California billionaire unveils futuristic ‘Hyperloop’ transport

A sketch of billionaire Elon Musk's proposed
A sketch of billionaire Elon Musk’s proposed Hypoerloop transport system.

California billionaire Elon Musk took the wraps off his vision of a futuristic “Hyperloop” transport system on Monday, proposing to build a solar-powered network of crash-proof capsules that would whisk people from San Francisco to Los Angeles in half an hour.

In a blog post, Musk, the chief executive of electric car maker Tesla Motors described in detail a system that, if successful, would do nothing short of revolutionizing intercity transportation. But first the plan would have to overcome questions about its safety and financing.

The Hyperloop, which Musk previously described as a cross between a Concorde, rail gun and air-hockey table, would cost an estimated $6 billion to build and construction would take 7 to 10 years. Eventually, according to the plan, it would jettison more than 7 million people a year along one of the U.S. West Coast’s busiest traffic corridors.

As many as 28 passengers could ride in each pod and the system could even transport vehicles, according to the 57-page design plan.

Musk, who in the past has hinted at the hopes of building such a system, proposed the Hyperloop as an alternative to a $68 billion high-speed rail project that’s a major priority of California Gov. Jerry Brown. It would be safer, faster, less expensive and more convenient, Musk said in the blog post.

But not everyone is convinced the project is a good idea.

Jim Powell, a co-inventor of the bullet train and director of Maglev 2000, which develops high-speed transport systems using magnetic levitation, said the system would be highly vulnerable to a terrorist attack or accident.

“The biggest overall problem is the idea of the low pressure tube from a terrorist standpoint,” he told Reuters after taking an initial look at Musk’s specifications. “All a terrorist driving along the highway has to do is pull over, toss a net of explosives at it, and then everyone in the tube dies,” he said.

Musk said that since the tube will be low- but not zero-pressure, standard air pumps could easily overcome an air leak. He also said the transport pods could handle variable air densities.

Musk may also have neglected to factor in a few costs. Powell said that since an extensive monitoring system would be needed to keep track of the tube’s pressure, the cost of the project could double Musk’s estimate, coming closer to $12 billion.

Questions remain

Musk, who made his name as a PayPal founding member before going on to start SpaceX and Tesla, envisions capsules departing every 30 seconds at peak times and traversing the roughly 400 miles between Los Angeles and San Francisco along an elevated tube erected along the I-5 interstate highway.

The capsules ride an air cushion blasted from “skis” beneath, propelled via a magnetic linear accelerator.

The expected half-hour travel time for Hyperloop passengers compares with current travel times of an hour and 15 minutes by jet, about 5 1/2 hours by car, as well as about 2 hours and 40 minutes via California’s planned high-speed rail.

Other major questions remain, notably whether the California state government will ever approve the massive project, and whether any private companies are willing to step in and build it. The design remains theoretical and has yet to be tested in the field.

Musk has said he is too busy running electric car company Tesla and rocket manufacturer SpaceX to build the Hyperloop himself. He said the design plans were open-source, meaning others can build on them.

On Monday, however, he told reporters on a conference call he could kick off the project.

“I’ve come around a little bit on my thinking here,” he said. “Maybe I could do the beginning bit … and then hand it over to somebody else.”

He said he would be willing to put some of his personal fortune toward the project but stressed that building the Hyperloop was a low priority for him as he continues to focus primarily on SpaceX and Tesla.

He also asked the public for help to improve the design. Corporations have resorted in the past to public assistance on their products. In 2009, Netflix awarded a cash prize to a team that succeeded in improving by 10 percent the accuracy of its system for movie recommendations.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

NYPD looking for man they say assaulted elderly…

      The New York City Police Department is asking for the public's assistance in locating a Hispanic male 20's wanted in connection with…

Local

Three arrested after allegedly assaulting off-duty officer in…

Three men were arrested early Saturday morning after allegedly assaulting an off-duty officer at a Bronx bodega, and the NYPD is asking for the public's…

Local

Healthcare union creates vibrant West Indian Day Parade…

Volunteers worked almost around the clock through the weekend, putting the flashy finishing touches on hundreds of costume pieces 1199SEIU members will wear while marching…

National

Top 10 most hipster college campuses

Hipsters are everywhere these days. You can't walk down the anywhere anymore without seeing a pair of skinny jeans on a handlebar mustachioed 20-something, a…

Arts

Theater: Discouraging 'Poor Behavior'

Theresa Rebeck's latest off-Broadway play, about two couples sparring on a weekend getaway, repeats a few mistakes of her past.

Gossip

Chef Todd English arrested for DWI in the…

Celebrity chef Todd English is facing DWI charges after a traffic stop on Sunday.

Movies

Box office: 'Guardians of the Galaxy' is 2014's…

This weekend "The Guardians of the Galaxy" passed the fourth "Transformers" movie to become the highest grossing film of 2014.

Gossip

Spears back with controversial ex?

Is Briteny Spears back with Adnan Ghalib?

Sports

Novak Djokovic feeds off US Open crowd to…

Novak Djokovic isn't a native New Yorker, but he sure knows how to use the U.S. Open crowd to his advantage.

NFL

Odell Beckham still 'weeks away,' Tom Coughlin angry…

Giants head coach Tom Coughlin has fought a losing battle against the media all preseason over the status of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

NFL

3 things we learned in the Giants preseason…

The final score didn’t matter — a 16-13 win by the Giants — but it would’ve been nice to finally see Big Blue’s new-look offense get on track.

NFL

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots, 49ers start…

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots start at top

Education

These college students think breakfast is the most…

  It should be no surprise that the city that never sleeps is also home to the most students who like to order food in…

Sex

When it comes to dating, height matters

Does a man’s height really matter when it comes to dating? Unfortunately - according to a new study - the answer looks like it’s yes.…

Travel

10 free apps to make traveling easier

Finding the nearest bathroom, calculating currency exchanges and locating your departure gate must have been difficult for travelers of previous generations. But we wouldn't know,…

Travel

How to get a seat upgrade to business…

It used to be much easier to upgrade your coach seat to business or even first class, but rigid rules and tighter schedules have made…