News Column

Will Elon Musk's 'Hyperloop' Revolutionize U.S. Travel?

August 12, 2013


PayPal and Tesla founder Elon Musk unveils the 'Hyperloop.'

Getting from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 30 minutes isn't as crazy as it sounds anymore.

Elon Musk, co-creator of PayPal, Tesla Motors, SolarCity and founder of SpaceX revealed his latest innovation Monday, a rapid-transit system that is twice as fast as an aircraft, yet cheaper than the cost of an actual plane ticket.

The "Hyperloop" system has been in the works for more than a year, with Musk keeping the concept mostly secret and dropping only hints to its potential capabilities. Among the possible features are transporting people from Los Angeles to San Francisco in half an hour for less than the cost of a plane ticket and not affected by weather conditions.

The design revealed on Monday resembles a pneumatic tube system that transports solid objects. Musk said people would be transported in aluminum pods enclosed by steel tubes that reach speeds of up to 800 mph. The tubes would be supported by columns 50 to 100 yards apart and a system of magnetic energy would be what fuels the pods from accelerating and braking.

Because of less lateral acceleration, Musk says the Hyperloop reportedly offers a smoother ride than a subway or airplane. That smoother ride, he said, results in less motion sickness and no turbulence.

Between LA and San Francisco, the solar-powered transit system would allow transportation of 70 pods every 30 seconds, a distance of five miles from each pod, which will safely transport commuters. As a precautionary measure each pod has an emergency brake.

The Hyperloop is designed for cities with high traffic and less than 1,000 miles between them. Musk says the project doesn't require significant amounts of land because the tubes are elevated. Musk estimates $6 billion will be needed to construct the transit system for "people-only" pods and the figure increases to $10 billion for pods that can transport cars and larger pods.

Musk acknowledged that his other commitments at Tesla and SpaceX will keep him from building the project. However, he will leave the design open source, meaning that anyone can access the design, modify and ultimately build it.

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Source: (c) 2013. All rights reserved.

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