Mass Transit

Hyperloop Project Inches Closer to Becoming a Real Thing

Two tech companies offer services to develop prototype.

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A series of tubes.
Hyperloop Transportation Technologies

Hundreds of science experts and engineers have been joined by two more tech firms in their efforts to make Futurama real—or real-ish. Planning for a prototype for the Hyperloop, a transportation system that would stick people in vehicles in pneumatic tubes to travel at speeds faster than sound, continues in California with the addition of a design engineering company and a vacuum tech company. They are offering their services and some employees in exchange for stock options in the company developing the prototype.

Wired took note of the latest developments in this project pushed forward by Elon Musk:

The startup plans to start construction on a full-scale, passenger-ready Hyperloop in 2016. The prototype will run 5 miles through Quay Valley, a planned community rising from nothing along Interstate 5, midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Ahlborn says he's got several potential investors.

The startup also announced today that it has 400 "team members" working on the project. They aren't employees, but women and men with regular gigs at places like NASA, Boeing, and SpaceX, who spend their spare time on Hyperloop in exchange for stock options. It's easy to see why they want to get involved: It's the chance to work on a truly revolutionary form of transportation—even if some remain convinced it's never gonna happen.

We've been interested in the Hyperloop at Reason because not only is this innovation effort privately funded so far, Hyperloop advocates are deliberately thumbing their noses at the overpriced, taxpayer-soaking, cronyist high-speed rail proposal California has been pushing forward. If it works, Musk and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies CEO Dirk Ahlborn say it will be both cheaper and faster (30 minutes to travel between Los Angeles and San Francisco) than high-speed rail. It could even been environmentally friendly, relying on wind and solar power to operate. If it all works. That's a big if.

Below, watch ReasonTV's interview with Ahlborn:

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  1. But when are we going to get those suicide booths?

    1. I have given this matter a great deal of thought, mostly while reading Scott S.’s columns, and I’m pretty sure I could run a lucrative for-profit, suicide booth franchise that provides its services for free.

      1. But will you give a money-back guarantee? If I am not satisfied with my suicide’s results, HOW do I file a claim for a refund, and revocation?

  2. If it works, Musk and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies CEO Dirk Ahlborn say it will be both cheaper and faster (30 minutes to travel between Los Angeles and San Francisco) than high-speed rail.

    But just as eminent domainy?

    1. They say its traveling through a planned community. So the land may have already been given to a developer.

      1. I suppose the “Los Angeles to San Francisco” was just an example of the speed and not a plan. But they’ll need easements if they’re taking the project further.

    2. cheaper

      After all government subsidies and rebates, it’ll be practically free!

      /Your tax dollars at *________? (*work is definitely not the correct answer)

      1. at risk?
        at peril?

      2. They’re not YOUR dollars, they’re government dollars that they let you carry around for awhile.

      3. I wouldn’t say they’re *your* tax dollars anymore, Bob.

    3. I believe the intention is to largely utilize existing public right of ways by putting it above highway medians, mostly following Interstate 5

      It would only need deviate from the highway for sharp corners.

      1. Sharp as defined at 500-700 miles an hour is different than sharp as defined at 65 miles an hour.

        1. Someone has considered this

          http://blogs.mathworks.com/set…..t-so-fast/

          About 70% of the route could conceivably fit on the current highway.

          Could probably do better if you accelerated/decelerated a bit more, and extended the travel time by 10 minutes.

          From an eminent domain standpoint, its less atrocious than the proposed choo-choo which I suspect will require acquiring property for nearly the entire length.

          1. Yeah, and the parts that really can’t are the most expensive parts.
            That’s OK; Elon knows how to pick the public pocket.

      2. It’s also noteworthy that they are trying to design pylons (that hold the tube aloft) that would be aesthetically pleasing and functionally useful to people near it. For example, a terraced pylon that allows for more garden space than you would get in the postage stamps passing for house lots in california.

        Eminent domain is a bitch, sure, but it is also political. Californians (well the rich ones, anyway) have learned a lot about how to use politics to submarine large projects. See, for example, the 710 freeway’s dead end as you approach Pasadena.

        It is not clear whether or not they plan on using ED to complete the Hyperloop, but they seem interested in making the projects palatable to residents, so that it might not be as necessary.

      3. So the rich get to travel at 700 mph in a pneumatic tube while sipping their wine and fancy mineral water while the poor have to ride down below in Google cars while shotgunning canned beer and gazing upward at their social betters?

        They should just name this venture Elysium and ditch all pretenses.

  3. I want my flying car, dammit.

    I suspect they aren’t too far off.

    This, on the other hand, is another scam by Musk to suck up taxpayer dollars.

