Next month, Tesla Motors Inc. (TSLA) Elon Musk plans to unveil his design for the Hyperloop, a sort of superfast tube that will shuttle back and forth between Los Angeles and San Francisco in 30 minutes—twice as fast as an airplane, and cheaper than rail.
It’s also supposed to be crash-proof, and clean—powered by solar and able to operate in any weather conditions.
By 12 August, Musk, along with SpaceX, plans to make his designs open source and he’s shopping around for partners in this project that he’s dubbed the “fifth mode of transportation”.
How will it work? Well, we don’t really know yet because the plans haven’t been released–and the Hyperloop is coming with the usual new technology suspenseful drama that Elon Musk loves–but everyone’s guessing at the basics. We do know that the Hyperloop, if realized, will use pods that are 6.6 feet in diameter. Beyond that there has been plenty of speculation that the Hyperloop will be a pneumatic tube system, but Musk has debunked this in his numerous twitter revelations. Or, a warp-speed train that will use electric magnets to propel capsules through tubes.
According to physics professor Phil Kesten, of Santa Clara University, interviewed by the Silicon Valley Business Journal, Musk’s Hyperloop would have to move at an average speed of 764 miles per hour in order to make it from LA to San Francisco in the allotted time—a speed he suggests wouldn’t be very comfortable for the passengers.
But it’s all just speculation until Musk reveals his plans, and Musk seems to be reveling in all the theories buzzing around in advance of 12 August.
The implications of something like the Hyperloop would be massive, and the potential commercial applications would be seemingly endless.
While the talk is of this superfast tube connecting LA and San Francisco, one can immediately think further ahead: cutting down travel time between multiple cities, delivery times for mail-order packages, and if it’s crash-proof, why not oil and gas transportation?
And this is exactly why we might not expect something like this to become a reality anytime soon. It’s also exactly why Musk and SpaceX are making the designs open-source. It promises to change the power structure of the entire transportation system—and such promises are generally quashed by the government until the time is “right”.
After all, we had the capability for commercial airline travel 20 years before it was actually implemented, according a very interesting interview by Bloomberg with moonwalker Edgar Mitchell.
Transportation companies would either have to take the plunge and get in on it right away, or eventually be shut out and lose big—assuming the Hyperloop is viable. The lobbying against this idea should be fierce, and the result will likely be some impossibly challenging regulatory hurdles.
That’s why it’s going to be open-source, to put the idea out there for the public to see to make it more difficult to simply quietly shove it under the rug. That’s what all the Twittering is really about.