Elon Musk is taking things to a new level with Hyperloop. If he’s successful, you’ll soon be able to take a train from NYC to DC in about 30min or from LA to SF in about 35min. The hyper loop is a type of train designed with pods that travel through vacuum sealed tubes which combine a few existing technologies and dates back more than a century.
The basic way it works is a segment of the train, or pod, is contained in a tube with practically no air and suspended using magnetic levitation. This combines an old idea called a VacTrain with another type of train which does exist called MagLev
MagLev trains do not make contact with the ground and use their magnets for both lift and propulsion. This reduces friction and allows the train to travel at extremely high speeds (by today’s standards anyway) The problem with MagLev trains have is that they still have air that causes friction and slows them down
This all reminds me of the pneumatic tubes people used to send short messages throughout buildings over 100 years ago. In fact, this idea of sending people through pneumatic tubes isn’t new. The first patent to transport goods in tubes was taken out in 1799 by the British mechanical engineer and inventor George Medhurst. In 1812, Medhurst wrote a book detailing his idea of transporting passengers and goods through air-tight tubes using air propulsion.
Even the first attempt to build an underground transit system in NYC was based on this technology and called the Beach Pneumatic Transit
So this idea isn’t new, it’s just that now Elon’s new company “The Boring Company” is making it economically feasible due to their advancements in tunneling as well as other improvements in the air propulsion. Elon Musk even recently tweeted out his Boring Company receiving approval to build a tunnel from NYC to DC.
Just received verbal govt approval for The Boring Company to build an underground NY-Phil-Balt-DC Hyperloop. NY-DC in 29 mins.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 20, 2017
This system would get people from city center to city center in about 29min he said. At roughly 226mi that means they would have to travel near 450mph on average, that’s fast. However, it’s not as fast as the initial design that the teams at SpaceX and Tesla published.
In their paper published in Aug of 2013, they proposed a route between SF and LA that would get passengers there in about 35 minutes. To achieve this, they would need an average speed of 600mph (970km/h) and a top speed of 760mph (12,000km/h)
Until Elon’s latest tweet, none of his companies were officially developing this technology but instead were open-sourcing the idea, that is sharing it publicly, so others could make it a reality.
SpaceX is helping develop this technology however by hosting competitions.
In January 2017, SpaceX offered its Hyperloop transportation services to 27 teams from across the country and the world in the first Hyperloop Pod Competition at the SpaceX track. The competition’s goal is to accelerate the development of functional prototypes and encourage innovation by challenging teams to design and build the best high-speed pod. Teams put their pods through a litany of tests, which was made possible through our Hyperloop system. This competition was the first of its kind anywhere in the world.
Based on the high-quality submissions and overwhelming enthusiasm surrounding the first contest, SpaceX has moved forward with Hyperloop Pod Competition II, which will culminate in a second competition on August 25-27, 2017, at SpaceX’s Hyperloop track. Hyperloop Competition II focus on a single criterion: maximum speed. The competition will include new and returning student teams, some of which have already built and tested their pods during the first competition.
Several companies have popped up looking to take this design and make it a reality, a lucrative one at that. The most successful of which is Hyperloop One.
Hyperloop One recently made history with their full-scale system test run in Nevada. At this instant, they achieved controlled propulsion and levitation in their production scale vacuum environment. This was a short test, but an important one if this technology is ever to become a reality. The skate they built only traveled for about 5 seconds, yet it achieved the magnetic levitation in a pressurized tube, something never before done.
So what’s next?
Well, if Elon gets his way the Boring company will start getting funds to build tunnels between major cities in the US and companies like Hyperloop One will provide the tech inside the tunnel.
And just recently a source close to Elon said that his Boring company wouldn’t just be building the tunnels for Hyperloop, but the pods and system itself. Bloomberg reported that “ A person close to Musk said his plan is to build the entire thing, including the Hyperloop system. Musk also holds a trademark for “Hyperloop” through SpaceX, which could be used to prevent other companies from using the term, according to U.S. public records.”
This is some truly next level stuff that could even disrupt domestic air travel as the hyper loop would be safer, more convenient, faster, and someday probably cheaper. A big outstanding question is if this will change things much for the average commuter. An Italian physicist Cesare Marchetti came up this notion that we all spend about an hour traveling every day, regardless of our mode of transportation.
His theory came from transportation analyst and engineer Yacov Zahav who studied this going back to ancient Greece where people would commute across the city on foot. The cities were built just big enough that it would take about an hour to walk across it and back, meaning the average commute was about 30min each way.
What do you think? Is this awesome or are you skeptical? Let me know in the comments down below and don’t forget to like, subscribe, and share this video!