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Tesla’s Hyperloop: The Fifth Mode of Transportation

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.

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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.

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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.

By. Jen Alic of Oilprice.com

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Leave a comment
  • gonzo on July 23 2013 said:
    How in the world did the dude get to be professor of physics? According to google it is 382 miles from LA to San Fran, shorter as the crow flies. To do this in half an hour requires an average speed of 764 miles an hour, nowhere near 5,000 mph as stated by "physics professor" Phil Kesten, of Santa Clara University. Guess they got good weed out there.
  • Anonymous on July 24 2013 said:
    I'm pretty sure the author of this article failed to proofread and probably confused the quote with the ET3 system, which is completely different from the "hyper loop".

    It is true that high speeds would be needed at around that speed for travel between NY and LA. That's where the author went wrong,
  • john smith on July 24 2013 said:
    "crash proof" reminds me of the "unsinkable" Titanic.
  • Crazy Cooter on July 24 2013 said:
    What do you bet Musk is selling as much stock as possible right now? LOL!

    Science and engineering do not need "dramatization" as it stands on it's own. Finance, investing, etc, are a different ball of wax.

    If he could do all this, he would call Uncle Buffet, get a check, and build it. He is lining up suckers for something that is worth less than his pitch...


  • Tech Engineer on July 25 2013 said:
    All these brilliant futurist above can't see the forest through the trees. This technology has been around for a many years. Who is to say people like Warren Buffet aren't already behind this project. Lobbying can only go so far. When something is imminent like this technology is, a bunch of suits in Washington will do little to stop it.

    Transportation is the key element in a global economy. Something like this would make neighbors out of the entire global population. It would bring about peace and a new prosperous economy based more on production than resource harboring.
  • Michael Rancer on July 26 2013 said:
    I followed the link to the Bloomberg article with former astronaut Edgar Mitchell and it does NOT say "we had the capability for commercial airline travel 20 years before it was actually implemented" (cited as proof that the government deliberately holds back technological development).

    What Mitchell said was "We invented aircraft at the beginning of the 20th century. Twenty years later, we had an airline industry."

    In other words, he said exactly the opposite, i.e., that aviation technology moved ahead very rapidly in the early 20th century. To which I would add that it was propelled first by government investments in aviation development during World War I, followed by government subsidy of airmail after the war.
  • Tony Alvarado on October 05 2013 said:
    The Hyperloop looks to be an exciting option for fast distance travel, but similar to current public transportation options like California's Silicon Valley light rail system or Caltrain commuter train system, it relies on the public to travel to and from specific destinations. Our BiModal Glideway would provide the same high speed travel while offering the freedom of a door to door commute, without the need to change trains, busses or leaving your car in an overcrowded parking station, with limited security, where it can be struck, broken into or stolen.

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