Have you ever wondered what the transportation of the future will look like? Maybe we’ll be travelling in flying cars, or maybe we’ll be teleporting across the country in the blink of an eye. Maybe we’ll even fly through tubes like in Futurama. According to Elon Musk, founder of PayPal, SpaceX and Tesla, a flying tube is feasible. Except he calls it the Hyperloop.
When Musk revealed his idea in 2013, it was just a 57 page document describing the project. The Hyperloop, as Musk calls it, is essentially a giant tube with a train in it that could shoot you from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 30 minutes. For those who have never made the 380 mile trip, that’s about a 4-5 hour drive or a 1 hour flight. The Hyperloop would basically be the train of the future, travelling at around 700 mph. Musk claims that a train could leave whenever a passenger arrives cutting out any waiting time. Also, the Hyperloop would be immune to weather, would be unaffected by the frequent California earthquakes and would never crash. Seems like a pipe dream.
Well, actually, it isn’t.
After reviewing Elon Musk’s notes, people started to realize that the Hyperloop could work. The Hyperloop’s track, the giant tube, would be supported above the ground. The train inside would be suspended in air and would float down the tube, sort of like a puck on an air hockey table. Investors, scientists and engineers have begun to pitch in without pay, driven by the promise of company stock if the Hyperloop succeeds. Both design firm Aecom and vacuum giant Oerlikon have agreed to help with the project as well. And now, 2 years after the Hyperloop was thought up, it’s going to be built.
A 5 mile prototype will begin construction in early 2016, and the prototype should be open to the public by 2018. The practice track will be built in Quay Valley, California, a relatively isolated location about halfway in between San Fran and LA. The prototype will cost an estimated $100 million, all of which is coming from private investors.
If it’s everything Elon Musk claims it will be, the Hyperloop could actually be how we travel from city to city in the future. It would be safer than driving, faster than flying and has the potential to be pretty cheap. Of course, the biggest drawback of the Hyperloop is that is has to stay in its track. The track is incredibly expensive, especially in comparison to a new highway or a new railroad. And because of the cost and size, we likely won’t be commuting to work in the Hyperloop. In 3 years you’ll be able to test ride it, but there are no plans for the Hyperloop beyond the prototype. But hey, San Francisco to LA in half an hour? That’s pretty cool.
By Thomas Short