Why Elon Musk's Hyperloop Won't Work
In the sequel to Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory, Charlie and Willy hop into an elevator and are whooshed into space. That may be a more feasible scenario than Elon Musk's draft for the 2029 "Hyperloop," a projected "fifth mode of transport" (after boats, planes, trains, and cars) that promises to whiz travelers from one coast to another in half an hour.
Hyperloop's draft is "open-source," meaning that anyone can view and edit it online. The basic idea is that passengers will travel in a small pod, and will be shot — a little like a bullet from a gun — through tubing that stretches across the country. Sounds ambitious? Well, it really is. Here, some key issues facing the Hyperloop, according to the expert skeptics:
It'll get too hot. Let's take a moment to remember that this is a train, in a tube, traveling faster than an airplane. From technology analysis site Navigant Research :
It's not a new idea. The first draft of a transport system involving tubes was hatched in 1812. Forty years ago, it re-emerged, with a significantly better plan than Musk's, says Business Insider.
The pod will face a lot of physical stress. Navigant Research says that, after temperature, the Hyperloop's biggest issue is the sheer amount of stress the "pod" will face during every trip:
It's not even a priority for Musk. He described the two-year plan as a "background project," and while it's his brainchild, he won't build and fund it himself. The open-source nature of Hyperloop suggests that it'll be someone else's job — not necessarily the best person for the job, but anyone who can fund it and believe it's plausible — to go about actually making it.
Google's driverless cars will be better. Over at Forbes, their argument has nothing to do with the physical possibilities of the Hyperloop. They point out that, by the time Hyperloop is halfway done (and that's a best-case scenario,) we'll probably have Google's driverless cars, which will be cheaper and more conducive to work-plus-commute than the Hyperloop could hope to be.
Would it be private or public? It's a multi-billion-dollar project (at least,) and so it would require either federal funds or a large-scale private investment. The Huffington Post argues that putting any sort of high-speed rail in the hands of private companies is a recipe for disaster:
CNet, however, is hell-bent that we should all stop being so damn negative.
To that end, asks Forbes, why can't we just have a space elevator?
Or, for that matter, why can't North Korea make its own smartphone? Oh, hang on, that actually just happened...