The USA remains woefully behind the times when it comes to high-speed ground travel. While Europe and Asia are well served by the trains travelling nearly 190mph, Amtrak’s 150mph Acela running along the Northeastern corridor is the only service in the entire US. Inhabitants elsewhere in the country must make do travelling by car, conventional trains or plane.
High-speed rail lines currently offer the best option when travelling distances shorter than 600 miles, providing users with a city-to-city alternative that is not only convenient but also significantly more environmentally efficient than air travel. With average speeds of 186mph they are usually more time efficient than airport travel.
But Elon Musk of PayPal, Tesla and SpaceX fame, plans to do one better.
Musk proposes a solar powered high-speed inter-city connection he calls the Hyperloop, a system that could transport people as well as cars in aluminum pods that travel within steel tubes. The passenger pods would accommodate up to 28 passengers while the car versions would transport three vehicles. Riding atop a set of perforated, air-blowing skis, the pods would be propelled at speeds of up to 800mph.
The system would link the busy metropolitan areas of Los Angeles and San Francisco, travelling alongside the 5 Freeway (a route Musk is well familiar with) and completing the journey in roughly 3o minutes. Driving that route takes an average 6 hours today.
Musk calls the Hyperloop a cross between the Concorde, a rail gun and an air hockey table.
Though a busy man running multiple companies, Musk is so passionate about the project that he has compiled a 57-page document and made it available to anyone online. If you’ve got a half an hour, have a read through his detailed plan.