Science fiction is littered with ultra-fast mass transit concepts, but now one of the most intriguing is about to become a reality.
Construction is set to begin next year on the first-ever Hyperloop, which will run five miles in the planned community of Quay Valley in California. The track won’t be able to reach the 800 mph target for ideal Hyperloop tech, but it’ll serve as the biggest proof of concept yet for the burgeoning mass transit concept.
The Hyperloop is basically a transportation network of above-ground tubes that would ideally span hundreds of miles. In theory, commuter-filled capsules inside the tubes would be able to reach 800 mph and near supersonic speed thanks to extremely low air pressure inside those tubes. The concept was put forth by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk in a 57-page alpha white paper published August 2013, and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies plans to make it a reality.
CEO Dirk Ahlborn told Wired that the miniature version envisioned is “not a test track” but instead a “very natural step” in testing the viability of the concept and figuring out basic logistical questions ranging from platform layout to the design of the commuter pods. It also won’t get anywhere near supersonic speed, since at least 100 miles of track is required to ramp up to those levels. They currently plan to run at least some of the station on solar power.
It’ll be fascinating to see how this project comes together, and here’s hoping it's the first of many Hyperloop projects in the coming years. Something that could theoretically get us from New York to California in approximately three hours? That’s some tech at least worth pursuing.