Hi there. Hello. We need to talk about something.
You may have seen a news story recently claiming Hyperloop pods will be coated in “vibranium.”
Vibranium is a fictional substance from the Marvel universe. Here’s how the Marvel Database describes it (I’ve added bolding for emphasis):
Vibranium is a rare, naturally occurring meteoric ore with energy manipulating qualities. It has long been hypothesized to be alien in origin by many a scientist who had ample chance to study it. Captain Marvel inadvertently proved said theory to be true during a scuffle between survivors of the Infinity Event and the Spartax empire who relocated them, where the latter had been poisoning the planet and its nomadic inhabitants through the improper mining of said metal to rebuild their fleets.
You may notice that the above description does not refer to a real thing that exists.
And yet, here are some headlines from Tuesday morning news articles:
You’re seeing these articles because Hyperloop startup Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) sent a press release around teasing a “sensor-embedded carbon fibre” which it will use to coat its pods.
A sensor-embedded carbon fibre, needless to say, is not the same thing as an alien meteoric ore. Branding it vibranium only makes it vibranium in the way that naming a cat “Artichoke” makes it an artichoke.
HTT, notably, has not yet acquired tubes, broken ground on a Hyperloop track, or built any pods. Compare that to Hyperloop One, a company that has successfully performed large-scale tests.
It’s hard to blame HTT for engaging in some clever media-baiting. As CEO Dirk Ahlborn related to Tech Insider through a rep:
My kids are big Captain America fans. Vibranium is basically a reference to the most protective material. We filed trademark applications for the term for our applications. As the fictional material is described we think it’s pretty clear that ours is not the same material, and instead more a reference to safety and protection.
But the tech press should know better than to bite.
This post has been updated to include and reflect on Ahlborn’s statement.