Dirk Ahlborn is Building the Hyperloop

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First Published on Apr 7, 2015.

In 2012, Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX, released a proposal for a futuristic tube transport system that could go faster than the speed of sound, cutting travel time between Los Angeles and San Francisco to 35 minutes or less. He described it as a "cross between a Concorde, a rail gun, and an air hockey table" that "can never crash," and called it the Hyperloop.

But what exactly is the Hyperloop? "Imagine a capsule with 28 people that's hovering inside a tube at really high speeds of 760 miles per hour," says Dirk Ahlborn, CEO of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT), which is turning Musk's idea into reality. "It's completely solar-powered, it's cheaper to be built, it's earthquake-stable," he adds.

Ahlborn recently sat down with Reason TV's Justin Monticello to talk about the technology behind the Hyperloop, his vision for a fully integrated system that would span the country, and the stark differences between it and publicly-funded high-speed rail projects.

Among the relative benefits of his project are that it would cost 10-20% of the estimated $68 billion being spent to construct California's high speed rail, cut down on environmental harm and land seizures by running along highways on pylons, actually produce energy, and be at least four times as fast.

But his vision doesn't end at long-distance travel; he imagines a world in which people live in the fly-over states and work on the coasts. Ahlborn, who is also CEO of JumpStart Fund, a crowdsourcing platform for business that is enabling his open source approach to the project, eventually wants an app that allows you to push a button and be in a city hundreds of miles away in under an hour. "A self-driving car comes and picks you up and brings you to…a mini-loop inside the city that then takes you to the larger station," describes Ahlborn. "That's really when you change the way people live."

HTT recently announced an agreement to begin construction next year on a fully functional urban Hyperloop in Quay Valley, California, which the company hopes to complete by 2018. If Ahlborn's team is correct, this futuristic technology may be coming soon.

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  1. Idiot.

    1. He’s not an idiot.

      He’s a con man.

      The idiots are the ones swallowing this bullshit.

      1. What an erudite enlightening comment.

        1. Cytotoxic|4.11.15 @ 11:04PM|#
          “What an erudite enlightening comment.”

          What a bunch of syllables from an ignoramus.

      2. He’s not an idiot.

        He’s a con man.

        Sure looks like the taxpayer will be the mark:
        http://www.forbes.com/sites/br…..ic-travel/

        A slip of the funding mask:

        While Musk was still officially keeping his distance from all hyperloop projects, he secretly met with Pishevar and Sacks for an update over dinner at the Sunset Tower Hotel in L.A. in April. “Elon felt that if we could prove it could work, even a two- or five-mile prototype, that would overcome any political challenges or regulatory issues,” says Sacks. “But we all agreed we had to prove it first with private money.”

        Build a small prototype that works by avoiding all the sticky engineering issues the real thing would require to get public money.

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  2. Ok, here’s my take on this.

    You can build one of these that can take me from NYC to Sao Paulo or Paris in a couple hours, or you can make it 10 hours, but at 10% of what it would take me to fly?

    I’m fucking in, where do I make my donation?

    LA to SanFran? PIzz the fuck off.

    1. Here’s the reality.

      They can make one that will take you from NYC to Paris in 10 hours and your ticket price will be only 10% of a comparable airline ticket.

      And your taxes are increased to cover the missing 90x times flying costs that the ticket doesn’t cover.

      Oh, and its a 4 hour wait in security coupled with mandatory stripchecks.

      1. Could we have less bitter cynicism and more actual data please ITT?

        1. OK:

          1) Anything placed on pylons or put in a tunnel costs a minimum of double the same system placed on the surface would cost.

          2) Building a vacuum flask – which is what this basically is running through – is difficult and expensive. Maintaining the vacuum is even harder. I am aware that the notion is actually to pump air in behind and suck it out in front, but the powerful pumps needed to do this fast enough to move the ‘train’ are even harder to maintain than a simple vacuum system. (If this thing moves at 620 mph (1000 kph) and has a X-section of 40 square meters, your pumps have to move approx 20,000 cubic meters of air every second at a minimum.)

          3) #2 takes a hell of a lot of energy. Probably a full nuclear power station worth.

          4) This would require a very complex operating system. It would require a lot of expensive maintenance from very high-priced technicians. People who are paid more than aircraft mechanics or even California school teachers.

          5) Because it is a system with many therbligs, it would have many critical systems. The failure of any one of them could cause catastrophic failure. Think of trying to launch a space shuttle every time on of these things left the station.

          6) All of the above is prior to all the NIMBYism, political hackery and 40,000 hearings that would go into getting it approved.

