When Elon Musk first released a 2013 research paper outlining how a Hyperloop could revolutionise transportation, he said he wasn’t interested in pursuing the system himself.
Four years later, Musk changed his mind. The Tesla and SpaceX CEO tweeted in June that he had received “verbal approval” to build a Hyperloop between New York and Washington DC. The project would be handled by Musk’s newest venture, The Boring Company.
Details on Musk’s exact plan and its feasibility are still scarce, but here’s what we know so far.
As outlined in the 57-page research paper, Musk’s initial concept for the Hyperloop involved building a low-pressure tube above-ground that could shoot pods at speeds up to 700 mph. These pods could carry passengers and cars.
Musk said in the paper that the system could run on solar power and would cost $US7.5 billion.
Musk’s 2017 proposal has changed slightly now that it is being handled by The Boring Company, which Musk launched early this year to cut the costs associated with digging tunnels underground. Instead of an above-ground Hyperloop, Musk plans to build the high-speed system beneath cities.
“Just received verbal [government] approval for the Boring Company to build an underground NY-Phil-Balt-DC Hyperloop,” Musk wrote in a July 20 tweet. “NY-DC in 29 mins.”
Although the Boring Company could handle the Hyperloop’s construction on the East Coast, the company isn’t using its technology to exclusively build the futuristic transportation system.
Musk is also exploring using the company to build tunnels underneath Los Angeles’ Interstate 105 that could carry cars on electric skates or support a high-speed rail. Musk is also in talks with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel about using the tunnel to support a high-speed rail connection between downtown Chicago and O’Hare International Airport.
The Hyperloop has yet to be fully proven, but there have been some successful trials of the system.
Hyperloop One, a startup headed by venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar, has announced two successful tests that occurred outside the public eye.
On its 500-meter development track in Nevada, Hyperloop One’s pod reached a top speed of 70 mph and 200 mph in two separate trial runs, the startup said. The passenger pod levitated above the Hyperloop track using magnetic levitation.
Other startups are also pursuing the Hyperloop, but aren’t as far along as Hyperloop One.
Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, which is led by Dirk Ahlborn, claims it plans to construct a Hyperloop, though the company has drawn scepticism.
Although other startups are already underway with their Hyperloop technology, The Boring Company is foregoing partnerships to build its own system, Bloomberg reported. SpaceX holds the US patent for the Hyperloop name.
A spokesperson for the Boring Company declined to comment.
In addition to executing on the technical aspects of the Hyperloop, The Boring Company will need to secure state and federal approval to advance its project proposals.
The exact source of Musk’s “verbal approval” is still unclear, but he later clarified that it came from the federal level. Musk used to sit on two separate advisory councils under President Donald Trump.
At the time, New York and Philadelphia city representatives said Musk has not made any contact with officials about the Hyperloop Project. However, a Philadelphia spokesperson told Business Insider on Wednesday that the Boring Company has since reached out, but city officials said they have not yet met with the company.
City officials for Baltimore and Washington D.C. did not respond to a request for comment.
As mentioned earlier, Musk is also in talks with the mayors of Los Angeles and Chicago. Alex Vargas, the mayor of Hawthorne, California, has also met with Musk, the Mecury News reported. The Boring Company is pursuing its projects at SpaceX’s campus, which is located in Hawthorne.
Still, talking only goes so far. Musk has acknowledged that getting necessary permits will take “a lot of work.”
But if everything goes according to plan, the Boring Company will build a Hyperloop between New York and Washington DC that could rocket people between two major city centres in just 29 minutes, Musk has said. The tunnelling venture could end up becoming Musk’s biggest legacy.
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