A team of 100 engineers from places like NASA, SpaceX, and Boeing have joined forces to try to turn Elon Musk’s ambitious Hyperloop high-speed train concept into reality. Brought together by crowdsourcing-meets-crowdfunding company JumpStartFund, they united to launch Hyperloop Transportation Technologies to develop the idea, and last week they released a 76-page report (pdf) spelling out how they propose to make it happen. According to the document, they believe they can make the Hyperloop commercially viable in just 10 years, at a cost of $16 billion.
Using a series of above-ground tubes, Musk’s original Hyperloop idea would send passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in just 30 minutes at 800 mph (almost twice as fast as the cruising speed of some commercial airliners). The concept works not totally unlike an air hockey table.
When Musk revealed his plan to bring the Hyperloop to California last year, no one was exactly sure how it would happen. Musk is busy leading SpaceX and Tesla, and he always intended for someone else to take the reins. JumpStartFund CEO, Dirk Ahlborn, was only too happy to step up.
The team has expanded on Musk’s concept and now envisions a huge interconnected Hyperloop system, spanning coast to coast and linking many of the US’s major cities. Ahlborn told Wired that if logistical obstacles become too large to surmount, they’ll take the project elsewhere. The most important thing, he says, is that it gets built somewhere.
It’s an intriguing first step and this team of talented engineers—who still have day jobs—seem determined to see it through. They’re doing it all without pay (though they are promised stock options), and they mostly communicate via email. They also have the help of students in UCLA’s school of architecture and urban design.
But completing a Los Angeles-to-San Francisco Hyperloop line in 10 years will be difficult enough. Building a vast array of Hyperloop routes that covers the entire country seems next to impossible. Difficulties securing the land, environmental considerations, and even political pressures, could ultimately prove too burdensome to overcome. We shall see.