On Twitter, Elon Musk recently announced that the Alpha design for his Hyperloop high-speed transport concept would be available by August 12, and that suggestions are appreciated. Here’s the tweet:
Will publish Hyperloop alpha design by Aug 12. Critical feedback for improvements would be much appreciated.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 15, 2013
Elon also said that this would be an open source project. (The point of open source projects is to enable anyone to build on and improve them, but without greedily taking control of them in order to prevent others from distributing them.)
The Hyperloop concept might use MAGLEV propulsion (Magnetic levitation), and it has been stated that the Hyperloop should be able to go up to about 1,000 miles per hour. MAGLEV propulsion is literally frictionless, as MAGLEV vehicles do not rub or roll against any solid materials. Remove air from the equation, and the concept becomes extremely fast and extremely efficient, but with only 1G of force, keeping passengers as comfortable as possible (although I do know that many people love riding in high-speed vehicles because of their high G force). But we’re yet to find out if Musk’s idea really includes MAGLEV technology.
“The system would, according to Musk, be able to travel from downtown Los Angeles to downtown San Francisco in under 30 minutes, or 343 miles (552 km) at more than 685 mph (1,102 km/h),” the Wikipedia article on the Hyperloop states. “Musk first announced the Hyperloop in July 2012 at a PandoDaily event in Santa Monica, California. Musk estimated the cost of the SF-LA Hyperloop would be about US$6 billion, one tenth as costly as the proposed high speed rail serving those cities. He has revealed that the Hyperloop is not the same as a vacuum tunnel.”
All the modes of transportation in mainstream use today were developed decades ago and have been in use for decades — trains, buses, cars, and bikes have been around for more than a century.
They all have their benefits and drawbacks, but they are facing growing problems, as well as some of the same old problems they had from day one. For typical, personal, gasoline-powered cars, these include extremely high cost of ownership, high accident risk, and low efficiency.
How many times are people killed in train, ship, or plane accidents compared to personal cars? Not many. Yet cars are widely used for intercity travel. One way to make inherently safes public transit the norm is to make it better than personal car transit. For example: high speeds and much comfort… at an affordable price.
This is more difficult than it sounds, as everything comes at a cost. However, the Hyperloop concept is claimed to be about 1/10 of the cost of high-speed rail, despite being about 20 times faster. We’ll see.