The Hyperloop: The Future of Transportation?

In 2013 the inventor and innovator Elon Musk proposed a plan for a fifth primary mode of transportation, after cars, planes, trains, and ships, which he called the Hyperloop. The concept is to create a vacuum tube down which a manned pod is propelled at hypersonic speed. It was to go in a loop between two destinations at speeds that would allow it to become the fastest method of travel available. Elon Musk called it “a cross between a Concord and a railgun and an air hockey table” and yet despite the insanity of the proposition he, working with SpaceX engineers, released a early systems design in 2013. At this point, it seemed guaranteed that Musk had a new venture in mind.  However, instead of founding another company, he publicly released the Hyperloop Alpha design with the goal to “see if the people can find ways to improve it”.

By mid-2015, the Hyperloop Movement had grown and Musk announced that he would begin a competition between Hyperloop prototypes and develop a mile long track on which teams could compete. The Hyperloop Pod Competition was held in January 2017 by SpaceX and would feature 30 out of 115 submitted student and non-student teams. First prize in this competition was won by Delft Hyperloop of the Technical University of Delft in the Netherlands and top honors by WARR Hyperloop from the Technical University of Munich. That August, a second competition weekend was held where WARR Hyperloop again won top honors with its pod reaching a peak of 201 miles per hour on the mile long test track.

The Hyperloop began to generate commercial interest and a number of companies have been founded to create a commercially viable Hyperloop. The most notable among these is Hyperloop One. Hyperloop One has changed much of Musk’s original design, using magnetic levitation to float the pod above its tracks and making serious changes to the pod’s design. The company was founded in June 2014, roughly a year after Musk published the Hyperloop Alpha design. Their fastest test results to date reached speeds of 240 miles per hour, although their goals are set at 670 miles per hour with no turbulence. They have a number of routes planned in the US, UK, Canada, Mexico, and India; and seem enroute to becoming the first company to capitalize upon Hyperloop technologies.

It seems likely that Hyperloop will be the future of transportation. However, like all novel technologies, it requires someone to execute upon the idea. This is the role of companies like Hyperloop One and people like Elon Musk, who has taken a second look at the technology and now seems set on developing a Hyperloop through his Boring Company. For years, Hyperloop has been hyped up. However, whether it is coming in two, three, four or thirty years is still to be determined. The technology shows promise and also may be a sign of an upcoming revolution in transportation. In an era where the fastest planes can go between any points within 48 hours and rockets sections can re-land, it is near certain that the world will reach a point where such transportation is available for improving the lives of the public.

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Julian Duvivier

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