• Jul 12, 2013
Lately, Elon Musk seems to be challenging every preconceived notion of transportation. First, he took the auto industry by storm when he introduced the electric-powered Tesla Roadster and later the all-electric Model S sedan, dubbed the "automobile of the year" by Automobile Magazine, as well as Motor Trend. Then his company SpaceX became the first privately owned company to send cargo to the International Space Station. Billionaire Pushes For Amazing 'Hyperloop' Tubes
Lately, Elon Musk seems to be challenging every preconceived notion of transportation. First, he took the auto industry by storm when he introduced the electric-powered Tesla Roadster and later the all-electric Model S sedan, dubbed the "automobile of the year" by Automobile Magazine, as well as Motor Trend. Then his company SpaceX became the first privately owned company to send cargo to the International Space Station.

Now, he is aiming to change the way we travel from city to city, and potentially around the globe, through a scheme that could cut down the travel time between Los Angeles and San Francisco to about thirty minutes.

He calls the idea Hyperloop, describing it as a "cross between a Concorde, a rail gun, and an air hockey table," at the D11 Conference in May.

"How would you like something that can never crash? It is immune to weather...it goes about, let's say, an average speed of twice what an aircraft would do," Musk told PandoMonthly during a video interview last July. "And it would cost you much less than an air ticket...much less than any other mode of transport because the fundamental entry cost is so much lower. And, I think, we could actually make it self-powering if you put solar panels on it."

Theoretically, Hyperloop tube travel would use magnets much like a bullet trains to take passengers from one destination to another at unheard of speeds. The difference is the enclosed tube, which would allow the capsule to travel without air resistance and very little friction. It is potentially safer, too, than a train that rides on a track with open sides.

The idea has gotten renewed attention after Yahoo! News published additional details earlier this week. Update: Musk revealed via Twitter that he "will publish Hyperloop alpha design" next month.
This idea, however, is hardly a new one.

Business Insider recently pointed to a 1972 report published by the Rand Corporation that details a similar idea. "The general principles are relatively straightforward: electromagnetically levitated and propelled cars in an evacuated tunnel," said the report's author R.M. Slater.

In an article we published last year, we introduced you to ET3.com, Inc., and their vision of tube transport that could theoretically take a traveller from Washington, D.C. to Beijing, China in around 2 hours.

According to ET3 the new tube transportation would be "Networked like freeways, the capsules are automatically routed like Internet traffic, yet a capsule can exit at any desired portal." The idea is that "car sized passenger capsules travel in 1.5m (5') diameter tubes on frictionless maglev...Linear electric motors accelerate the capsules, which then coast through the vacuum for the remainder of the trip using no additional power."

According to Musk, this would cut commute time from San Francisco to L.A. down to a mere 30 minutes, six times faster than current high speed trains, and around half the time of a flight, with (hopefully) much less hassle.

For more information on ET3, listen to this radio interview with the company's founder and CEO Daryl Oster from NPR's The Takeaway:



It may all sound like a "pipe dream," but Musk has increasing credibility with both the science/engineering and Wall Street/private equity communities. Two years ago, many doubted that his Tesla Motors electric-car company would succeed. After the company almost came apart due to management mistakes, quality issues and order fulfillment, Musk got investment from Toyota and a huge U.S. government loan. The company's Model S won the highly coveted Motor Trend Car of the Year for 2012, and the company's shares are trading near it's 52-week high of $133, a huge gain off its 52-week low of $25.52. Orders for the Model S are rolling in and the company is moving toward building a small battery-powered crossover vehicle. Its current market capitalization exceeds both Fiat and Peugeot.

Musk would also have credibility securing government loans for his Hyperloop scheme if he needs it as earlier this month he repaid over $400 million in Department of Energy loans he began receiving in 2010 for Tesla years ahead of time.

TRANSLOGIC 76: Elon Musk Interview, SpaceX

TRANSLOGIC Editor Adam Morath and AOL Autos Editor David Kiley contributed to this report.


