to the 200 CMU students who contributed to the project since it began.

Opening with a quote from tech billionaire Peter Thiel“In a world of scarce resources, globalization without new technology is unsustainable”Kumar argued that Hyperloop emphasizes the need for new forms of transportation in a world plagued by disappearing fossil fuels and worsening pollution.

“If we are to achieve equality and sustain civilization, we have to develop new technology,” said Kumar. “We have to develop new ideas on to do more with less.”

Ultimately, he and his team focused on designing a pod system that was fast, efficient, safe, convenient, environmentally friendly and “mind-numbingly awesome.”

A CMU Hyperloop team member exposes the pod’s inner workings. Photo by Amanda Waltz.
A CMU Hyperloop team member exposes the pod’s inner workings. Photo by Amanda Waltz.

He also lauded SpaceX Hyperloop’s “anti-tribalistic” approach to solving problems, where “an army of startups or startup-like groups” from all over the world came together to develop a potentially life-changing form of transport.

The CMU Hyperloop team intends to move on to the next round of the competition this summer, a goal they plan on achieving with the support of sponsorships and a crowdfunding campaign launching on February 20.

See more photos of the CMU Hyperloop pod reveal below:

A tastier version of the CMU Hyperloop pod. Photo by Amanda Waltz.
CMU Hyperloop team members await the unveiling. Photo by Amanda Waltz.
Guests pose with cutouts of Elon Musk and Andrew Carnegie. Photo by Amanda Waltz.
Strapped in for the CMU Hyperloop virtual reality simulator. Photo by Amanda Waltz.
The pod up close. Photo by Amanda Waltz.

Amanda Waltz

Amanda Waltz is a freelance journalist and film critic whose work has appeared locally in numerous publications. She writes for The Film Stage and is the founder and editor of Steel Cinema, a blog dedicated...