With his Hyperloop proposal, Elon Musk isn't the only entrepreneur proposing ways to rev up American transportation. The man who brought us sleek, clean electric Tesla cars and SpaceX — a private space program that successfully sent a payload to the orbiting space station — is setting his sights on a radically different mass transit proposal called Hyperloop. Giant vacuum tubes would suck travelers across thousands of miles in a matter of minutes. Technology in the Digital Age is spurring countless ideas aimed at improving — and even reinventing — the way humans travel. The issue is becoming a pressing one with increasing traffic and vehicle emissions. (27767)
With his Hyperloop proposal, Elon Musk isn’t the only entrepreneur proposing ways to rev up American transportation. The man who brought us sleek, clean electric Tesla cars and SpaceX — […] Credit: Elon Musk

Serial entrepreneur and billionaire Elon Musk unveiled design plans for his Hyperloop — a superfast transport system that could cut the travel time from Los Angeles to San Francisco to 30 minutes.

In a blog post published on Monday, Musk said his version of the tube-based system would operate similar to the “old pneumatic tubes used to send mail and packages within and between buildings,” but would operate under much less pressure.

The system would use a series of cars traveling inside a tube at just under the speed of sound. The tube itself could be built above ground, roughly following California’s Interstate 5 highway from Los Angeles to San Francisco.

Musk said it could cost one-tenth of the planed high speed rail system in California — a project that’s estimated to cost $70 billion. In fact, it was the high cost of the California train that prompted Mush to research the Hyperloop in the first place.

“How could it be that the home of Silicon Valley and JPL doing incredible things like indexing all the world’s knowledge and putting rovers on Mars would build a bullet train that is both one of the most expensive per mile and one of the slowest in the world,” he wrote.

Musk, a co-founder of PayPal and the man behind commercial space transport firm Space-X and electric car maker Tesla, has been talking about the idea for months. He provided few details up until Monday, other than to say he won’t take an active role in the project’s development and will publish the plans as open source.

Earlier, he indicated his idea is similar to one being developed by ET3, a Colorado-based company dedicated to “space travel on earth.”

ET3’s plan is much more ambitious, and involves using a series of vacuum-sealed tubes to whisk magnetically levitated transport cars around the world.

A video about the idea claims that in the frictionless environment, the cars, each carrying six people, could top 4,000 miles per hour — six times the speed of a Boeing 757. It claimed a travel time of 45 minutes from New York to Los Angeles.

The video claims the network could be built for one-tenth the cost of a high-speed rail network, and a quarter of the cost of a highway.

But Musk said that, among other challenges, maintaining a vacuum in such a large system with so many entry and exit points would be next to impossible.

While these ideas may sound far-fetched, both are theoretically possible. The concept was a popular topic on Twitter Monday.

“Technology tough, but doable,” science educator Bill Nye tweeted Monday. “Problems are: buying the rights-of-way & perception of Big Gov’t. Someday…”

Steve Hargreaves | CNN