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Why Work Should Begin on Elon Musk’s Hyperloop Immediately!

By Business Insider | Tue, 13 August 2013 22:10 | 16

When I got home last night, I read every page of Elon Musk's 57-page plan for the Hyperloop.

My conclusion:

It's a great idea, and we should start working on it today.

Why?

Because most of the initial objections to the plan are lame. They could have been--and no doubt were--said for all major transportation systems.

To wit:

•    "The $6 billion cost estimate is not realistic." Yes, the Hyperloop will probably cost many times as much as Musk says it will. If so, it will still be relatively cheap. The new "high speed" train California wants to build is supposed to cost about $70 billion, and that estimate is no doubt absurdly low, too.

•    "Some of the technologies have not yet been fully worked out." Of course they haven't. You could say the same for any ambitious technology project. That's not a reason not to start trying to work them out.

•    "There will be challenges acquiring the necessary land and permits." Of course there will be challenges--these and other ones. Just as there were challenges acquiring the necessary land for our Interstate and other road systems, train systems, airports, telecommunications and electricity infrastructure, and other projects. If a necessary prerequisite for any project is that there not be any "challenges," nothing would ever get built.

•    "It might not be completely safe--California is an earthquake zone." Of course it won't be completely safe. No mode of transportation is completely safe. Tens of thousands of people die in car accidents every year. Planes crash. Boats sink. Buses tumble off mountain roads. People will almost certainly die on the Hyperloop. But that means it will be just like every other transportation system.

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•    "There will be political opposition." Of course there will be political opposition. There is political opposition to everything. But sometimes, miraculously, stuff actually gets done.

•    "It will probably cost a lot more than $20 to ride." Yes, it probably will cost more than $20. But driving, flying, or taking the train between L.A. and San Francisco will also cost you a lot more than $20. And those things take a heck of a lot longer. And unlike most of those methods of transportation, the Hyperloop will have very low operational costs (most of the cost is in the infrastructure). And that means that "peak" pricing could be much higher, while off-peak is a steal.

•    "It will be a terrorist target, and it will be easier to blow up than planes."  Almost certainly true! Terrorists will no doubt try to smuggle bombs aboard Hyperloop capsules and blow them up while they're whooshing along at 760mph. Other terrorists will try to blow up Hyperloop pipes in the hope that a few capsules will go flying out at 760mph. And, someday, some terrorist will probably successfully disable the Hyperloop. But the same can be said for terrorists and planes, trains, buses, boats, and cars. And people still ride in those things.

•    "It might not be viable, so it might be a waste of money." Of course it might not be viable and might therefore be a waste of money. We might get to the prototype phase and then discover that the costs are actually prohibitive or one of the key technologies actually can't be developed. We might discover that people might not care enough about getting from San Francisco to L.A. in 35 minutes to allow the Hyperloop to charge enough to operate profitably. (If this happened, then the Hyperloop really would be like other transportation systems--Amtrak, for example). But all projects might not work. All projects might be a waste of money. That's why investing is risky. Again, if a requirement of any project be that it has to work, nothing would ever get done.

In short, all of those objections are the same sort of objections that you hear any time you suggest doing anything. None of them are obviously a good reason not to start work on the Hyperloop.

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At the same time, there are many excellent reasons to start work immediately:

•    The Hyperloop would be the first truly revolutionary new transportation system in half a century.
•    The Hyperloop could radically change the time and cost equation for travel and transport between nearby cities.
•    Hyperloop technology, once perfected, could be sold and deployed worldwide.
•    The Hyperloop would create lots of jobs, from technology to manufacturing to construction to operation.
•    The Hyperloop would deploy some of the hoarded capital that is currently rotting away in corporate bank accounts, thus recirculating it into the economy.
•    The Hyperloop is an exciting, inspiring project that would command the attention of the world for years.  Don't underestimate the impact of this. People get excited about things that are cool, especially as they become reality.

Is the Hyperloop actually technically feasible and would it work the way Elon Musk says it will work?

I have no idea. I'm not an engineer.

But so far, I have not heard any engineer say that what Musk describes is impossible. And a lot of what Musk has already accomplished in his lifetime might once have been described as "basically impossible"--and that hasn't stopped it from happening.

So, come on, entrepreneurs and financiers! Let's make the Hyperloop happen!

