A significant effort is being made to create functioning Hyperloop systems that will increase the speed at which we can travel. The system would go around in a loop and work similarly to high speed railways, with pods to transport passengers via tubes. The pods would be propelled along air skis, or magnetic tracks, through tunnels which have had most of the air removed. This will reduce friction and allow them to travel at up to 750 miles per hour. There have been several potential routes sketched out worldwide, including in parts of the United States and India, and it is expected that the first Hyperloop system should be functional by 2021.
Hyperloop travel is being proposed as an alternative to short plane journeys, as well as a means of daily commute. Although the idea of travelling at super speed via tubes has been introduced before, public interest began to peak after Elon Musk published his Hyperloop Alpha paper in 2013. It detailed his plan to create the system, with new technology that would make it possible. Musk also invited other teams worldwide to provide input, in an effort to increase the project’s success. The first route Musk intends to set up would be a 350 mile network from Los Angeles to San Francisco, which would transport passengers along at 760 mph. The entrepreneur estimates the cost of putting up the system at between US$ 6 and 7.5 billion, allowing passengers to pay as little as US $20 per journey.
The advantages of a Hyperloop system are significant, and would include:
- The possibility of travelling up to two times faster than a commercial airplane.
- Travel would be unaffected by weather conditions.
- Lower operating costs due to autonomous systems.
- No possibility of a collision, due to the system operating on a loop.
- Low power consumption, as well as energy storage for 24 hour emergency operation.
Musk’s company, SpaceX, built a track to test pod designs, with a team from MIT designing the first prototype. Their invention uses electrodynamic suspension for levitating the pod, and eddy current braking. To date, the top speed in the Hyperloop Pod Competitions has been achieved by the design from The Technical University of Munich. Their pod accelerated to a maximum speed of 201 mph. Critics have expressed concern that the speed at which the system operates would make it uncomfortable for passengers, but Musk has guaranteed that the acceleration and deceleration process will be specialized to ensure maximum safety and comfort for commuters.