Science & Technology

Elon Musk's Latest Transportation Innovation a Literal Pipe Dream

Introducing the Hyperloop, which is not the name of a power-up in a kart-racing video game


Next project: Suicide booths
Credit: Futurama

What do you get when you combine a Concorde, a rail gun, and an air hockey table? Potentially a throw-away joke on Futurama, but also SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk's latest idea, called a Hyperloop.

Musk has referenced this mysterious creation, a city-to-city high-speed transportation system to beat all high-speed transportation systems, before. But yesterday he tweeted that he would actually be unveiling a design in August and would be looking for feedback.

Exactly what the Hyperloop is remains unclear at the moment, but the description suggests a high-speed pneumatic tube transportation system. Allegedly it would allow travel between San Francisco and Los Angeles in minutes and between coasts in an hour. According to Yahoo, Musk is planning to build a three-mile test track that's supposed to operational by the end of the year.

The amusing part of this project would be the possibility of rendering California's expensive high-speed rail boondoggle obsolete. You can watch Musk trash California Gov. Jerry Brown's baby for being too slow and too expensive while describing the Hyperloop here.

Skimming through some preliminary speculation of the Hyperloop here and there, there's some of the same sort of "This could replace cars" misguided thinking that informs high-speed rail supporters. Being able to get from Los Angeles to New York in an hour would be awesome if it happens. But it's still a fixed-destination system that gates where people can travel to, rather than liberates, like roads. Airlines should be terrified of this innovation if it works, but I'm rather skeptical about how much road traffic it might replace.