By. Henry Blodget of Business Insider

Source: I Just Read Every Page Of Elon Musk's Hyperloop Plan And I Think We Should Start Work Immediately

Leave a comment

  • David Hrivnak on August 14 2013 said:
    I agree completely. The proposed high speed rail project has the EXACT same negatives plus many others not yet mentioned. the plan appears superior to high speed rail in every aspect.
  • Jonathan on August 14 2013 said:
    Wonderful, wonderful, article! This is exactly what we need right now. The Federal Govt should immediately (without passing Go or collecting $200) start funding this project to create jobs. The only way our of our deficit problems is to grow the economy and this is a great inspirational way to do it. Think Apollo or the Interstate highways of the 50s and 60s.
  • Lance Sjogren on August 14 2013 said:
    Hey no problem, build the hyperloop or not build the hyperloop, Henry Blodget will sell you a ticket on it one way or another.
  • mf on August 14 2013 said:
    before planning to hurtle people in vacuum tubes at supersonic speeds, how about we build some high speed trains? It works in Europe, it will work here. Future generations can put the tube on the tracks.
  • Ben on August 14 2013 said:
    Sure, while we're at it, lets start building some of those teleporters I saw on Star Trek. Those are even cooler. In fact, there are tons of high tech ideas sitting on shelves, lets pick the coolest and just throw money at them regardless of the objections. Just don't throw my money at them. When somebody can prove they can make high speed rail work, then maybe I'd listen to this with a straight face.
  • El Harro on August 14 2013 said:
    Perhaps, before you refute the objections, you could actually make an affirmative for spending money on this thing. Why on earth would anyone build a $10B-$20B space tube so a few folks can travel from LA to SF. Why?
    Instead of this ridiculous waste of money, California should open its massive oil and gas deposits for development. It is beyond crazy that Calif has the most citizens with the most cars driving the most miles using the most gasoline but will not allow anyone to drill.
  • Art on August 14 2013 said:
    I fail to see how decreasing the cost and time of a trip between San Francisco and L.A. will do anything to create jobs in the long term. Musk's numbers are not based on anything remotely grounded in reality. An initial post after the release of his plan pointed out that the project would involve more than 1 billion pounds of steel, just for the tubes. Additionally, there is no reason to assume that more people will make this trip given the hyperloop than make it now. Those who choose the hyperloop are not choosing to drive or fly. They are merely moving money from one pile to another. If someone wants to build this contraption, go for it, but leave government money out of it.
  • techdude on August 14 2013 said:
    Why not build it over the existing interstate highways (no need to acquire new right of ways plus adds a new meaning to park and ride?

    Why pick California, there are lots of places to build the "test bed" where there is no public transportation available and less regulations.

    If I were going to build it California I would shoot for LA to Vegas..lets put it under a stress test.

    If in the Midwest, over I-75 from Detroit to Florida.


    My biggest concern would be how to avoid becoming part of the "bug vs windshield" interface when the braking kicks in...

    (
  • Tommy on August 14 2013 said:
    I have a better idea. Let some private investors fund a prototype somewhere. If it works and if the business case pencils out, let them fund a longer version and see how that works out. Leave the taxpayers out of it.
  • Larry on August 15 2013 said:
    Here is the first location after the prototype stage - Tampa to Orlando, FL. Right of way along interstate already acquired/reserved, station locations on each end already reserved, stable geologic conditions, shorter distance ideal for first operating system to lower costs, huge tourist revenue potential already in area, etc. etc.

    Mr. Musk - contact the Florida state folks and local Tampa/Orlando transportation proponents to get the conversation started!
  • gripples on August 15 2013 said:
    I agree, but start small. How bout a hyperloop for freight as a proof of concept.
  • theduke on August 15 2013 said:
    I don't see how it can be faster than a jet from SF to LA. Maybe someone can explain that for me.
  • John Galt on August 15 2013 said:
    Sure, just charge ahead and spend 10's of billions and ignore all of the problems. Easy for the writer to say when it won't be his money being spent.
  • Majito Querido on August 15 2013 said:
    I'm with Tommy on this...let the billionaires fund the prototype and after get the Bransons of the world to build it...why taxpayers? so easy to come up with grandiose unproven ideas with opm
  • MICHAEL PETER HAMMETT on September 10 2013 said:
    I doubt if any investor would go for elon musk's project. What is the internal rate of return on the project? Sadly it is quite unsatisfactory. Why should taxpayers be interested? The costs are surely quite frightening. Surely the project is a dreadful waste of resources rather like HS2 in the UK which will hopefully never be built.
    Management by objectives strongly suggests there are much more effective ways of improving transportation in terms of costs and benefits.
    Kind regards Michael
  • Everett Puterbaugh on January 29 2014 said:
    Many years ago, I red an article about a Sandia researcher who proposed perm. magnets on train cars and crechanko (sp)effect levitation. In a similar time-frame was an elevated train propelled by compressed air (fans ahead and behind - in a separate tube). Then there is the Chunnel. Basically, if mankind can think of it, we can do it. Remember the race to the Moon?

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