    1. My god, man, they’ve been here for DECADES!

      http://www.aerocar.com/

    2. The FAA can’t figure out drones. Do you really think that flying cars are going to happen, barring a massive change in regulatory climate?

      Or, to look at it another way, aren’t helicopters already pretty much flying cars?

    3. And where’s my God-damned Mr. Fusion?!

    4. This, on the other hand, is another scam by Musk to suck up taxpayer dollars.

      Yes. But I don’t think he sees it that way. I have been reading a bit about him. He’s rich. He could easily set about making more money in Silicon Valley, if more money is what he was after. I think he sees himself as someone who has grand visions to change mankind for the better, and they just so happen to be such large projects the easiest way is to use government cash. Not that there is any functional or moral difference, just pointing out that simple greed, like what motivates, say, a drug dealer or Hillary Clinton, isn’t sufficient to explain the man’s motivations. Yes, greed makes him think he can use tax money taken from us, but the money is just a means to a greater end, in his mind. Of course, like CS Lewis said, when it’s done with a clear conscience…

      1. “…Not that there is any functional or moral difference, just pointing out that simple greed, like what motivates, say, a drug dealer or Hillary Clinton, isn’t sufficient to explain the man’s motivations…”
        Public choice; his medium of exchange is egomania. And he’s willing to use my money to succor that.
        He’s not worth shit.

  4. I’m not getting on anything that wasn’t blessed by Nimoy.

    1. A solar eclipse. The cosmic ballet goes on.

      1. Would someone like to change seats?

  5. You’d think they’d start small as a proof of concept. A suburb to a big city for example, or one side of a city to another.

  6. We’ve been interested in the Hyperloop at Reason because not only is this innovation effort privately funded so far, Hyperloop advocates are deliberately thumbing their noses at the overpriced, taxpayer-soaking, cronyist high-speed rail proposal California has been pushing forward.

    Musk

    One of these is not like the other.

    1. Notice the key words: “so far”. I’m sure they’ll be getting taxpayer dollars when/ if their 5 mile proof of concept gets built and successfully demonstrated.

      1. Yes, that “so far” is important. I got burned before years ago by a firm promising that a high-speed-rail plan was going to be privately funded in order to get support and to outflank a competing proposal. Once that proposal was dead, they went straight to the feds for a loan.

        1. But where does Vince Vaughn’s character in True Detective come in on all of this? (No spoilers please, I’m only on episode 5.)

          1. He comes in at the point that they want to acquire land cheaply.

  7. relying on wind and solar power to operate

    Does it fart rainbows, too?

    The concept seems sounds but no way it’s not going to use a shit-ton of energy.

    1. It’s going to use vacuum energy. Duh.

      1. Travel by Dyson?

        1. Yeah, only $1,600 per round trip but damn it’s slick.

          1. Cheaper than high speed rail tickets then.

      2. You mean like a Zero Point Module (Zed P.M.)?

    2. Yeah, I was vaguely interested until I read that, too. I’m sorry, but very little shouts “scam!” louder than a throw away reference to using wind and solar power, at least to me.

      The pneumatic tube train idea has been kicking around since the early days of the twentieth century. I don’t know that anyone has ever gotten closer to building one than the Chuck Jones Tom and Jerry cartoon set in a department store with a pneumatic tube message system.

      But maybe they’ll actually build it this time. After all, somebody did, eventually, dig a Channel Tunnel.

      But the “Wind and solar” comment worries me.

      1. “…I don’t know that anyone has ever gotten closer to building one than the Chuck Jones Tom and Jerry cartoon set in a department store with a pneumatic tube message system….”

        Gimme a minute….
        Found it!
        “Constructed by inventor Alfred Ely Beach, the editor of Scientific American, the subway was driven by pneumatic power. An eight-foot (2.4 m) long car that could carry 18 passengers was blown through the tunnel by a 100 horsepower (74.5 kW) fan; the blower was reversed to create a partial vacuum and suck the car back through the tunnel.”
        http://www.ascemetsection.org/…..w/332/865/
        I don’t see a mention of it in this story, but I once read it lost out to the electric system, since the electric system was championed by someone close to the political power; IOWs, an early example of Dem corruption.

        1. Klaatu did a song about Beach’s pneumatic subway on their first album.

    3. It’s not impossible to generate huge amounts of solar energy for this project. It’s also not impossible to generate huge amounts of hamster-wheel energy for this project if you have a scalable hamster farm and don’t mind paying 200x the going rate for a kilowatt.

      For some reason, politicians don’t seem to mind paying far more on energy costs for public projects than homeowners do for their private property. Odd.

      1. This claims to be a private project. Claims. We’ll see.

  8. With high speed rail, one stick of well-timed dynamite could very well kill hundreds of people and block a transportation artery for weeks. Thank god terrorists are so intrinsically stupid.

