Elon Musk’s Hyperloop proposal was easily one of the biggest surprises of 2013: The SpaceX and Tesla Motors CEO introduced a wild concept for a safer, cheaper, convenient, more convenient and all-around superior mode of transportation, especially for travelling long distances.
And it would be super fast: You could theoretically travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco in just 35 minutes, or from New York to Beijing in under 3 hours.
Though Musk introduced the idea, he handed it off to a crowdsourced team of about 100 engineers from JumpStartFund, who are all striving to move the concept forward. Wired caught up with the Hyperloop team to fill us all in on their progress. Here’s what they found:
- The Hyperloop team isn’t a team of casual enthusiasts; these people are expert engineers. They needed to apply for the right to work on the Hyperloop (so about 100 people were rejected) and most of them work day jobs at places like SpaceX, NASA, and Airbus.
- The 100-person team is split into two separate divisions. The two groups work on aspects like routes, cost analysis and the design of the pods that will travel along the Hyperloop — so hierarchy is at a minimum. JumpStartFund’s CEO Dirk Ahlborn makes final decisions.
- UCLA’s SUPRASTUDIO design and architecture program is working with JumpStartFund. Much of the design work for the transit system is being performed by 25 students from that program.
- The Hyperloop’s “technical feasibility study” won’t be done until sometime in the middle of next year. So we won’t know the specifics of the stations, the routs, and the capsules themselves, as well as a final cost analysis, until then.
- One of the biggest challenges is keeping the routes as straight and smooth as possible to avoid “a barf ride.”
- A “commercially viable Hyperloop” is at least 10 years away. In the meantime, the team is working on “Mini Hyperloop” designs that could speed up commutes in and around cities.
- All Hyperloop pods won’t be designed equal. Like aeroplanes, some capsules will be made for freight while others will be designed specially for economy and business classes (the latter will offer more room, at the very least).
- The Hyperloop stations would be like a super hi-tech airport. Robots would take your luggage when you arrive, and once you go through a metal detector, you can hang out in the lobby for shopping and eating until your capsule arrives.
- The team is solely concerned with construction — but achieving the Hyperloop will require much more work across other fronts. The JumpStartFund team makes absolutely zero mention of how it will handle government and regulatory hurdles; the only hurdles for this team have to deal with construction, testing, and cost analysis.
- Speaking of cost analysis: JumpStartFund still believes Musk’s estimate of $US6-10 billion for a 400-mile Hyperloop is “on point.”
Visit Wired for the complete update on Hyperloop.