Imagine traveling the length of the United Kingdom—from London to Edinburgh, 400-plus miles—in one hour. The trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco will take less than 30 minutes (five hours less than the average drive between the two cities). Your journey will be safe and comfortable, your carbon footprint almost zero.
Passengers and cargo will be loaded into a pod, which is gradually accelerated by means of light through a low pressure tube. The pod quickly lifts above the track using magnetic levitation and glides at aviation speeds for long distances due to ultra-low aerodynamic drag.
You can enter directly from your office in London, shoot a tunnel to join the main network, and after 50 minutes travel at a speed of anything between 600 and 1,200 kilometers per hour (roughly 370-745mph) in the tube vacuum, arrived at his meeting in Edinburgh before returning in the afternoon.
Such is the promise of perhaps today the most buzzed about transport innovation: the Hyperloop.
Today, of course, all this seems very distant, even to someone who spends an hour on the 60-mile journey from London to Cambridge. So what exactly is it about this technology that has some of the world’s most famous entrepreneurs and founders—from Sir Richard Branson (whose LA-based Virgin Group recently acquired Hyperloop One) and SpaceX/Tesla visionary Elon Musk (who pushed the idea to begin with) – his champion? To borrow from Musk’s other high-profile initiatives, is the Hyperloop destined to be another Tesla or will it be more like the colonization of Mars (something that, if absolutely impossible, is not happening again soon)? Can this fail completely?
Getting a sense for whether it’s really time to start taking Hyperloop seriously in 2018 requires talking to the people living and breathing the development. Fortunately, few people are up for that ride these days.
In a vacuum, can science overcome stop signs?
The current Hyperloop hype all started in August 2013 when Musk first challenge startups and students to develop an idea, which is described as something like a cross between Concorde, a railgun, and an air hockey table.
Despite some positive reviews since then, there are many reasons to remain skeptical. To begin with, a real-world Hyperloop system would require a large network of vacuum tubes. As sharp changes are not possible, it will be difficult to get the point, especially above the ground in very dense areas. That means the network is likely to be built underground, and the high cost of tunneling must also be factored in. It’s not hard to imagine a public works project expanding into it billions.
Yet in the face of this widely acknowledged problem, the Hyperloop project has captured public interest in part because it simultaneously provides (at least theoretically) a solution to the very real problem of sustainable travel, at scale. The world’s population is it is expected from above 11 billion By the end of this century, and much of this growth will be concentrated in cities—an estimated 2.5 billion people will be added to urban population numbers by 2050 according to a United Nations report. Yet our roads, ports, and airports are already at capacity, and increasing existing infrastructure is an incredibly difficult, slow, and expensive (if not impossible) process.
Struggling with this power, uncertainty, and doubt is something that Hyperloop One’s Chief Engineer Josh Giegel has become accustomed to.
“I sat in meetings where investors would say, ‘This is a waste of time, this is not going to happen,'” he recently said. Fortune journal. However the company located in LA, which in October was officially restructured Virgin Hyperloop One, soon managed to not only raise $85 million in funding, but to get Branson to join its board of directors. Granted, Giegel is a former employee of Virgin Galactic, and his partner Shervin Pishevar signed up for that company’s Future Astronauts program in 2012, but it was still a surprising endorsement to hear Branson’s words of “absolutely blown away” when he visited the facility. their test performance. in the Las Vegas desert.
The trust from people like Giegel is largely from the amount of work that has been done for the relatively short life of today’s Hyperloop industry. When things like the Usborne Books of the Future may have introduced many to the concept of maglev capsule trains operating in vacuum tunnels, Musk essentially started the crop of businesses as we know them now. That’s because when he brought the idea back to the masses, Musk argued that he didn’t have time to chase himself for existing commitments to Tesla and SpaceX. Instead, it allows all interested engineers to publish open source designs and invites critical feedback from other interested parties, especially allowing scientific and general engineering communities to explore. the technology and progress in general.