          I doubt this system could be built for less than a gigabuck per mile.

          1. political hackery

            ^ This.

            Here in NYC we have several mega-projects going, all of which involve very well-known technology, and all of which are years or decades behind and billions of dollars over budget. One can only imagine how such a project would proceed given largely untested technology.

            1. Hey, it only took 13 years to build that three story train station on Fulton St.
              A supersonic train tube covering thousands of miles powered by unicorn farts? A piece of cake.

        2. Cytotoxic|4.11.15 @ 11:06PM|#
          “Could we have less bitter cynicism and more actual data please ITT?”

          Reality! How does it work?

  3. Why do I get the feeling that there’s a Nigerian prince involved in this thing somehow and that the hyperloop is designed to operate as a perpetual-motion machine?

    1. Probably because it’s a fantastical scam?

      1. No really, it’s 100% safe, and will actually *produce* energy, and also he swears he won’t come in your mouth.

  4. No monorail hyperloop thread is complete with the official theme song.

  5. But his vision doesn’t end at long-distance travel; he imagines a world in which people live in the fly-over states and work on the coasts.

    Just ask Nevadans and Arizonans how awesome it will be to have Californians and New Yorkers moving in and voting in elections in Iowa, Kansas, Wyoming, etc.

    1. Something over 50% of California’s income tax revenue comes from about 160,000 people. If they move out, we’re screwed.

    2. We’re coming to take your freedoms away – hee hee hee hoo hoo ha ha!

      1. Worked in Colorado.

  6. “It’s completely solar-powered”

    So it won’t run at night?

    1. Two guys discuss the out-of-control monoraihyperloop:
      Guy 1: I got it! We can just shut off the power!
      Guy 2: No such luck. It’s solar-powered.
      Guy 1: Solar power. When will people learn!?

  7. I’ll just use the Jaunt –

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Jaunt

    1. Ultra-swift travel is pointless if you end up deranged and unable to buy a hotel room or a hamburger on the other side, bro.

  8. The turns you make in a 700mph tube are going to have to be more gradual than the turns on a 70mph interstate, so they’re going to have to acquire some land other than the side of the highway.

    1. They’ll figure that out after scraping off the remains of the first volunteers smeared on the side of the vehicle.

    2. Good point. f=m*v^2/r governs that one and implies much longer transition curves and much larger turn radii. (700/70)^2=100, to give an idea of the scale differences.

  9. Barkeep? I’ll have what he’s drinking.

  10. Um…who would want to travel between LA and SF? Aren’t they both in CA?

    1. What does being in California have to do with anything? The inspiration for Southwest Airlines was Pacific Southwest Airlines that flew between San Diego and Oakland. Southwest did the same thing within the state of Texas to get around federal regulation until the airlines were deregulated. Short-hops has been its bread and butter since then.

      1. …cutting travel time between Los Angeles and San Francisco to 35 minutes or less.

        The JOKE, being no one wants to be in California…

        But, I guess if you gotta esplain it…

        1. Frank,
          I got it and I live there!

          1. Yeah, us New Yorkers and Californians roll with the punches.

            1. Don’t even get me going on NY.

              1. Meh, I’m used to it around here.

            2. Rhywun|4.11.15 @ 9:05PM|#
              “Yeah, us New Yorkers and Californians roll with the punches.”

              Uh, that’s:
              “Sometimes you jsut have to rool with the punches http://www.yourestupidifyouclickonthis.com

  11. OT: Maureen Dowd:

    When my brother Michael was a Senate page, he delivered mail to John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, who had offices across the hall from each other.

    He recalled that Kennedy never looked up or acknowledged his presence, but Nixon would greet him with a huge smile. “Hi, Mike,” he’d say. “How are you doing? How’s the family?”

    It seemed a bit counterintuitive, especially since my dad, a D.C. police inspector in charge of Senate security, was a huge Kennedy booster. (The two prominent pictures in our house were of the Mona Lisa and J.F.K.) But after puzzling over it, I finally decided that J.F.K. had the sort of magnetism that could ensorcell big crowds, so he did not need to squander it on mail boys. Nixon, on the other hand, lacked large-scale magnetism, so he needed to work hard to charm people one by one, even mail boys.

    Or maybe JFK was an asshole and Nixon was a nicer guy.

    1. Forgot to say: don’t miss the photo of “Ready for Hillary” dog leashes. Just a little foreshadowing.

      1. I think I’m going to make some dog poop bags with that printed on them.

    2. “Or maybe JFK was an asshole and Nixon was a nicer guy.”

