Yesterday evening, Elon Musk finally revealed his Hyperloop proposal after months of teasing the new transportation method. In essence, it’s a capsule that travels in a tube at high speeds – think the transportation system that’s used in Logan’s Run. It’s ambitious and just a little impossible at this point, but it’s always fun to plan ahead, right?
In the massive Hyperloop document that hit the Web alongside the announcement, Musk revealed that his initial goal would be to provide transportation between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Anybody who lives in California knows that’s that a 400 mile road trip that can take anywhere between five to six hours. With the Hyperloop, he proposes that the trip could be cut down to about 30 minutes.
So, where would the Hyperloop go? The initial route he planned out would be mostly a straight shot between the two cities with only a small turn towards the coast as passengers approached San Francisco. Check it out:
The route may look like a straight line, but it would have to take multiple geographic variations into account as the Hyperloop traveled up and down the Western coast. Here’s how Musk proposes the system handles that:
In order to avoid bend radii that would lead to uncomfortable passenger inertial accelerations and hence limit velocity, it is necessary to optimize the route. This can be achieved by deviating from the current highway system, earth removal, constructing pylons to achieve elevation change or tunneling.
The proposed route considers a combination of 20, 50, and 100 ft (6, 15, and 30 m, respectively) pylon heights to raise and lower the Hyperloop tube over geographical obstacles. A total tunnel length of 15.2 miles (24.5 km) has been included in this optimization where extreme local gradients (>6%) would preclude the use of pylons. Tunneling cost estimations are estimated at $50 million per mile ($31 million per km). The small diameter of the Hyperloop tube should keep tunneling costs to a far more reasonable level than traditional automotive and rail tunnels.
The Hyperloop is very much a pipe dream at this point, but that doesn’t mean Musk has no plans beyond connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco. He says that he would also like to connect a few more cities to the network if the Hyperloop ever becomes technically and financially feasible. Those cities include San Diego, Las Vegas, Sacramento and Fresno. As you can see, he’s keeping it primarily in California, but he does say that he would consider adding a Las Vegas station due to the high amount of traffic that goes back and forth between Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
Here’s a map of all the Hyperloop stations as proposed by Musk:
It needs to be reiterated once again that this is merely a proposal, not something that Musk or anybody else is actively working on. As he said yesterday, he has his hands full running both Tesla Motors and SpaceX. Both endeavors would be full time jobs in and of themselves, and he just doesn’t have the time to go chasing after a new transportation method that may or may not flop.
That being said, it would be the world’s best interest to find an alternative to land based transportation. Cars are notoriously unsafe and trains aren’t exactly feasible in some areas. The Hyperloop is one of the best alternatives yet, but we would have to see it in action first to determine its efficacy.