Shutterstock

Elon Musk imagines a cheap, faster-than-a-plane, weather-immune, crash-impervious people-mover.

Trains are slow. Planes are unwieldy. Cars are, er, pedestrian. What if there were another way - a better way - for people to travel over long distances?

Elon Musk, he of PayPal, Tesla, and SpaceX fame, thinks he has that way. And it is a notional vehicle that can carry people between Los Angeles and San Francisco ... in 30 minutes flat.

He calls it "the Hyperloop."

"We have planes, trains, automobiles and boats," Musk told Sarah Lacey at a PandoDaily event in Los Angeles. So: "What if there was a fifth mode?"

So, wait. Would this be "something like a Jetsons tunnel, you just get in and it whisks you away?" Lacey asked.

And you know what? Yes! Yes, it would!

The Hyperloop would be three or four times faster than a bullet train, Musk said, and twice as fast as an airplane. It would be powered by solar panels. It would be "immune to weather." It would be unable to crash. 

Per Business Insider's transcript of the PandoDaily event:

This system I have in mind, how would you like something that can never crash, is immune to weather, it goes 3 or 4 times faster than the bullet train... it goes an average speed of twice what an aircraft would do. You would go from downtown L.A. to downtown San Francisco in under 30 minutes. It would cost you much less than an air ticket than any other mode of transport. I think we could actually make it self-powering if you put solar panels on it, you generate more power than you would consume in the system. There's a way to store the power so it would run 24/7 without using batteries. Yes, this is possible, absolutely.

Well, first of all: YES, PLEASE. Second of all, though: What? A cheap, faster-than-a-plane, weather-immune, crash-impervious people-mover? There's a pretty good reason we can't travel between LA and SF in 30 minutes, which is that we can't travel between LA and SF in 30 minutes. The challenges here are enormous. And what would the Hyperloop actually look like? Google's geektastic monorail capsules? A tunnel? A pod? A series of pods?

Those questions are for later, though. For now, it's the idea that counts. Musk might patent the Hyperloop concept, he said, and then open up its implementation to "anyone who can make a credible case that they can do it." So the Hyperloop really could be anything. [Though: fingers crossed for a series of pods.] Then again, Musk has a pretty great track record of turning the whimsical into the actual -- and of, in general, saying nay to the naysayers. SpaceX and Tesla and even PayPal are testaments to what can happen when you encounter limitations and - quickly! cheaply! easily! - whisk them away.

Photo credit: Konstantin Sutyagin /Shutterstock

This post originally appeared on The Atlantic.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A photo of a Google employee on a bicycle.
    Equity

    How Far Will Google’s Billion-Dollar Bay Area Housing Plan Go?

    The single largest commitment by a private employer to address the Bay Area’s acute affordable housing crisis is unique in its focus on land redevelopment.

  2. A person tapes an eviction notice to the door of an apartment.
    Equity

    Why Landlords File for Eviction (Hint: It’s Usually Not to Evict)

    Most of the time, a new study finds, landlords file for eviction because it tilts the power dynamic in their favor—not because they want to eject their tenants.

  3. Equity

    Berlin Will Freeze Rents for Five Years

    Local lawmakers agreed to one of Europe’s most radical rental laws, but it sets the stage for a battle with Germany’s national government.

  4. Environment

    Paris Wants to Grow ‘Urban Forests’ at Famous Landmarks

    The city plans to fill some small but treasured sites with trees—a climate strategy that may also change the way Paris frames its architectural heritage.

  5. A map showing the affordability of housing in the U.S.
    Equity

    Minimum Wage Still Can’t Pay For A Two-Bedroom Apartment Anywhere

    The 30th anniversary edition of the National Low Income Housing Coalition report, “Out of Reach,” shows that housing affordability is getting worse, not better.

×