Pressure decreasing

Photo courtesy of Jad Anbouda

Everyone everywhere is trying to get from point A to point B faster. It’s been a constant struggle throughout history: horses, trains, cars, planes – just to name a few. Today’s improvement? The Hyperloop.

The Hyperloop is a proposed futuristic method of transportation that would propel a “pod” through a reduced pressured tube. According to proposals, the pods would accelerate by an electric motor and glide in the tubes via magnetic levitation or air bearings. The claim is that this proposed transport method would be quick and highly energy-efficient. It was first proposed by Elon Musk, but since then he has open-sourced the idea.

Naturally, the idea has a few critics. The primary criticism is cost. Estimates on the original implementation of the Hyperloop from San Francisco to Los Angeles are about $100 billion dollars – which does not take into account the operating costs. Despite this, the constructors believe that a $20 ticket price would cover the cost of the construction over a period of about 30 years. Obviously, at first glance, these prices seem unreasonable. From gate to gate, a Hyperloop route from San Francisco to Los Angeles would be quicker than taking a plane – for less than ten percent of the cost! Something like this always comes when a new “radical” technology is proposed, so, while the amounts may not be exactly correct – it’s growing pains. Outside of economic problems, space is also an issue. A Hyperloop line requires at least a 100-foot wide space – which would be a notable disruption. Additionally, a Hyperloop system – due to the pressure sensitive system – would be extremely vulnerable to an Earthquake.

The California Hyperloop is not the only proposed line. Earlier in April, Hyperloop One released their ten proposed lines. This included metro hotspots like the Texas Triangle, the Boston Metropolitan Area, a Chicago to Pittsburg Line, Cascadia, and a Florida Line. However, outside of these, the group also proposes multiple Colorado Hyperloop lines. The group doesn’t give a reason, but its apparent; as the area is rural, Colorado lines would be easy to construct. Additionally, other groups have proposed Hyperloop lines connecting cities in Eastern Europe – which makes a lot of sense. Due to past communist rule, infrastructure needs to be improved (hey – it’s why the internet there is a million times better than the stuff we have here).

However, these proposed lines aren’t without one notable exception: the New York City Metropolitan Area – or frankly any Hyperloop line connecting the major cities of the northeast. I understand part of the reason is the lack of space in the region, but – as previously proposed – the Hyperloop could travel understand underground or off the ground. Adding a quick method of transportation between New York City and Washington D.C. would revitalize the nation by connecting the economic center of the country with the political center of the country.

Despite this great plans, the Hyperloop is still in its infancy: only one group for MIT has successfully constructed a working Hyperloop pod – and that was only done three months ago. The future is exciting, but it’s not quite there.

Of course, there’s also the California High-Speed Rail Network. That’s not as fast or as cool though – but at least it’s actually going to happen.

About the Author

Mark Krupinski
Freshman Computational Science who explores the issues of integrating technology within society in "Technically Speaking" Current Outreach Chair