Not satisfied with revolutionizing the space and automotive industries, SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk also has his sights set on completely transforming long-distance travel. Recently, the entrepreneur tempted the world with a tantalizing glimpse into the future when he announced on Twitter that another one of his business ventures, The Boring Company, had received “verbal government approval” to build a high-speed underground hyperloop system connecting New York City to Washington DC via Baltimore and Philadelphia.
New York to DC in Under 30 Minutes
In making the announcement, Musk claimed that this hyperloop would take passengers straight from the center of the Big Apple to the center of the nation’s capitol in a lightning-fast 29 minutes. Unfortunately, it seems that Musk’s vision of the future lies mostly in the realm of fantasy—at least for the time being. Despite claiming that he had received ‘verbal approval,’ Musk was forced to walk back his original statement slightly and admit that The Boring Company is still a long way away from receiving formal approval even if he believes that the process will happen quickly. Getting formal approval would require the input of numerous city, state and federal agencies and officials, many of whom noted that they had had no contact over the proposed hyperloop route with either Musk or The Boring Company.
Still, while there may not have been discussions with city or state officials, Musk has held a number of informal meetings with various White House officials over the proposed project. In fact, a White House spokesperson confirmed that the discussions with Musk and The Boring Company had been “promising.” Even if the federal government decides to put its weight behind the proposed east coast hyperloop, there is still the minor detail of proving that hyperloop technology is actually feasible.
The Lowdown on Hyperloop Technology
Musk’s proposed hyperloop would consist of a series of vacuum tubes. By evacuating the air from the tubes to eliminate air resistance, Musk’s theorizes that trains could travel through the tubes at speeds up to 600 or 700 miles-per-hour. In this way, it could revolutionize long distance rail travel and dramatically cut down on commute times. Furthermore, it would offer a far more environmentally friendly alternative to flying. Although Musk isn’t the first one to come up with the vacuum train idea, he is still primarily responsible for the original hyperloop concept. However, SpaceX eventually decided to open-source the hyperloop concept, and there are currently a number of other companies developing and testing their own hyperloop concepts.
For its part, SpaceX is currently building a small-scale 1-mile track that it intends to use to allow the other companies to test their train or pod concepts. Another company, Hyperloop One, has already conducted the first successful full-scale hyperloop test, and is already working with governments in Dubai, Los Angeles, Russia and the Netherlands to conduct feasibility studies. Similarly, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies is working with the United Arab Emirates to possibly bring the technology to Abu Dhabi. Although there are still numerous safety and technical issues to be worked out, it does seem like it might not be all that long before the world’s first hyperloop route is built. In this sense, perhaps Musk’s proposed plan isn’t so fanciful after all.
Elon Musk: A Modern-Day Thomas Edison?
There are many people who are beginning to consider Elon Musk as one of the most important figures of modern times. Tesla Motors has already turned the automotive world on its head, and SpaceX is has quickly turned itself into the space industry’s leading innovator. Still, in addition to electric cars and rockets, Musk has many other innovative ideas for improving humanity’s future. Tesla’s new solar roof systems promise to make solar power more accessible and more affordable than ever, and the company is also striving to improve self-driving car technology to make the roads far safer. Although it may be a bit more far-fetched, Musk is also a huge proponent of colonizing Mars.
When considering the hyperloop project through the lens of what Musk has already created and plans to do in the future, it becomes apparent that hyperloop is just one more way in which he is seeking to create a safer, more sustainable future. Even if he may have jumped the gun in announcing ‘approval’ for the hyperloop project, Musk should still be applauded for his commitment to innovation—and judging by all of his previous successes, you’d be a fool for betting against him eventually making his hyperloop vision a reality.