What if you could get into a car-sized capsule and be transported to your business meeting at 700 mph? It may sound like something out of a science fiction movie, but it just might be reality in the near future.
This week, billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk revealed his transportation concept which he claims will whisk passengers the almost 400 miles between Los Angeles and San Francisco in 30 minutes, half the time it takes an airplane.
His “Hyperloop” is similar to the pneumatic tubes that shoot capsules filled with paperwork from one floor to the next in office buildings, just in this case he is suggesting they be filled with people.
The capsules would be shot through a large, nearly air-free, tube while it’s passengers recline for the ride. The passengers would feel the force of acceleration similar to on an airplane’s takeoff, but then the ride would become turbulence free.
Each capsule would float on a cushion of air that it creates itself, similar to an air hockey table where the puck produces the air instead of the surface. To minimize the friction created, a powerful fan at the front would suck what air is in the tube to the rear.
“Short of figuring out real teleportation, which would of course be awesome (someone please do this), the only option for super fast travel is to build a tube over or under the ground that contains a special environment,” Musk wrote in his proposal, posted online.
Capsules could depart every 30 seconds, carrying 28 people, with a projected cost of about $20 each way, according to Musk’s plan, which was posted online at http://www.spacex.com/hyperloop . The proposed route would follow Interstate 5, a well traveled route that links California’s north and south through the agricultural area of Central Valley.
According to Musk, if all goes well, the project could take seven to ten years to complete. He estimates the price tag to be around $6 billion and mentioned that’s about one-tenth the projected cost of the high-speed rail system that California has been planning to build. Musk admits that the Hyperloop was inspired by the rail system, which has a cost too high and speeds too low to justify the project.
On the other side of the fence, in a written statement, California High-Speed Rail Authority Chairman Dan Richard suggested that Musk was oversimplifying the challenges.
“If and when Mr. Musk pursues his Hyperloop technology, we’ll be happy to share our experience about what it really takes to build a project in California, across seismic zones, minimizing impacts on farms, businesses and communities and protecting sensitive environmental areas and species,” Richard said.
Critics of the concept, including James E. Moore II director of the transportation engineering program at the University of Southern California, said “I don’t think it will provide the alternative that he’s looking for.”
One thing’s for sure, if almost anyone else had come up with the concept of the Hyperbole it would be hard to take serious. But Musk has a track record of success. He co-founded online payment service PayPal, electric luxury carmaker Tesla Motors Inc. and the rocket-building company SpaceX.
So will this be the future of business travel? We may not have to wait very long to find out.