Man of the hour – Elon Musk
We all know who Tony Stark is, right? The “Genius, Billionaire, Playboy, Philanthropist” from the Avengers series. Or better known as Ironman. Deep down, we all know that he is just a fictional character. But we all would love to have someone like him in the real life. Guess what? There is someone who can comes close a real-life Ironman. Elon Reeve Musk is a South African-born Canadian-American business magnate, engineer and inventor. For years, Musk has been a driving force behind some of the most impactful and revolutionary businesses on the planet. Whether it’s his involvement with online payments via PayPal or the path-breaking work he’s been doing at both Tesla and SpaceX, Musk continues to push the limits of what society thinks is not possible.
Among the various ventures that he has been a part of, the most recent one is known as Hyperloop.
What is Hyperloop?
The hyperloop is described as a conceptual high-speed transportation system. The concept was first propounded by Elon Musk. The system uses “reduced-pressure tubes in which pressurized capsules ride on an air cushion driven by linear induction motors and air compressors”. Did that make sense to you? Not to me at the first glance. To put it simply, this transportation system moves travel pods at incredibly high speeds through airtight tubes. Oh, and there are magnets involved somewhere to stabilize the system. The solar-powered Hyperloop would allow passengers to get from Los Angeles to San Francisco in less than 30 minutes, Musk has said, meaning it must travel at speeds greater than 600 mph.
The system would be cheap and convenient, he added, with tickets costing less than a seat to board a plane and Hyperloop vehicles shall depart frequently from their various stations.
Is Hyperloop practically possible?
The biggest issues are speed and scale. The Hyperloop was pitched as a faster and cheaper alternative to cars and trains, but even small shifts in those numbers can dramatically change how it stacks up. It’s easy to imagine safety concerns limiting Hyperloop’s speed to just a fraction of its theoretical top speed or right-of-way issues keeping stations far from urban centers.
Another big challenge is to choreographing the travel experience itself. How would people board the Hyperloop efficiently, and what would they look at inside the tube other than gray walls? What about the creature comforts? The bathrooms? The corridors? Trapped in a confined space, these aren’t luxuries but essentials.
How close are we to Hyperloop turning into a reality?
In a desert outside of Las Vegas, Hyperloop One showed the world its very first blink-and-you’ll-miss-it test drive. The test “sled” reached 300 miles per hour. The rate of acceleration (2.5Gs) is the really impressive; that rate is the equivalent of a car going from zero to 60mph in about one second.
The biggest difference between this test and a fully-working Hyperloop — other than that real Hyperloops will travel to somewhere other than the desert — is the track. Hyperloop pods will eventually run inside a semi-vacuum tube to reduce air resistance, whereas this test was exposed to the harsh Las Vegas climate.
Currently, a company named Hyperloop One (previously known as Hyperloop Technologies) is exploring Musk’s concept of Hyperloop. Musk is no longer an active member of the company. The CEO of Hyperloop One is Rob Lloyd, former Cisco President of Sales and Development. Former SpaceX engineer and Hyperloop One co-founder, Brogan Bambrogan, the previous CEO, became CTO upon Lloyd’s arrival. A couple of months back, Rob Lloyd said that they had reached an agreement with the government of Slovakia to build a local hyperloop system, with the first section to be completed by 2020.
If you wonder about the scope of a Hyperloop in India, we have already taken a small stride forward in the world of transport with the introduction of the Bullet trains which is planned to connect the cities of Mumbai and Ahmedabad. We believe the smarter thing for Indian authorities would be to wait for the likes of the USA, China or France to develop the hyperloop technology, perform safety and feasibility studies, mass produce it, and integrate it with their existing transport network and allow it to become a norm before deciding that its current bullet train network is ‘too slow’ to keep up with the advanced economies of the west. One can foresee expensive feasibility studies followed by land acquisition difficulties followed by other execution issues before witnessing it as a reality.
Well, that was our take on Hyperloop and its advancement. What’s yours?