back to article Elon Musk unveils Hyperloop – the subsonic tube of tomorrow

After months of hint-dropping, Elon Musk has published the first plans for a high-speed transport system that would take commuters from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 35 minutes at a cost of $20 per person. Hyperloop plans Hyperloop on the drawing board Musk's earlier description of the system, dubbed Hyperloop, described …

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  1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    A pipeline?

    If each passenger was given a small barrel of oil to carry it could solve some other problems the government is having getting a project through

    1. Parax

      Re: A pipeline?

      nearly a pipeline!

      It would probably be ideal to set up a prototype with the fall back of using it as a goods service (express parcels for TNT or Fed Ex) if the public don't take to being spam in a can.

      If it does become popular running goods at night may be viable, hence suitable investment could come from those sectors.

      I'm still not 100% convinced on the signalling system though.. I guess time and prototypes will tell...

      1. Aldous
        Pint

        Re: A pipeline?

        Isn't the signaling system kind of simple though? what i mean is that it does not have sidings/branch lines etc all it needs to do is take them off at one end and put them on at the other, or did i miss something?

        Quite funny how they mention the larger distance version is not as suitable as shorter distance version due to supersonic aircraft being more viable for the long haul. So that would be which supersonic passenger aircraft? Even when one is built it would not be allowed to go supersonic over U.S land (which was a major contributor to Concorde's lack of take up), so why even mention it?

        Mind you he might have a supersonic ex mil jet somewhere and they did fire Bond down a pipeline before and he owns space launchers. Maybe Musk is just seeing how far money,brains and wanting to be james bond will get him!

        Nice idea, would be really cool (especially the car carrier version) but like the segway lots of hype but nothing changes.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: isn't the signaling system kind of simple though?

          It'll need to know if there is a problem ahead, meaning only one 'train' per signalled segment, OR uninterrupted reliable communication which might be trivial if it were not at 600mph in a steel tube.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Comms isn't as hard as you think

            Thanks to skeleton slot antennas. They're widely usedon aircraft and have zero surface profile.

        2. Ian Yates

          Re: A pipeline?

          What I like about Musk, though, is that he comes along with fully-formed and costed solutions. This isn't an entirely vapourware concept; he's sat down with his team and figured out the initial logistics to make it real.

          He's also highlighted how governments can be utterly lazy in their own solutions as they don't really care about the costs they incur.

          Why don't we have more maglev?

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: A pipeline?

          The US only banned supersonic craft because they wanted to kill off Concorde, until Boeing came up with a US-built supersonic jet liner.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: A pipeline?

            It's not as conspiratorial as you think. The reason the Concorde wasn't really allowed over land (and note: Europe didn't want the Concorde flying over land EITHER...for the same reasons) was because of its sonic boom. Anyone living near a military jet base will know the problem, and there can be many complaints about not just loud jet noise but also sonic booms shaking houses and so on. Concorde's sonic boom was particularly bad because it was designed for efficiency: not noise mitigation.

    2. Mips
      Childcatcher

      Re: A pipeline?

      Whats in a pipeline?

      "where snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night would stay these capsules from the swift completion of their appointed rounds"

      Fit for Shakespeare.

      1. Kubla Cant Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: A pipeline?

        @Mips "Fit for Shakespeare"

        Well, yes. But it's a modified quotation of the motto of the US Postal Service, which is in turn a translation of Herodotus. So it's either more recent than Shakespeare, or much older.

      2. Pav
        Happy

        Re: A pipeline?

        NEITHER RAIN NOR SNOW NOR GLOM OF NIT CAN STAY THESE MESSENGERS ABOT THIER DUTY

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  3. Roo

    Damn it

    I can't get the 2000AD Nemesis story (the Terrortubes) out of my head. :)

    1. Graham Marsden

      Be pure, be vigilant...

      ... BEHAVE!

    2. beep54
      Meh

      Re: Damn it

      Hum. Googling 'Terrortubes' I get tube guitar amps and shotgun shells. I doubt that either of those were what you were refencing....

      1. VinceH Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Damn it

        Try here.

        Featuring someone who looks a lot like Kenny Everett giving travel news.

  4. ratfox Silver badge
    Meh

    Good luck

    He'll need it. This is far from the first time that the combination of electromagnetic propulsion + vacuum tube (or semi-vacuum in this case) has been planned. The results have been so far underwhelming.

