As an entrepreneur who has been revolutionizing space travel and electric cars for many years, Elon Musk is no stranger to the world of innovation. So when he introduced the concept of the Hyperloop – a high-speed transportation system connecting multiple cities – it caused considerable excitement. The Hyperloop promises to do everything the high-speed rail promised, only better and, presumably, cheaper.
According to a story in Bloomberg, a Hyperloop line could be used as a supplement to an automobile as well as a substitute.
A Hyperloop between two cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles would consist of two enclosed tubes raised on pylons stretching between stations located in the middle of each city. Passengers would ride through these tubes in pods propelled by electromagnets. The tubes would have very little air pressure inside them, but with a cushion of air beneath the pod to keep it levitated. The pod would travel at about 600 to 700 miles an hour. That means that a trip between the two major cities of California would be 35 minutes as opposed to six hours by driving along the highway, not considering California’s notorious traffic jams.
Of course, a number of technical challenges remain before the first Hyperloop is constructed. In California, the problem of making a line earthquake-proof can be daunting. Also, human factors are a consideration. How does one transport people at speeds approaching that of a jet fighter without making them sick due to the forces of acceleration, especially on turns and changes in elevation?
Still, the annihilation of time and space that a Hyperloop represents makes it a beguiling concept. Who would not want to travel to another city in less time than it takes to drive to the airport? Musk estimates a Hyperloop between San Francisco and Los Angeles would cost approximately $6 billion; which starkly contrasts the $100 billion-plus that the much slower California high-speed rail project is estimated to cost.
One of the disadvantages of taking a train or bus is getting to your exact endpoint from the terminal or bus stop. Usually, a train or bus traveler has to take an additional mode of transportation to arrive at the doorstep of their destination.
Musk has that problem covered. One proposed version of the Hyperloop allows you to take yourself, and your car.
The idea is to create a Hyperloop pod designed to ferry both passengers and automobiles. A passenger would simply drive their car into the pod, the pod then locks the car in place and takes you and your car to your destination. During the brief trip (since you don’t have to be at the wheel), you can take a nap, watch a video, or work on your laptop. Once you arrive at your destination, the pod unlocks your car, and you are able to drive off and away.
Elon Musk is not directly involved in the high-speed transportation industry he has created, but a number of companies have licensed the technology. Companies such as Hyperloop One are raising money, while refining the technology to build their own systems. Hyperloop One recently had the Hyperloop’s first test in the Nevada Desert.