L.A. to San Francisco in 30 minutes - Macleans.ca

L.A. to San Francisco in 30 minutes

Sure, Elon Musk’s Hyperloop is just an idea … but imagine the possibilities


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It sounds more like a riddle than a plan for mass transportation, and certainly tech billionaire Elon Musk’s Hyperloop—a “cross between a Concorde and a rail gun and an air-hockey table,” has many in the engineering world puzzled. But aside from the aforementioned description, the PayPal founder has been tight-lipped about the $70-billion project. Detailed plans are now slated for release on Aug. 12.

The gist? The Hyperloop is a method of transit so advanced and so fast it promises to zip passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in half an hour. That’s a five-hour improvement over the average drive—plenty of cause for excitement (and skepticism.) According to the buzz, the futuristic train will blast passengers in suspended pods through a tube at a speed of 1,200 km/hr. The driving force would come from magnetic fields mounted outside of the tube. As for the air-hockey element, Bruce Dunwoody, a mechanical engineer at the University of British Columbia, says “air bearings,” or pressurized air, could be used to support the passenger compartments. Traditionally, he says, ball bearings are employed in trains and while air offers less friction, it will also require considerably more power. The same is true of a vacuum, which some theorize will be used to reduce the air drag in the tube. Musk has said the train might be solar-powered, another lofty goal.

Gizmodo, a popular tech website, recently speculated the primary challenge for Musk, financially at least, could be the construction of underground tunnels. But Dunwoody says tunnels would not be safe in an area as seismically active as California. “An elevated guideway would be cheaper and safer,” he says. Nonetheless he agrees that cost, and not technology, will be the big barrier to the project. “Certainly, we have airplanes that operate at those sorts of speeds, so it is technically feasible. However, airplanes do not have to pay for the right-of-ways to cross people’s properties whereas any train will need to.” With so many obstacles and not even a rough draft of the design on the table, Hyperloop, and travellers, are likely in for a few more years of gridlock.


L.A. to San Francisco in 30 minutes

  1. . ‘Nonetheless he agrees that cost, and not technology, will be the big barrier to the project’

    Yeah capitalism holds back progress….just like socialism and communism do

    • The automobile, the airplane, virtually every medicine you can think of, computers, virtually every electric device currently in use, every form of electrical generation imaginable, virtually any form of energy you use, all your food, all your clothing, any literature and music, all come from capitalist enterprises. Socialist and communist societies have given us no- none nada, zip, zilch, zero- new technologies that have advanced the human condition. You were saying….?

      • Really? [Rolls eyes] Well perhaps you should read a little more history.

        I have no idea why you are worrying about economic systems founded in the 17 and 1800s, and over with….but everything we have was built on the knowledge from China, the ME and India.

        As to my previous comment….capitalism holds back progress….JUST LIKE SOCIALISM AND COMMUNISM DO

        • [Rolls eyes]

          Thank you for sharing that.

          • I was talking to Greenwood….who likes to do racist hits and then run.

          • EmilyOne: This is a public forum, ma’am. Yes, I am talking to you.
            Now, with respect, please respect the right of others here to freely
            participate. This thread seems to be less and less about the conversation itself. If there’s anything I don’t care for is a bully in any forum. Chill.

          • Yup, public forum. Live with it.

      • Insulin … developed privately and NOT exploited by capitalism, given to the world free of charge! Yes I could go on, and on, and on, but then I would be like you.

  2. Folks:

    Gizmodo got it wrong on two counts. One is that in ten minutes of research (that’t what it took me anyway) I compared subway construction costs per mile to the high speed rail estimate and… subways are five times the cost. So, ditto, not gonna happen.

    The second thing was that Gizmodo posted my ‘flow chart’ that Elon Musk said was the “best guess so far” and then they allowed folks to post anything they wanted. Not the kind of discussion I was after.

    So, what gives, Gizmodo? I liked you guys!

    Not any more, I don’t!

    Macleans? Trash, your story wasn’t worth the server space it was stored on.

    Shame! You can do better!

    Where, oh where is the original work!

    Not here. Do I have to do this single handed?

    BTW: Oh, Musk, the answer is obvious and I didn’t even have to do any more research to get it either… if we can’t afford to go down

    …Go up, young man, go way up!


    [edit] Found one!


    …from Hungary!

    When you gotta go to Google Translate to find a good story…

  3. Need to transport your car, along with you. Americans are in love with their cars.

  4. “…airplanes do not have to pay for the right-of-ways to cross people’s properties…”
    NOT TRUE. You cross someone’s airspace you either get shot down or,

    • I think he was talking about when you need to expropriate people of their house because the train is passing right on their house. You have to pay them so they accept to leave their house. Airplane doesn’t have this problem.

  5. I think this is way too dangerous to transport and if you do this, you need to spend a huge amount of capital to build this system.

    kinh doanh kiem tien tren mang

  6. In Italy, many decades ago, in the public institutions there was the so-called “pneumatic mail”, with documents sent in cylinders through metal tubes.
    When I’ve seen the image, immediately my memory recalled that idea. Men and women as mail boxes, seated in a futuristic train that remembers me the Groening’s ideas of Futurama! :)
    Rome Guides – Private Walking Tours

  7. Sounds like a Pax Subshuttle from Genesis II (film).

  8. There’s a median no one’s doing much with all the way up the 5 … maybe the State could kick that into the deal.