Imagine traveling on land from New York to Chicago in little over an hour … for the price of a cab ride. That’s now closer than ever to becoming reality thanks to the Hyperloop.
In fact, Hyperloop One has already started construction in Dubai and plans to test within months.
The Hyperloop will revolutionize travel. The new system of pods speeding through tunnels will erase distance and create new neighbors. It is planned to reach speeds of about 700 mph – just under the speed of sound and about 100 mph faster than a Boeing 757 at cruising speed. It’s Disney’s World of Tomorrow and Small World After All combined.
A Hyperloop One demo video shows passengers walking into rectangular shaped vehicles. Each is identified as a coach, meeting, or lounge pod. Several units are gathered together in air locked tubes. An electric motor then accelerates all through a larger low-pressure tube. Because of the lack of friction, the pods glide freely using minimal additional energy until it’s time to decelerate.
According to a CNN interview with Hyperloop One co-founder Joel Giegel, riding in the pods will feel much like riding on an elevator. Only acceleration and deceleration will be felt by passengers.
Stations will be designed to service large numbers of travelers quickly. Individual gates to each interchangeable pod will be arranged in circular portals designed for high visibility. The company, however, plans to use the Hyperloop first for high-speed cargo delivery.
An Idea Reinvented
The idea of frictionless, high-speed land travel goes back at least to the beginning of the 20th century. Both Robert Goddard in the US and Physics professor Boris Weinberg of Siberia were working on “vac-train” concepts. In 1944 and 1945, Goddard applied for patents for systems in which magnetic levitation and force pull a car through a vacuum tube.
Daryl Oster developed a similar idea while studying Mechanical Engineering at Walla Walla College. He called it Evacuated Tube Transport. Oster, now founder of ET3, describes it as “Space Travel on Earth.” In June 2013, he introduced it at Idea City’s conference with a call for a 5 Kilometer testing track.
SpaceX Steps In
Two months later, Elon Musk answered the call. He published a white paper promoting the similar Hyperloop as the next safer, faster, cheaper way to get from city to city. He has continued to support the project as a community-sourced open-design concept. In fact, Musk’s SpaceX has already constructed a track for testing and is sponsoring its second University competition.
The first international Hyperloop competition took place in Jan 2017 in Hawthorne California. Teams of university students designed half-scale pods for passenger transport. The finalists tested half-scale models on an enclosed one-mile track adjacent to the SpaceX campus. Only MIT, The Technical University of Munich, and Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands tested on track. Delft took first place for overall design, safety, and speed.
The next competition takes place in summer 2017. The only criteria for winning this time is speed.