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Elon Musk’s Hyperloop might not debut in the U.S. — and that’s a good thing

So says outgoing U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, on the latest episode of Recode Decode.

 A rendering of the Hyperloop Technologies hyperloop
A rendering of the Hyperloop Technologies hyperloop
Hyperloop One

If he had more time as America’s transportation secretary, Anthony Foxx says he would want to work on rail projects across the country.

“Far too few communities are really taking aggressive steps,” Foxx said on the latest episode of Recode Decode.

But in his three-and-a-half years on the job, he has also contended with a potential private competitor to high-speed rail: Hyperloop, a tube-based travel system conceptualized in 2013 by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, which would carry passengers and freight at more than 700 miles per hour. Foxx said applying current railway regulations to Hyperloop “would be like putting a square peg in a round hole.”

“The technology, the science behind it, is very sound,” he said. “But it’s one of those examples of, the technology may be there before the government is.”

Unlike autonomous cars, which are similar enough to normal cars that the Department of Transportation has been able to start issuing federal guidelines, Hyperloop would require Congressional action before the DoT can “jump into it with two feet” and start making rules, he noted. And for that reason, as with drones, companies such as Hyperloop One may find it easier to start in other countries first.

“Getting the service is different than generating the ideas and generating the intellectual capital,” Foxx said. “We in the U.S., one of our greatest virtues and one of the biggest challenges for us, is that when new transportation technology is introduced, something like Hyperloop, [they] say ‘We want to be first.’ A lot of the time, we say, ‘We want to be safest.’ And I think that’s a good thing for us.”

However, would Foxx ride in a Hyperloop if given the chance?

“I hope one day that I do,” he said. “I’m not going to go to the moon, but Hyperloop, I might do.”

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