Come August, our planes, trains and automobiles may receive a public shaming. Tesla co-founder and CEO Elon Musk announced yesterday he’ll debut his plans for a “Hyperloop” transportation system August 12; and from his description, it’ll make most current transit tech look like the Flintstones.
Though some imagine Musk’s proposal as a higher-speed high-speed train, Hyperloop’s not just a faster horse. According to Musk, it’ll be a fifth mode of transportation––and the world’s fastest, shuttling travelers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in half an hour. “It’s a cross between a Concorde, a rail gun, and an air hockey table,” Musk said at the Wall Street Journal’s D11 Conference this past May.
The PayPal and SpaceX entrepreneur is reportedly open to working with others on the project (so long as they agree with his philosophies) and plans to put Hyperloop out into the world open source, meaning he’s not currently looking to patent the tech.
If you’re wondering at the physics and practicalities behind Musk’s idea, take heart as you are not alone. While bullet trains already use magnetic levitation to achieve high speeds, Musk’s Hyperloop would be a new and different animal.
Word on the street is his Hyperloop could combine maglev tech with solar power and electromagnetic energy. Musk’s included reference to an air hockey table has some experts musing he means for Hyperloop’s carriages to travel through pressurized tubes instead of ones devoid of air.
To explain how Hyperloop might operate, many have involved a simplified, yet familiar image: that of the bank drive-through with its pneumatic tubes for deposits. Except with Hyperloop, the cylinders getting sucked up will hold people––and they’ll be moving at breakneck speeds.
With Musk’s claims that Hyperloop will save consumers time and money comes anticipation for next steps, especially as he’s been quick to point out problems with California’s high-speed rail project. Together with suggestions that the system will be crash- and weather-proof, his comments have raised eyebrows and expectations for August.
Until then, we can only speculate with the rest.