A routine flight from Los Angeles to San Francisco takes about 57 minutes. When the Hyperloop (a train) is ready, it will make the distance in 30 minutes. There’s every indication that Hyperloop will change business travel forever.
This Elon Musk project, the Hyperloop, is a conceptual high-speed transportation system incorporating reduced-pressure tubes in which pressurized capsules ride on an air cushion driven by linear induction motors and air compressors.
The outline of the original Hyperloop concept was made public by the release of a preliminary design document in August 2013, which included a notional route running from the Los Angeles region to the San Francisco Bay Area, paralleling the Interstate 5corridor for most of its length. Preliminary analysis indicated that such a route might obtain an expected journey time of 35 minutes, meaning that passengers would traverse the 350-mile (560 km) route at an average speed of around 600 mph (970 km/h), with a top speed of 760 mph (1,200 km/h). Preliminary cost estimates for the LA–SF notional route were included in the white paper—US$6 billion for a passenger-only version, and US$7.5 billion for a somewhat larger-diameter version transporting passengers and vehicles—although transportation analysts doubted that the system could be constructed on that budget.
According to Inc.com, “… (the train) runs through a vacuum tube, almost like a turbo-charged engine. (In case you haven’t heard the analogy, a turbo is basically a way of compressing air in an engine faster.) A ticket might cost around $20, which is peanuts compared to any flight. There’s no real prediction about when this project will be finished, but the company announced a new round of funding to the tune of $80M. In Las Vegas, the startup shot a tube across the desert at high-speed (the final version will go 760 miles-per-hour). Eventually, we might be able to make a trip from LA to San Francisco in about 35 minutes. While the test involved traveling at 300MPH for five seconds, it was a brilliant proof of concept.”
Hyperloop technology has been explicitly open-sourced by Musk and SpaceX, and others have been encouraged to take the ideas and further develop them. To that end, several companies have been formed, and dozens of interdisciplinary student-led teams are working to advance the technology.
Tube travel in popular culture
There are multiple examples of depressurized tubes in literature and media going back to the 19th century Harry Harrison‘s Tunnel Through the Deeps is an earlysteampunk book that gives explicit details about how such a system would work both on land and at sea – including the use of underwater bridges to float the tubes across the depths beyond the continental shelf. Another is Gene Roddenberry‘s follow-on to Star Trek, Genesis II, used a very similar concept – called a “subshuttle” in the program – to move characters from place to place quickly.