The problem with succeeding at tacking major tech challenges is that when you merely mention the idea for a new one, everyone expects you to deliver. That's what Elon Musk found out about a year ago when he first mentioned his idea of a "fifth mode of transportation" called the Hyperloop. Since then the founder of SpaceX and Tesla has been constantly peppered with questions about how the system works and when he might reveal his plan for such an invention. Well, after much excitement from the tech community, Musk has finally revealed his plan for the Hyperloop, complete with illustrations, technical explanations, financial hurdles, and even a potential first route.
Published on a special page on the SpaceX website, Musk's 57-page plan lays out in full what he envisions as a mode of transport that would be orders of magnitude cheaper and faster than current travel methods. The idea came about after Musk learned of California's plan to invest in a high speed rail system, a system he believes is too expensive and too slow. According to Musk, "Short of figuring out real teleportation... the only option for super fast travel is to build a tube over or under the ground that contains a special environment."
To remedy this, Musk envisions what he calls a Hyperloop system. The specifics of how the technology would work are layed out in Musk's proposal, where he writes:
"Hyperloop consists of a low-pressure tube with capsules that are transported at both low and high speeds throughout the length of the tube. The capsules are supported on a cushion of air, featuring pressurized air and aerodynamic lift. The capsules are accelerated via a magnetic linear accelerator affixed at various stations on the low-pressure tube with rotors contained in each capsule. Passengers may enter and exit Hyperloop at stations located either at the ends of the tube, or branches along the tube length."
Based on Musk's projections, the capsules would move at roughly 760 miles per hour, traveling along a network of tubes lined with solar panels that would provide power to the system. And rather than simply offer a pie in the sky vision of the system, the proposal even delves into the minutiae of cost and infrastructure logistics, ultimately estimating that the system would cost just under $6 billion. For some perspective on that number, note that New York City's new 2nd Avenue subway line, which will only span two miles and is mired in old technology, is expected to cost $4.5 billion.
Because he's busy doing trivial things like pioneering commercial space flight and reshaping the auto industry, Musk is reluctant to commit to working on the project himself, instead opting to release the plans to the public to whomever wants to take up the challenge.
However, during a conference call yesterday following the unveiling of the proposal, Musk indicated that he might actually do some work on the idea. Musk said,
"I am somewhat tempted to at least make a demonstration prototype… Perhaps I'll create a sub-scale version that's operating, and then hand it over to somebody else…I think I'll probably end up doing that."
You can read Musk's full plan in detail here, and check out some of the concept illustrations of the Hyperloop in the gallery below.
Via Elon Musk