Elon Musk (the engineer and entrepreneur behind Tesla electric cars and before that he helped create PayPal) has a very cool idea of how to provide fast long distance transportation (faster than a plane). Essentially it is a big version of pneumatic tubes that used to be used to send small packages around a building, as seen in the movie – Brazil 🙂 Details are scheduled to be released August 12th.
- The crossing of other right-of-ways, like roads and railways, will be a breeze.
- Rivers and other terrain obstacles will only be a 10th the problem of rail construction.
- Hyperloop can avoid tunnels completely by having more flexible choices of right-of-way.
- An elevated right-of-way opens up new route options, like leasing farmer’s fields using contracts similar to what wind-power companies sign.
- That could be paid for by leasing Hyperloop’s right-of-way to communications companies for fiber optic cables, cell phone towers, etc.
- …and let’s not forget the solar power that a couple of square miles of surface area can generate!
Travelers ride in pods magnetically accelerated and decelerated into the main tube (like a rail gun) where the air circulates at speed. The air between pods acts as a cushion, preventing crashes, while more air injected through perforations in the tube levitates the pods and reduces friction, much as it might on an air hockey table.
Elon Musk has some very good ideas but what really sets him apart is turning them into functioning enterprises. Great ideas are wonderful but a huge number never go anywhere. Those people that can actually get ideas into the marketplace are the people that provide a much greater standard of living for all of us. And many of them are engineers.
Update: link to his blog post announcement.
More examples of cool extreme engineering: Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel – Transferring Train Passengers Without Stopping – transatlantic tunnel – Webcast on Machine That Bores Subway Tunnels