Elon Musk's Hyperloop, his idea of a super-fast transport system, is getting trimmed for public use. It could be ready as early as next year, but first, it needs to be tested.
Hyperloop One has just completed its test track, which would accommodate pods that can carry real passengers as opposed to smaller-scale prototypes. As it is intended for testing, the straight track only runs 500 meters, but it can be as long as 1,152 miles once the project becomes reality.
The Hyperloop is envisioned to travel at a speed of 700 mph, which can make a 17-hour drive to an hour and 45-minute ride. The company already proposed 11 routes in the U.S. that could benefit from the tech, including the 1,152-mile route Cheyenne-Houston and the 64-mile Boston-Providence.
Aside from the obvious perks of having an ultra-fast transportation, like not getting late to work, the Hyperloop project also has economic benefits. City workers will now be able to consider moving to farther lands, reducing city congestion. Companies can also consider building on cheaper lands if traveling will be that easy.
However, there are challenges that the Hyperloop needs to overcome first before it is made available to the public. It should be able to convince people that it is safe to use. Traveling 700 mph in reduced-pressure tubes for hundreds of miles poses safety risks apart from the engineering hurdles.
For the Hyperloop to work, the tubes need to be in constant vacuum. Without getting into technical terms, maintaining the vacuum over long distances is hard work. And if it fails, the passengers are in danger.
Moreover, it needs to be able to withstand seasonal changes. Like a bridge, the Hyperloop should have the mechanism to react accordingly to the weather, otherwise, it will only have a few years of life.
It may take some time before the public accepts the Hyperloop as a reliable form of transportation, and Elon Musk and Hyperloop One are working hard right now to overcome these problems. Here's to hoping that the first test run in Nevada will go without a hitch.