Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Texas Guadaloop: Pioneering the Transportation of the Future

Avery Thorpe

Editor’s note: This column was submitted to the Texan by a member of the UT community.

We live in a country where car is king. This is especially true in Texas, where towering highways dominate the vast terrain, and, for many incoming students, the first sign of nearing campus is not UT Tower, but paralyzing bumper-to-bumper traffic. The congestion is so severe that in 2017, Austinites wasted an average of 66 hours stuck in traffic each year. 

While many developed nations boast efficient and affordable public transportation, the United States, having developed much of its infrastructure around the automobile, often lags behind with limited or inefficient systems. For those without the economic or logistic means to a car, it can be crippling. Students, in their efforts to mitigate costs such as gas, parking and maintenance, exemplify this challenge. Consequently, UT-Austin students are challenged with limited transit options when traveling home, often resorting to buses, which are even more time-consuming than driving.

Beyond the inefficiencies of owning a car, they also challenge our goal of carbon neutrality. “Texas drivers are responsible for more carbon dioxide than every train in the world combined,” said Michael Lewis, a Former Clean Air and Water advocate for Environment Texas. Without a paradigm shift in our transportation systems, we will reach irreversible environmental disaster.

At Texas Guadaloop, we aim to change everything. 

We are a passionate team of 120 students, uniting engineering and business expertise in order to develop hyperloop technology. The hyperloop is a high-speed transportation system currently being developed by companies and student organizations worldwide that allows for a sustainable way to transport people and goods long distances, across land. 

It uses magnetic levitation technology to levitate off the track, bypassing friction, similar to existing bullet trains. However, unlike its train counterpart, a hyperloop travels in a vacuum tube. This greatly reduces air resistance and allows for speeds of up to 700 mph — 10 times faster than conventional trains — making a commute from Austin to Dallas or Houston possible in just 25 minutes.

We envision a world where you can get out of class at 5:00, decide to take a hyperloop to zoom to dinner with your family in Dallas at 5:45, and then still make it back to Austin in time to catch an organization meeting on campus at 7:30.

We compete in hyperloop competitions every year where we showcase our prototype. In European Hyperloop Week 2022, we were recognized at the Best Hyperloop Team in America, beating teams like MIT and UC Irvine. A large differentiation between us and other hyperloop teams and engineering organizations on campus is that we do a majority of the manufacturing ourselves in-house as opposed to outsourcing, making us cost-effective, but, more importantly, building our engineers’ skill sets. 

These competitions aren’t about the accolades, but the opportunity to learn and collaborate with international teams. Each year, we show off our pod, draw inspiration from other teams, identify improvement areas of our own pod and continue to improve our design each year. Our first pod we competed with, Furiosa, actually levitated on air bearings above the track like a hockey puck, winning two different Innovation Awards at SpaceX competitions because it was efficient given the scale of student prototypes. In recent years, we have shifted to magnetic levitation designs, as that is what is ultimately scaleable for real-world implementation.

This year is our most ambitious year yet. We have our sights set on the Canadian Hyperloop Conference in May, the UC Irvine’s Hyperloop Showcase in June and the European Hyperloop Week at Zurich in July. We’ve completely revamped our design from previous years, and, this time, we’re determined to be not just the best team in America, but the best team in the world. 

While hyperloop technology will still take this decade to fully mature, the industry is developing rapidly, especially in areas outside the U.S. The ultimate bottlenecks for real-world implementation will be public support and economic feasibility. The vision is that an exciting high-speed technology, like the Hyperloop, will be able to bring a new face to public transportation in the U.S.

We believe that UT’s ethos encapsulates our mission perfectly:

What starts here changes the world.

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