It was a hyperloop hat trick by a team of German engineering students at the third annual SpaceX pod competition Sunday. WARR Hyperloop, from the Technical University of Munich, took home the top prize — and set a new record — with their self-propelled pod reaching a top speed of 284 mph (457 kph).
WARR Hyperloop was one of three finalists to participate in the competition. The teams were tasked with developing a pod to travel down the 1.2-kilometer (0.75-mile) tube, as part of SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s vision for a futuristic, high-speed transportation system.
The pod that reached the maximum speed would be crowned the winner. The only other requirement was that all pods be self-propelled. In addition to WARR, the other qualifying teams were Delft University from the Netherlands and EPF Loop from Switzerland.
This was the third time that SpaceX held its hyperloop competition at its headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif. — and it was the third time that WARR Hyperloop took home the top honor.
Under a blazing sun, hundreds of engineering students from all over the world gathered to present their vision of ultra-fast tube-based travel, as first dreamed up by Elon Musk is a 2013 white paper. The event had the vibe of a Musk-inspired summer music festival, with food trucks lining Jack Northrop Avenue and sunburned university students playing ping pong, cornhole, and SpaceX-branded Jenga. There was an ’80s cover band called The Spazmatics.
And of course, Musk himself couldn’t resist the urge to make an unscheduled appearance.
WARR Hyperloop, from Munich Technical University, also took home the top prizes in the last two competitions in January and August of 2017. And once again, the team’s prototype pod comfortably beat submissions from the other three teams. The 154-pound (70 kg) carbon-fiber pod is powered by a 50kW electric motor and features pneumatic friction brakes that allow the pod to come to a standstill within five seconds, according to the team.
The major difference this time around was the absence of a SpaceX “pusher” vehicle to help propel the pods down the tube. Instead, all pods needed to be self-propelled.
WARR also took home one of three innovation prizes, in recognition of the team’s ambitious move to construct two pods: one for the speed competition, and another to demonstrate its levitation capabilities. Other innovation prizes were handed out to the University of Washington and Eirloop from Ireland.
Not every team was able to achieve their desired speeds.
Delft University’s pod hit a top speed of 88 mph before stalling out in the tube. The team encountered “serious problems” during testing in the week prior to the competition, including a fried circuit board, according to team members. Switzerland’s EPFLoop also encountered a number of complications, resulting in its pod only achieving a top speed of 55 mph.
SpaceX is not affiliated with any of the startups currently working to build a real hyperloop, but the super-fast transportation system is still close to Musk’s heart.
In 2013, Musk published his “alpha paper” which theorized that aerodynamic aluminum capsules filled with passengers or cargo could be propelled through nearly airless tubes at a velocity close to the speed of sound. He called it a “fifth mode of transportation” and argued it could help change the way we live, work, and travel.
The most famous scenario he proposed was a trip from LA to San Francisco in just 30 minutes. Predictably, the idea captured the imaginations of engineers and investors across the world.
Three companies, all based in LA, are actively engaged in building their own hyperloops. And as part of his Boring Company venture, Musk is now talking about digging tunnels under LA and Chicago as a way to bypass traffic. Musk has said he wants to build a hyperloop between New York City and Washington, DC.
Much like in past years, Musk made an unscheduled appearance at the contest he helped inspire.
With his girlfriend Grimes (aka Claire Elise Boucher) and five of his young sons in tow, the SpaceX CEO toured some of the teams’ booths, inspecting the various pods and cracking jokes with the students.
Standing behind a podium constructed from interlocking LEGO-esque bricks made from excavated dirt by the Boring Company, Musk praised the teams for their commitment to the futuristic project.
“This is really the first opportunity to create a new mode of transport,” he said. “That’s really what this competition is about: things that could radically transform cities and the way people get around.”
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An Uber and Lyft driver in St. Louis, Missouri has given around 700 rides since March 2018, and nearly all of them have been live-streamed on Twitch, without passenger consent. In a lengthy report, the St.
Louis Post-Dispatch detailed the actions of Jason Gargac, a 32-year ride-hailing driver who took advantage of Missouri’s one-party consent laws to build up a Twitch following by live-streaming passengers — including children. At times, Gargac has inadvertently revealed the full names of his riders and what their homes and neighborhoods looked like on his channel, under the online handle “JustSmurf.”
Gargac isn’t the first driver to live stream his or her passengers on Twitch; the man says he stumbled onto the trend while surfing Twitch and decided to try it himself. He is, however, one of the few, if not the only one in Missouri, to do so without asking for permission first. (Other “IRL” ride-hailing live streamers often lose passengers the minute they disclose they’re streaming, the report notes.) Gargac has a £3,000 camera setup, including rear-facing and front-facing cameras that show the interior of the car and the environment he’s driving in.
He has about 4,350 Twitch followers, and around 100 of them pay a minimum of £5 a month to subscribe to his channel and support it financially.
Though many of his interactions with passengers are congenial or comical, with Gargac befriending his passengers, his online following can be less pleasant. Viewers sometimes mock individuals, rate the attractiveness of female passengers, and largely push the limits of what’s acceptable on Twitch. Gargac told the St.
Louis Post-Dispatch that he was forced to create on-screen graphics to prevent his viewers from selectively “clipping,” or editing out short clips and upskirt shots of female passengers. He’s also had to mute his microphones when addresses or sensitive personal information is disclosed on his stream, but he must he do so preemptively and cannot completely control what information might slip through to his viewers.
“I have sex in my bedroom. I don’t have sex in strangers’ cars,” Gargac told the paper in an interview, commenting on the expectations of privacy one has in someone else’s vehicle. “Because I have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the bedroom in my own house.
I don’t have that in a stranger’s car.” Gargac also says the live stream provides him security. “If something happens, immediately there can be a response versus hopefully you’ll find my truck in a ditch three weeks later,” he said. However, he did confirm that he started his Lyft and Uber accounts for the sole purpose of streaming passengers on Twitch. “I love doing it,” he concluded.
According to Missouri state law, Uber, and Lyft, Gargac is in the clear. Because he is not breaking one-party consent laws, the state can’t do anything about his recording of passengers without their permission.
Neither Uber or Lyft told the St.
Louis Post-Dispatch that Gargac was breaking any of their terms, with both companies noting that drivers are responsible for following local laws. “Recording passengers without their consent is illegal in some states, but not Missouri,” Uber told the paper in a statement.