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Satire: California misses out on Loopy Award

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the first Loopy Awards show, presented by the Worldwide Innovative Technology Society. The Board of WITS has reviewed all of the nominees for this prestigious honor and has narrowed the field to five finalists countries and 10 proposed projects which will be recognized this evening.


The winner of the award, a long, slender gold tube, has been singled out for its foresightedness, commitment to the advancement of science in our everyday lives, and willingness to undertake a major innovative project. The Board of WITS decided to name the award “The Loopy” for the hyperloop, an imaginative alternative to the 19th-century technology represented by railroads on wheels and other forms of outmoded transportation.


The idea behind tonight’s extravaganza came from a global challenge issued in May, 2016, by Hyperloop One, a California company that was formerly known as Hyperloop Technologies. The contest called for comprehensive proposals to build networks that connected cities and regions around the world with hyperloop technology. The challenge drew responses from a broad range of support, including urban planners, engineers, and government leaders (except for California’s Gov. Jerry Brown).


In all, there were more than 500 registrants for the challenge from more than 80 countries, including such diverse global areas as Myanmar, the Czech Republic, Saudi Arabia, and Albania. Some of the world’s leading innovators also participated, including the South Korea National University, Developmental Bank of South Africa, the Institute of Space Technology Pakistan, and the U.S. National Aviation and Space Administration (NASA), as well as such high-tech corporations as Intel, Gensler, Siemens, and Google.


To give you an idea about what the Board of WITS was looking for in terms of connectivity, we can take a look at Colorado’s entry. The proposal is to construct a hyperloop that will connect Fort Collins on the northern extreme of the Front Range to Pueblo in the extreme south. Colorado’s Front Range is the area east of the Rocky Mountains that borders Kansas and a southern sector of Nebraska. Along the route, stops will be made in Loveland, Greeley, Longmont, Boulder, Westminster, Denver, Centennial, Castle Rock, Monument, and Colorado Springs. Additionally, the proposal extends the northern portion of the line as far as Cheyenne, Wyoming, making it an interstate route.


As most of our viewers know, the concept of the hyperloop was introduced in August, 2013, by Elon Musk — CEO of Space X, co-founder and CEO of Tesla Corporation, co-chairman of OpenAI, cofounder of PayPal, and CEO of Neuralink. Although he is not involved with Hyperloop, he strongly supports the development of the system, which uses a linear electric motor to accelerate and decelerate an electromagnetically levitated passenger (or cargo) pod through a low-pressure tube. The vehicle will travel silently at as much as 670 mph with no turbulence. Its tubes will require much smaller rights of way than high-speed rail or highways. But, most importantly, it will drastically reduce travel time.


The five finalist countries are the United States of America (with proposed routes in four geographic areas, but not California), the United Kingdom (with two routes), India (with two routes), Mexico (with one route), and Canada (with one route). Hyperloop One also plans to continue working with eleven semifinalists.


In the United States, the four routes are: Cheyenne to Pueblo, mentioned above, covering a distance of 360 miles; Chicago (Illinois)-Columbus (Ohio)-Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania), 488 miles; Miami-Orlando (Florida), 257 miles; and Dallas-Houston (Texas), 640 miles. California, which led the world in innovative technology during the 20th century, was not chosen in this twenty-first century competition, signaling a possible cessation to its global leadership in high technology.


In the United Kingdom, the two routes are: Edinburgh (Scotland)-London (England), a distance of 414 miles, and Glasgow-Liverpool, 339 miles. India’s two routes are from Bengaluru to Chennai (208 miles) and Mumbai to Chennai (685 miles). It was not clear if two separate hyperloop tubes would terminate in Chennai or if they could be connected to extend nearly 900 miles from Bengaluru to Mumbai.


In Mexico, the route from Mexico City to Guadalajara will cover 330 miles, and Canada’s journey from Toronto to Montreal will span 400 miles. Although hyperloop would transport travelers between these two urban centers in about 40 minutes, riders would miss seeing the beautiful countryside of Ontario and Quebec because the pods will be fitted with virtual-reality “windows.” However, this is more than likely preferable to the view that passengers on California’s slo-mo choo-choo will have between Fresno and Bakersfield.


Writing for TechCrunch, Darrell Etherington states: “Overall, Hyperloop One points out that these winning teams represent a combined population of almost 150 million people, with routes that would link up 53 urban centers around the world and span a total distance of 4,121 miles.”


And now, ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to reveal the winner of the first Loopy Award. May I have the envelope, please. Ladies and gentlemen, members of our viewing audience, the 2017 Loopy goes to…. Colorado, the United States of America. Accepting for Colorado is its Department of Transportation Executive Director Shailen Bhatt. And, here to present the award to Director Bhatt is Mr. Rob Lloyd, CEO of Hyperloop One.


Lloyd: “This is unprecedented and demonstrates how quickly the public-private sectors can partner to make Hyperloop systems a reality around the world. This brings us closer to our goal of implementing three full-scale systems by 2021.” That is the same year that a section of California’s high-speed rail may connect Madera and Fresno.


Director Bhatt: “Thank you, Mr. Lloyd. Hyperloop could help us meet our dual goals of improving mobility and safety within the state. Colorado has also positioned itself as a global technology and startup hub, and an alternative destination to Silicon Valley, and a Hyperloop network connecting communities would definitely help continue to build out that image.”


On behalf of the Loopy Awards panel and the Board of WITS, I want to thank everyone who assisted with tonight’s production. Good night, and good bye, especially to the residents of the once great state of California.


Note: The “Loopy Award,” of course, is a fiction. However, the quoted sections attributed to Rob Lloyd and Shailen Bhatt actually appear in articles by Daniel Cooper for Engadget and Darrell Etherington for TechCrunch. They have been minimally modified to fit the context of this presentation. All negative comments about high-speed rail are those of the author.