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  • 491 Comments
      Velocity105
      • 4 Days Ago
      Interesting concept and incredible if it rolls but I picture a few things here, first, humans are very resistant to change and this would be change on the order of life-changing, then there's the most important problem, #2: What do you all think that the oil industry, the airline industry, the car industry and the boat industry are going to have to say about a magnetic vehicle that uses very little energy and virtually puts them all out of business the day it's turned on? That's right, this technology won't float for a hundred years.
        J Grace
        • 4 Days Ago
        @Velocity105
        But it might take 100 years to implement and by then the world oil supply will have pretty well been found and used. So, technically, it's a pretty good idea. Remember the auto is only a little over 100 years old itself. And there are still a lot of countries where it is not the majority of travel. The physical impedements alone will cause a lot of problems for implementation. And the design and buy off could take a decade or two, so that amounts to 20% of those 100 years already. And construction could easily take several decades just ot get it between the major economic countries. So in effect, your comment that this technology will not float for a hundred years may be partially correct, but the plan and implementation could well be under way before that many years have elapsed.
        Jacqueline
        • 4 Days Ago
        @Velocity105
        I somewhat agree. But if we humans were that resistant to change, we'd still be driving horse and buggy. I can't see the boat and car industry being hurt too much. Personally, these tubes look like they'd caused major attacks for people with claustrophobia. People will still drive their cars, I think, for the pleasure of it, and just seeing the outdoors and getting fresh air. And people will need a way to get to the tube stations and points between stops. If like where I live, it's probably just as easy to get a ride to where you're going as to find someone to take you to the station. It may depend on where you live. People ride boats because they enjoy being on the water, not because they are trying to get someone. Who travels by boat to actually get somewhere? That's why we ride planes.
      • 4 Days Ago
      "cut commute time from San Francisco to L.A. down to a mere 30 minutes, six times faster than current high speed trains," Did I miss something? We have high speed trains across the continent? As far as I've seen, even conventional passenger trains across the continent are sorely lacking. -- Especially if you live *off the beaten track* at such oddball places as southern Arizona.
      klavezo
      • 4 Days Ago
      I think this is a bunch of hyper poo poo.
      • 4 Days Ago
      So, is this un-crashable like the Titanic was unsinkable?
      • 4 Days Ago
      Please make sure the tube is fiberglass so that those with anxiety of being in a tube can enjoy the ride by seeing outside of it.
      gerald01612
      • 4 Days Ago
      I think this is great. Smash this up and you will never spend the rest of your life in a wheelchair. In fact you wont't even need an urn. Your either in China in 2 hours or you are a vapor. Technology is wondrful.
      • 4 Days Ago
      Ridiculous. Where are you going to put the tubes for overseas travel? At the bottom of the ocean? Can you imagine the cost of just that piece of this? Would you travel in a tube at the bottom of the ocean? And then there's the G-force/acceleration deal already mentioned here. This should have been in the science fiction section.
        • 4 Days Ago
        Thats what they said about the Chunnel, too
        • 4 Days Ago
        G force is diifferent than for air/rocket travel. G forces would not be as bad since you aren't trying to escape gravity here...
      • 4 Days Ago
      Adaption of greener technologies has momentum. Solar took a long time but it's now accelerated, same with hybrids, etc. It's inevitable; I hope I'm around to use it. Initially hubs like airports between major cities will give way to spur lines like the railroads connecting the country years ago. This day will come: when the golden translucent colored tube, the section which connects the first run (NY and LA) is lowered into place somewhere in the midwest, to commemorate the 'golden spike', of the first transcontinental rail service. Build it along current rail lines or interstates as much as possible to move materials easily to the site (obviously cornering this baby will take more space) . The railroads, rather than try to stop it to save their industries, will champion it and derive income from it. Flight will continue to serve the growing population of travelers and connect the places the tubes haven't gone yet. By then, commercial jets will be at mach 2. Cool future, folks. Dig it. Probably 15 years before the first one is built. Maybe more.
        • 4 Days Ago
        oh yeah, Elon Musk rocks. Paid back his loan 9 years early.
      waxhwdpatt
      • 4 Days Ago
      First of all, this is an old idea, with a new twist. Actually, the infrastructure already exists, just use the oil pipelines that we don't need anymore (tic). Seriously, each passenger can be in their own "container" flying down the pipeline. Those pipelines are huge. It wouldn't be expensive except when you get government involved. And since government controls ALL, this most likely won't get done without it costing taxpayers billions. How about using the high speed railroad idea and making a "caboose" that would disconnect, then stop, disengage passengers, pick up passengers, and then speed up to catch the next train going by as the next "caboose" was coming into the station? Oh, the government is involved. Not going to get done.
      • 4 Days Ago
      This sounds like a good idea except for a few details like cramped quarters and ventilation. I am claustrophobic and detest cramped quarters, there are a lot of people like that as well. How are they going to make this tube thing without any windows whatsoever, comfortable for claustrophobics and other people who have all kinds of issues? That's my main question and I bet no one there has even thought about that seeing how cramped it looks.
        john loves linda
        • 4 Days Ago
        I have these little pills I give the dogs on the 4 of july to keep them calm, maybe they may help people with conditions such as yourself.
      sunon
      • 4 Days Ago
      Elon Musk epitomizes cooperation between government and the private sector. government funded the scientists who theorized how to put man into space. government had the wherewithal and people in government the will to carry out the project. it's time now for government to provide the impetus for such as medical research, allowing the likes of Musk who will, more efficiently and economically, make space work for us.
      Moneypenney
      • 4 Days Ago
      What would happen if the pod developed a leak while in the vacuum sealed tube? It would be like a spacecraft in space leaking all the air out.
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