    But with the Hyperloop, that potential problem is exacerbated by order of magnitude. One hole in hundreds of miles of loop takes whole thing out of commission. One could envision fixes involving door/valve things interspersed along the loop, with train going towards wall that suddenly opens Batcave-style, but those doors better work flawlessly every time.

    Either way, Maintenance and security monitoring logistics will make any superfast train-scheme – no matter method of conveyance – that much more expensive once the camel jocks figure that weakness out and exploit it.

    1. With high speed rail, one stick of well-timed dynamite could very well kill hundreds of people and block a transportation artery for weeks.

      One wonders why this isn’t actually happening.

      1. Well, for one thing, there really aren’t that many Rail transport arteries. Not for passengers, anyway. Freight, yeah. We’ve got freight. In fact I seem to recall a reason article that made the point that one of the arguments for not pushing passenger rail is that the passenger rail we already have, thanks to Amtrak, interferes with the good freight rail system we have as matter stand.

        Also, It probably isn’t as simple as throwing a stick of explosive. You’d want to direct the force of the explosion so that it would damage the rails, instead of waste itself in the air.

        And, of course, the majority of the Jihadis are busy making the Third World even more miserable than it would be anyway.

        So, I’m a little surprised. but only a little.

        1. “In fact I seem to recall a reason article that made the point that one of the arguments for not pushing passenger rail is that the passenger rail we already have, thanks to Amtrak, interferes with the good freight rail system we have as matter stand.”

          In Europe, they move freight on rubber tires; I’m guessing the tunnel/overpass clearances are too small to allow really efficient rail transport.
          Regardless, you’d better get into the ausfart ques real early, or chance going two exits too far and having to find your way back

  9. (30 minutes to travel between Los Angeles and San Francisco)
    .
    Tell me again; how do they propose to deal with the G loading during acceleration/deceleration?

    1. By being AWESOME.

    2. Complimentary G-suits for all passengers? Either that or maybe they figure once the G’s render everyone unconcious, that’ll help prevent terrorist attacks, so they’ll use that as a selling point. “Safer than air travel because if a terrorist gets onboard, they’ll be rendered unconcious *mutters under breath* (along with everyone else), so … SAFETY!”

    3. 0-800mph in 15mins, followed by 15mins decelerating into the destination.

      that can’t be right.

      1. Back of the envelope calculation:

        v = a * t
        800mph = a * 0.25h
        a = 3200m/h**2
        3200 * 5280 / (3600 * 3600) = 1.3ft/sec**2
        That’s about 1/25g.
        Am I right?

        Plugging the numbers back in:

        v = a * t
        v = 1.3037ft/sec**2 * 900sec
        v = 1173.33ft/sec
        1173.33 * 3600sec./mi / 5280ft/mi = 799.99mi/hr

        Somebody please check my work.

        Typical commuter train acceleration is about 2.5 mi per hr per sec or about 3.67 ft per sec per sec, a little over 1/10 g.

    4. they just need to use the inertial dampers 😛

    5. Forget the massive acceleration/deceleration from taking 30 minutes to travel between LA and SF. Shouldn’t I just be happy that I’m not in either one of those places? I mean, I guess it’s ok if the poor saps who live there want to have something that physically sucks the life out of them, rather than just the moral and economic oppression that is life in the Golden State. But otherwise, why would I want to go to either place?

      1. REGION WAR!1!

    6. If my calculations are correct (and they may not be since its been years since I took physics)

      You could comfortably accelerate to 750MPH in under 2 minutes.

      This should feel like accelerating in a typical sedan.

      1. Looks about right. See my post above. Two minutes at an acceleration which would take a sedan to reach 60 mph in 10 sec. might be uncomfortable or spill your coffee, methinks. but you don’t need to accelerate like that. I didn’t see your post until after I submitted mine, sorry.

      2. There’s also airplanes.

  10. DOW sub 17,000! I LOVE THIS GAME.

    Oh, and HI SHRIKE! Gold up over 1150!

  11. I want to see this succeed just to say screw you to the high speed TRAINZ lovers. Seriously this will have a working prototype before anything gets done on the $60B CA Train Scam.

  12. This whole thing just seemed like Elon Must b.s. PR used to deflect attention from TSLA & his solar companies and his general need to have any enterprise heavily subsidized. He needs to stay a “genius” long enough to get TSLA to scale. That seems like the greatest short, ever. The second TSLA has to pay some real cost on capital it goes poof.

    Hyperloop seems like it isn’t feasible and not really necessary. Airplanes can already get you from LA to SF in 35 minutes if you didn’t have a TSA and all that b.s. Hyperloop won’t have a TSA? Just get on board and explode your way to 76 virgins?

