Recently I saw an interview with Elon Musk on CNN about one of his many revolutionary ideas: The Hyperloop.

I’d heard of electric cars and I’d heard of his Space X program to take personnel and supplies to the international space station. I’d even heard of his ambitions to colonize Mars.

Yet I admit, I hadn’t yet heard of The Hyperloop. After watching the interview, however, I knew I had to find out more. Musk is undoubtedly a genius, but is the Hyperloop realistic, and will it ever be seen in the real world? Let’s take a look at what it is and how it would work before we decide.

The man behind the idea, Elon Musk. Creative Commons license by Thomas Hawk on Flickr.com

What is the Hyperloop & How would it work?

The Hyperloop is essentially a bullet train which runs in a closed off, low-pressure tunnel. The difference between this train and others is that it doesn’t run on tracks; instead it is suspended in low pressure tubes by magnets and is propelled forward by linear induction motors and air compressors.

There’s no need for a complex technical analysis of the motors to understand how this works. In simple form the pressurized pods in which humans will ride are propelled along low-pressure tubes until they reach their destination, meeting virtually zero resistance along the way. It sounds simple, but here are some of the staggering benefits The Hyperloop may bring to the table:

  • Travel speeds of up to 760mph – Due to travelling in a low pressure environment there is very little resistance, and so the Hyperloop can travel at immense speeds. This would allow passengers to travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco in just 35 minutes.
  • Low probability of crashes/accidents – Due to travelling inside sealed and contained tubes, the potential for collision with another vehicle is zero. The tubes would be sealed and one way.
  • Zero Emissions– Since the Hyperloop does not run on any fuel, there would be zero emissions generated to pollute the environment.

Why hasn’t anyone built The Hyperloop yet?

When you look at the above benefits you might be thinking “This is awesome, why isn’t it built yet?”, which is a very good question indeed.

The usual combination of political jostling, reluctance to spend vast amounts of money on untested technology (6 Billion for a L.A.-San Francisco line), and uncertainty about whether passengers would be willing to use the service have led to halts in progress.

Unfortunately until these issues are ironed out The Hyperloop will remain an eccentric, billionaire entrepreneur’s dream. However, if he does manage to colonize Mars and deliver tourists safely to space, perhaps the people in power will begin to listen and take his brilliant ideas a little more seriously.

Yet another step towards the future. Creative Commons license by JD Lasica on Flickr.com
Yet another step towards the future. Creative Commons license by JD Lasica on Flickr.com

A final word on The Hyperloop.

I love the idea of the Hyperloop! I think travelling vast distances in a fraction of the time is good for everyone – passengers, operators, businesses and everyone else. I would pay for and use the service without hesitation.

What do you think? Would you ride The Hyperloop? Would you be willing to descend into a tunnel to travel in a zero resistance environment at the speed of a jet plane? Am I overly optimistic about such ideas?

If the finance becomes available and some old-school thinkers are convinced to give it a try we could be standing on the cusp of a new era in travel. There are signs that, slowly, some key players are beginning to be convinced.

So what do you think? Will the Hyperloop ever see the light of day? Will we be travelling on land at speeds only obtainable by air-travel anytime soon?

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