Elon Musk, CEO and Chairman of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, published open source designs for the futuristic Hyperloop transportation system on August 12.
He said he was motivated by the high price tag on the California “high speed” rail.
While “the underlying motive for a statewide mass transit system is a good one … The train in question would be both slower, more expensive to operate (if unsubsidized) and less safe by two orders of magnitude than flying,” Musk said in a blog post. “So why would anyone use it?”
A new transportation system should be, compared to the alternatives, safer, faster, lower cost, and more convenient. It should also be sustainably self-powering, resistant to earthquakes, and immune to weather, says Musk.
The open-source information and designs for the Hyperloop are embedded below.
About them, Musk writes:
“The Hyperloop (or something similar) is, in my opinion, the right solution for the specific case of high traffic city pairs that are less than about 1500 km or 900 miles apart. Around that inflection point, I suspect that supersonic air travel ends up being faster and cheaper. With a high enough altitude and the right geometry, the sonic boom noise on the ground would be no louder than current airliners, so that isn’t a showstopper. Also, a quiet supersonic plane immediately solves every long distance city pair without the need for a vast new worldwide infrastructure.
“However, for a sub several hundred mile journey, having a supersonic plane is rather pointless, as you would spend almost all your time slowly ascending and descending and very little time at cruise speed. In order to go fast, you need to be at high altitude where the air density drops exponentially, as air at sea level becomes as thick as molasses (not literally, but you get the picture) as you approach sonic velocity.”
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Musk says the system would make the nearly 400-mile trip between Los Angeles and San Francisco in half-an-hour, half the time it takes an airplane.
If it’s ever built.
His system for travel between major cities would use a large tube. Inside, capsules would float on air, traveling at over 700 mph. The air would be sucked by a powerful fan at the front and expelled at the rear.
“Short of figuring out real teleportation, which would of course be awesome (someone please do this), the only option for super fast travel is to build a tube over or under the ground that contains a special environment,” Musk wrote in his proposal, posted online.
The system Musk envisions is not unlike the pneumatic tubes that transport capsules stuffed with paperwork in older buildings.
In this case, the cargo would be several people, reclining for the ride.
Coming from almost anyone else, the hyperbole would be hard to take seriously. But Musk has a track record of success. He co-founded online payment service PayPal, electric luxury carmaker Tesla Motors Inc. and rocket-building company SpaceX.
Musk has said he’s too busy with his other work to oversee the Hyperloop. Instead, he hopes others will take it on, as he has now published the progress and others can build on it.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.