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Hyperloop successfully speeds through the desert

Technology firm Hyperloop One has successfully tested its futuristic transport system for the first time. The system of tubes and pods for passengers and cargo is powered by electric coils underneath the craft.

The future of high-speed transportation may have proven itself on Wednesday following the successful test of so-called "hyperloop" technology in the Nevada desert. The triumph for

the high-speed propulsion system

was the first of its kind, according to the company developing it.

Los Angeles-based tech firm Hyperloop One is only one of several companies experimenting with a transport system composed of passenger pods zipping through giant vacuum tubes. But the company, owned by Elon Musk of SpaceX and

Tesla Motors

, has made the biggest strides so far in realizing its founder's futuristic vision.

"Technology development testing can be a tricky beast," said Hyperloop One co-founder Brogan BamBrogan ahead of the test. "You never know on a given day if things are going to work exactly like you want."

The prototype pod, set along a train track, was then rocketed to 105 mph by copper coils shooting electricity into the bottom of it. The test was modest, however, compared to the company's ambitions: A track stretching from Los Angeles to San Francisco, carrying passengers and cargo at speeds of 750 mph (1,200 kph). Musk has already raised eyebrows by suggesting the project would only cost $6 billion, a mere one-tenth of California's planned high-speed railway.

Critics: Hyperloop is a pipe dream

Skeptics have argued, however, that the cost would not only be much higher - but that the real word challenges of construction make a functional hyperloop system practically impossible.

"The hyperloop might be promising, but it's still unproven and just an idea. High-speed rail is a proven technology that's been in use around the world for decades," said Lisa Marie Alley of the California High Speed Rail Authority.

Hyperloop One remained confident in the face of criticism, however. On Wednesday, company CEO Rob Lloyd predicted that hyperloop technology would be carrying cargo by 2019 and passengers by 2021.

es/sms (AFP, Reuters)

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