California billionaire unveils futuristic ‘Hyperloop’ transport
SAN FRANCISCO – Reuters
This handout photo released by Tesla Motors on August 12, 2013 shows the concept drawing of the Hyperloop, a fast transport design unveiled August 12, 2013 by Elon Musk. AFP PhotoCalifornia billionaire Elon Musk took the wraps off his vision of a futuristic “Hyperloop” transport system on Aug. 12, proposing to build a solar-powered network of crash-proof capsules that would whisk people from San Francisco to Los Angeles in half an hour.
In a blog post, Musk, the chief executive of electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc. described in detail a system that, if successful, would do nothing short of revolutionizing intercity transportation. But first the plan would have to overcome questions about its safety and financing.
The Hyperloop, which Musk previously described as a cross between a Concorde, rail gun and air-hockey table, would cost an estimated $6 billion to build and construction would take 7 to 10 years. Eventually, according to the plan, it would jettison more than 7 million people a year along one of the U.S. West Coast’s busiest traffic corridors.
As many as 28 passengers could ride in each pod and the system could even transport vehicles, according to the 57-page design plan. Musk, who in the past has hinted at the hopes of building such a system, proposed the Hyperloop as an alternative to a $68 billion high-speed rail project that’s a major priority of California Gov. Jerry Brown. It would be safer, faster, less expensive and more convenient, Musk said in the blog post.
But not everyone is convinced the project is a good idea. Jim Powell, a co-inventor of the bullet train and director of Maglev 2000, which develops high-speed transport systems using magnetic levitation, said the system would be highly vulnerable to a terrorist attack or accident.
“The biggest overall problem is the idea of the low pressure tube from a terrorist standpoint,” he told Reuters after taking an initial look at Musk’s specifications.
Musk, who made his name as a PayPal founding member before going on to start SpaceX and Tesla, envisions capsules departing every 30 seconds at peak times and traversing the roughly 650 kilometers between Los Angeles and San Francisco along an elevated tube erected along the I-5 interstate highway. The capsules ride an air cushion blasted from “skis” beneath, propelled via a magnetic linear accelerator.
The expected half-hour travel time for Hyperloop passengers compares with current travel times of an hour and 15 minutes by jet, about 5 and a half hours by car, as well as about 2 hours and 40 minutes via California’s planned high-speed rail.
Other major questions remain, notably whether the California state government will ever approve the massive project, and whether any private companies are willing to step in and build it. The design remains theoretical and has yet to be tested in the field. Musk has said he is too busy running electric car company Tesla and rocket manufacturer SpaceX to build the Hyperloop himself. He said the design plans were open-source, meaning others can build on them.