      [sound of progressive heads exploding]

      1. Maureen had to think about that quite a bit to avoid having her head explode.

        1. I surprised she didn’t go to: JFK was into woman, not mail boys,.

        2. She had to think about it quite a bit to avoid having to feel more empathy for her brother than a Top Man.

    3. Nixon was nice to mail boys so he was an improvement on the other fuck?

      1. I don’t particularly like Nixon, but yes, yes it is. It’s indicative. How you personally treat nobodies who can do nothing to or for you suggests a lot about your personality.

    4. Or maybe JFK was an asshole and Nixon was a nicer guy.

      Color me shocked.

      My god, can you imagine what an asshole the current occupant must be?

  12. “If you guys are successful, what do we have governments for?”

    Scratch that, I’m 100% on board.

    *strokes liberty boner*

    1. If this works I will bake and eat a shoe. Of course, the last time someone made that promise he was actually required to eat the shoe, but I personally think I’ll be safe.

  13. “Can never crash”? Not even if someone blows up a pylon or just shoots a rifle at a tube?

    Unfortunately, this would be a huge and tempting and (I think) fragile target for terrorists. Which is also my worry about a space elevator, but at least that could be situated on an island, or someplace easier to defend. But some tubes running for hundreds of miles along the ground?

    1. You know what else could never crash?

      1. The stock market?

            1. ME never crashed, because it never booted up.

      2. Star Trek’s franchise?

    2. Christ man – *everything* is a huge and tempting target to terrorists.

      1. And why would a space elevator be situated on an island? Put on a re-purposed oil rig right off the coast of Ecuador.

        Or, better, *on* the coast of Ecuador – then you don’t have to ship workers and cargo to and from your facility over the open sea.

        And its not like blowing up the base station will do much – there’s little to no tension at the bottom, its just ‘floats’ there. Just wind up the tether a little, move the orbital anchor, then lower it back down to hook up to a new anchor.

      2. Killing hundreds of people and doing tens of millions of dollars damage with a single car bomb or rifle bullet, with many possible avenues of escape, would make this more tempting than most.

  14. Sounds totally feasible …we’ll need to bring the TSA in on this just to be safe.

    1. Shoot them through it without a capsule first just to check things out?

      1. That’s why we pay them the big bucks.

      2. Like testing airplane windscreens for birdstrike resistance.

        Just remember not to freeze them first.

  15. Pneumatic tubes for public transportation were used in the 19th century.

    I’m just sayin’.

    They called them “atmospheric railways” back in the day.

    This one opened in 1844.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D…..ic_Railway

    It ran for more than a decade. Thousands of passengers a week.

    There were others. I understand there was one under NYC.

    I’m just sayin’.

    Y’all might not believe this, but there was this guy in the 1890s who invented an engine that could run on peanut oil. What else are farmers going to do with all that crap they plant for rotation? His name was Rudolf Diesel.

    If I told you that Elon Musk was going to develop an engine that could run on peanut oil, would everybody say he’s a genius? What if I made a really nice animations for it? Made it look all futuristic.

    I should put that up on kickstarter.

    1. With a name like Elon Musk you don’t have to wear a cape or vaporize mountains… you just breathe your name and billions fall in your fucking lap.

      1. I invented something the other day.

        I was making breakfast and scrambling some eggs, and I thought I’d like some cheese on it. I realized that if I folded the eggs over on top of the cheese, it would melt evenly. But i chopped up some mushrooms and green pepper and put in there first!

        Am I smart or what?!

        Some people said it was just an omelet, but I’m going to make a snazzy animation to go with it and call it some techie.

        Everyone will think I’m a genius!

        I’ll tell people it’s made with solar electricity.

    2. That 1844 train reached speeds of 64 km/h. Read your links kids!

      1. What are you talkin’ about?

    3. Huh, they got 100x the ridership a Streetcar named The SLUT gets.

    4. Incidentally, Diesel developed the diesel engine with the feature in mind that farmers could grow their own fuel, but farmers elected to use fuel from petroleum for good reasons.

      For one, any crop that you grow for fuel is taking away land and labor that could be used to produce a cash crop. Originally, that was one of the big draws of using a tractor instead of a mule.

      The problem isn’t just that mule (or oxen) teams are hard work to manage; the problem is also that you have to devote a whole field just to grow enough to feed their stubborn asses every year.

      Buy a tractor and use petroleum diesel and, suddenly, you’ve got a whole field you can make money with that you had to use to feed a damn mule team before.

      Biodiesel and alcohol fuel still have that problem. The reason we have subsidies for ethanol is because no one in their right mind would burn a higher use cash crop as fuel–unless we were paying them to do it.

