21st Century was supposed to be all about flying cars and teleportation. But, here we are with nothing even close to either of them. Although flying cars may still be a distant future, super-fast capsules reaching speeds over 700mph might not be. Yes! You read that right. 700 mph or more is the estimated speed of the concept proposed by SpaceX CEO and Tesla co-founder Elon Musk known as the Hyperloop.
Hyperloop is essentially a mode of mass-transit which would put passengers in pod hurtling them through a sealed tube having no air resistance or friction which would significantly reduce the power consumed. This concept has been seen before as well in the form of pneumatic tubes. This system that was invented by the Scottish engineer William Murdoch in the 19th century propelled a cylindrical capsule containing objects through a tube by partial vacuum. These tubes were used in the US Library of Congress since the late 19th century to send requests between the readers and the archive stores. The years 1870 to 1873 saw the trial and failure of this concept for the purpose of public transit as the Beach Pneumatic Transit.
Even though this concept has been lingering throughout history, Elon Musk’s version of the same was first made public in 2012 which incorporated low-pressure tubes. In August 2013 the “Hyperloop Alpha” design was published that gave details about the acceleration of the pods to cruising speed using a linear electric motor. The design was open-sourced by Musk and SpaceX and was encouraged to be used for further development by other companies. This led to the formation of several companies and student-led teams working to enhance technology. Therefore, the technology might be dreamt of by Musk, but major advancements in this technology have been done by other companies such as Virgin’s Hyperloop One. Hyperloop One has a full scale 1640 foot-long and 11 foot-high tube which is being used of tests. Hyperloop Transportation Technologies headquartered in Los Angeles and TransPod headquartered in Toronto have been running computer simulations to test their theories.
Promising speed more than twice as much as the fastest attainable today, Hyperloop is one of the most promising “futuristic” transport. If attainable, this would also provide a low-cost transportation system in the long run, which would cover a distance of 560 km in 35 minutes. Since the transportation will be carried out in a tube, it will also be unaffected by harsh weather conditions. The Hyperloop design also takes into account the possibility of earthquakes and therefore, has the tube mounted upon a pylon which is present at every 100ft. These pylons allow for slip due to thermal expansion and earthquakes preventing the tracks from breaking.
The reinvent and successful application of this technology might be the closest thing today, to the “Futuristic City” vision that we hold.