When Elon Musk, the PayPal billionaire, announced his plans for a near-supersonic transport system of passenger capsules levitating inside tubes it sounded like science fiction.
Now the concept is to get its first working test track.
A full-scale version of the Hyperloop concept is to be built in central California next year, using magnets and fans to push passenger pods through five miles of depressurised tubes at speeds of up to 200 mph.
This model will be slower and shorter than the full-sized system described by Mr Musk but will be used to test the concept and its safety.
Dirk Ahlborn, chief executive of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, said: "This installation will allow us to demonstrate all systems on a full scale and immediately begin generating revenues for our shareholders through actual operations."
His plan is based on a blueprint set out by Mr Musk in what he called a "white paper", describing the idea for a fifth mode of transport - after planes, trains, cars and boats.
"Short of figuring out real teleportation, which would of course be awesome, the only option for super-fast travel is to build a tube over or under the ground, " wrote Mr Musk in the 57-page document about 18 months ago.
Think of it as a cross between Concorde, a railgun and an air hockey table, he said.
He imagined a system that could carry people from Los Angeles to San Francisco at speeds almost 800mph, cutting the 400-mile trip to a little over 30 minutes.
The plan requires building a network of steel tubes, elevated above street level and mounted on earthquake-proof pylons.
Today, friction limits the maximum velocity of high-speed trains. Instead the Hyperloop system would use tubes at very low pressure to reduce air resistance and the capsules would run on a "ski" of air - rather than wheels - a bit like a puck on an air hockey table.
In short, it would be the sort of fast, cheap way to travel long imagined by futurologists.
APPlans for high-speed travel.Then, soon after setting out his revolutionary vision, Mr Musk made one small, additional admission: With so many other projects on the go, such as putting men on Mars with SpaceX and producing mass market Tesla electric cars, he simply did not have time to work on the Hyperloop.
Instead he threw the idea open to the public, asking entrepreneurs to take his brainchild and turn it into reality.
The result is Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, a company set up by Mr Ahlborn and his crowd-funded online incubator JumpStartFund.
They have established a network of almost 200 scientists and engineers across the US working to refine and develop the idea.
According to Mr Ahlborn, many have day jobs at Nasa, SpaceX, Airbus, Yahoo! and other cutting edge companies.
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