      There’s a lot of 19th century technology that might seem viable, but typically the reason those those technologies were abandoned in the past are the same reasons people haven’t readopted them today. Things that make sense to use as animal feed are things that don’t have a higher and better use. It’s the same thing with fuel.

      1. It’s the same thing with pneumatic tubes.

        The reason cars are better than trains and the reason airplanes are better than trains–aren’t just because of the speed in getting from downtown LA to downtown NYC. What’s the cost basis to acquire the land and the easements and lay 3,000 miles of pneumatic tube–compared to preexisting airports in both cities?

  16. But what exactly is the Hyperloop? “Imagine a capsule with 28 people that’s hovering inside a tube at really high speeds of 760 miles per hour,” says Dirk Ahlborn, CEO of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT), which is turning Musk’s idea into reality. “It’s completely solar-powered, it’s cheaper to be built, it’s earthquake-stable,” he adds.

    Also, it’s powered by unicorn farts, actually pulls C02 from the atmospehere, and creates enough potable water to refill lake mohave.

    1. You know DIrk up top has a capital I after the D. Seems suspiciously autobot third rail. DIrk pings software-like.

      1. Oh boy pajamas… I did not mean to respond to the unicorn fart guy. I meant this to post in the belows.

        1. WTF am I not sexy to you?

  17. Back in Victorian times, some guy wanted to do the exact same thing. I think just in a city though.

    But eh, as long as there is no government money involved (yeah, right), more power to him.

    1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P…..sportation

      In New York. Actually built it (all of 100 yards), but Boss Tweed wouldn’t let him extend it

      1. Pretty sure it had to do with the vig.

  18. Not sure where all the animus is coming from. Let them try to build it. If they succeed, it will be amazing. If they fail, who cares? Free markets power innovation.

    1. jay_dubya|4.11.15 @ 8:43PM|#
      “Not sure where all the animus is coming from.”

      1) It’s fantastic enough that the claims verge on insulting.
      2) This is Elon Musk. He does NOTHING without taxpayer money.
      Is that enough?

    2. No project of that size is ever attempted without the guarantee of government power backing it up if any of the plebs get uppity about having to sell out.

    3. They need something to be bitchy and emo about, and damn it they will grasp straws no matter how much they bloody them!

      1. For a Canadian, you sure have a lot of opinions on how the US Government should spend our tax money.

        1. Now now. He also has all sorts of opinions about who our government should bomb.

          1. You say po-tay-to, I say po-tah-to.

        2. “For a Canadian, you sure have a lot of opinions on how the US Government should spend our tax money.”

          Alternatively, you can simply point out that Cytotoxic is a flaming ignoramus and leave it at that.
          Hey, Cyto! Fuck off!

          1. I have forgotten more than you will ever know.

        3. The fuck does this have to do with the topic?!?!

  19. Could this be used to transport goods and thereby eliminate rail lines?

  20. “Talking with WNYC’s Leonard Lopate, an ailing [Larry] Kramer eschews the idea that the gay community was born at Stonewall: “We were here at Jamestown, we were here at the American Revolution, we were here at the signing of the Declaration of Independence,” he declares.

    “”Ben Franklin was gay.”

    “Kramer outs several several key historical figures, actually, including George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Abraham Lincoln, and his assassin, John Wilkes Booth. “You could even say Richard Nixon was gay because of his undeniable attachment to [Florida banker] Bebe Rebozo.””

    http://www.newnownext.com/geor…..o/04/2015/

    1. Hilarious. There’s definitely a weird corner of the gay movement that wants to conscript everyone famous in service to gay rights.

      Sure Abe Lincoln loved prostitutes when he was young and Ben Franklin was a known womanizer but that doesn’t mean they weren’t gay, man!

      1. But could the Founding Fathers be dressed the way they were and *not* be gay?

  21. School nurse accused of refusing to treat student because the student refused to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance.

    http://abc27.com/2015/04/09/at…..llegiance/

  22. Yeah? Well, I built THIS? http://users.bestweb.net/~robgood/lather.htm

    If her big sister Gwen hadn’t thus gotten to take long, foamy baths without getting a sore crotch, the whining would’ve distracted Corinne Low so much that she wouldn’t have gotten onto the faculty of the Wharton School of Business. If Darklady Theresa Reed hadn’t gotten pictures of herself in a foam this dense & lasting, she wouldn’t have gotten all that hate mail that she’s collected & put into her recent book.

    1. Vrilology? Lynx? Dude….

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