  13. Sounds like one heack of a plan to me dude.

    http://www.Total-Privacy.tk

  14. I like the fictional version of Musk in Seveneves better than the actual real life guy sucking on the government teat.

  15. Hundreds of engineers and scientists are jumping on this pie in the sky project while something realistic and world changing like the molten salt thorium reactor languishes in obscurity?

    1. Official government policy from 1945 to recently was that nuclear power was to only come from uranium and plutonium since those elements can be used to build bombs. Thorium research was shut down in the 1950s so most modern nuclear scientists know very little about thorium.

    2. The ruling elite HATE nuclear power. It would be cheap. It might prove a viable source of hydrogen, and so replace petroleum and deprive them of THAT way to choke off prosperity. If it was widespread and obviously safe, some people might begin to ask embarrassing questions concerning what ELSE the environmental movement has lied about.

      Our would-be Masters have noticed that when the people are prosperous, they get stroppy with their Betters. And that’s Just Awful.

      The older I get the more the self-styled Upper Classes give me the arse. The Clerisy. The Buttinskis. The Planners. They would, all of them, look SOOOOO much better as tree decorations.

      And that’s where they will end up (or, more likely, in a dank basement with a pistol round in the back of the skill), because their kind of accumulated power always attracts Strong Men, and the Strong Men eventually get tired of their prissy would-be courtiers and have them liquidated.

      But then we’ll have a Stalin to deal with. I’ll enjoy the discomfort of the Liberal Intellectual Radical Progressives when the State decides that all LIRPs are deviationists. They’ll have worked hard for it. But I hope we go some other way, as unlikely as it seems.

  16. . . . Musk and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies CEO Dirk Ahlborn say it will be both cheaper and faster (30 minutes to travel between Los Angeles and San Francisco) than high-speed rail.

    No offense Scott, but that’s not exactly a high bar they’ve set themselves there. *Rickshaws* would be cheaper and faster than HSR. Taking the bus is already cheaper and faster.

    The question is – will it be cheaper and faster than *flying*, without subsidies?

    My bet is ‘no’.

  17. The more I read, the more this stinks of scam. All the arguments about ridership for the High Speed Pork project apply to this, too. The Technology is like the technology for electric cars; it’s been around forever (or at least since 1870), and if nobody’s used it in that time there’s probably a reason. The casual mention of using Solar and Wind power raises alarms with me; they aren’t useful elsewhere, why would they be here?

    Somebody is building a boondoggle. Maybe they’re trying the engineer’s approach to the Bailystock and Bloom scam; raise money for a project that is sure to fail, and skim. Maybe they expect that eventually the Friendly State (yuck!) will be hooked in to bail them out, or to pay them to go away and stop sucking oxygen out of the High Speed Pork project.

    Whatever; I don’t see it working as advertised, and making money.

    1. “…All the arguments about ridership for the High Speed Pork project apply to this, too….”

      You get on it from where you aren’t in SF and it deposits you where you don’t want to go in LA!

      1. You get on it from where you aren’t in SF and it deposits you where you don’t want to go in LA!

        Unlike Millbrae because everyone wants to go there?

        1. Geeze, I’ve always wanted to go to Millbrae!

    2. As long as the guy’s using his money to build some ‘think big’ project I have no problem with it. The day he suggests turning his self-funded demonstration project into a goverment-funded full scale project I’ll be the first to call shenanigans. (And I would suggest keeping a sharp eye on the guy to see if that is in fact what he has in mind.) Will the market support a high-speed transit system between LA and San Fran? Is anybody interested in such a thing? I have zero interest in living in either place (or in California or in any city for that matter) so I have no worthwhile thoughts on what people who do choose to live in those sorts of places might want enough to actually pay for. But God bless the entrepreneurs who are willing to take a shot at guessing what people might want and are willing to pay the price for being wrong. That’s how we learn and make progress.

      1. The problems with San Fran stem from the local idiots, but I suspect that the major problems with LA come from Sacramento. Which doesn’t mean they are going away any time soon.

  18. Hyperloop?

    760 mph?

    Sorry – not good enough or fast enough.

    Give me a space plane that flies out of the atmosphere and travels at about 10,000 mph.

    And it’s not tied to going to and from any particular destination via an enormously expensive tube.

    1. That’s really unlikely to be a practical means of transport.

      A tremendous amount of fuel is needed even for a short suborbital flight.

      I’m pretty sure SpaceShip One needed about 5,000 lbs of fuel (in addition to a piggyback ride on a high altitude jet) for a small 3 man capacity ship.

  19. Thank you for choosing Hyperloop. Departure times are subject to change, please check station monitors for the most up-to-date information. We recommend you arrive at the station 90 minutes prior to departure. It is your responsibility to arrive at the station with sufficient time to complete your baggage check and routine cavity search.

  20. How is this better than an airplane?

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