    I have to say, apart from the $6bn cost to build the system, the 7 million passengers a year also seems optimistic to me. Without even talking of having the whole thing self-powered by solar cells.

    It is good that there are people who try to push the limits of what is possible, but don't count on me to buy these bonds.

    1. Rampant Spaniel

      Re: Good luck

      I'd buy, but not because I saw it paying for my kids college. This is a bit of a nutty idea but personally I think this is one we should try just to see what the reality is.

      It shouldn't affect smaller towns as it's effectively an express service so it's customers wouldn't have stopped over anyway. The days of getting off the train and strolling around town while they refill the water and coal are long gone.

      We use little metal cans with 8 seats that rocket all over the place right now. Cessna 208's or island hoppers. I prefer them to big jets but big jets are probably safer.

    2. James Micallef Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Good luck

      7.4 mln passengers a year X $20 X 20 years is less than 3bln dollars just in revenue, not profit. So the proposed 20-year bonds could only raise a fraction of the construction price.

      7.4 mln passengers a year is quite possible if the thing performs as specced IF they're calculating a passenger as 1-way, not return. With a 23-mile distance between capsules at the max speed of 760 mph gives a bit under 2 minutes between capsules, so 30 capsules X 28 people an hour gives a potential maximum of over 20k passengers a day each way. That's 7.4 mln return trips if operating at peak 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

      So 7.4 million single journeys (50% of max theoretical capacity) is probably a reasonable estimate. 7.4 million return journeys a year is pie in the sky.

      1. lglethal Silver badge
        Go

        Re: Good luck

        James, I think you would find that the 7,4 million passengers was the passengers expected in the first year, they would expect ever increasing numbers of passengers each year, hence how they can get to their US$6 billion.

        However, coming from the aerospace industry I can tell you that the majority of costs dont come from actually designing and building the aircraft. The costs come from testing, certifying and qualifying everything so that you get the certification to fly the damn thing. OK the costs for the rail and road industries along this line are much lower, but can you really expect this system to get away with road levels of qualification? I certainly dont. US$6 billion seems a ridicuosly low value to me, double it and I might begin to think its maybe possible if you dont nind cutting some corners, but I would be shocked beyond belief if it can be made for under US$20 billion..

        1. Tom 13

          Re: shocked beyond belief if it can be made for under US$20 billion..

          Even at $20 billion, that's still about half the proposed price of the high speed rail, which is also almost certainly low. So as a replacement it seems desirable.

          Also, despite the relatively high price for a commuter trip, the 35 minutes puts it inside what 'Merkins in big cities have come to expect time wise, so it might be used that way.

          If you throw in some freight traffic, I think you might be able to get to a commercially viable system. Only actual use would tell.

        2. Skizz

          Re: Good luck

          Even if it rocketed up to US$20bn, that's still a lot less than the $68bn or so they're thinking of pumping into a 'highspeed' (i.e. Intercity125 speeds) conventional train line, which would cost more to ride on and take longer. True, it can take a lot more cargo.

          This is a project that really needs to be done. There will be naysayers, but there always is with new things (think, the first car, the first plane, etc).

        3. James Micallef Silver badge

          Re: Good luck

          @Iglethal - I couldn't tell whether $6bn is too low an estimate, but 1/10th of cost of HSR does seem suspiciously low.

          "they would expect ever increasing numbers of passengers each year, hence how they can get to their US$6 billion.". Agreed, but as I pointed out there's a hard limit of 14mln operating at full capacity 24/7/365. More realistically given scheduled maintenance pluy unscheduled hiccups during the year is maybe 10mln a year. Of course as I point out in another post comparing cost to air/train/car, they can put the price at $50 with a cheap night fare at $20-30. With an average pricing closer to $35-40 they could make a lot more than $6bln in 20 years

  5. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

    Eh, I'd use it. Almost certainly safer than driving.

    1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

      And that's especially true here in California where folks regularly dart across 5 lanes of traffic at a roughly 45 degree angle to the roadway because they just realized their exit is only a quarter mile up the road. Of course it doesn't help with the highway planners putting half the entrance ramps on the far side of the freeway because they couldn't fit another ramp on the usual side.

      That said, I'd be happy to use it and see my niece on the north end of this electric semi-suck tube on the occasional weekend.

      1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

        It's not just the exits, it's the fact that Californians don't understand the delicate art of signage. Such as placing your signs a decent ways before the turn. And perhaps indicating what side of the freeway it's on. Bloody 101 is a death trap...

        1. Annihilator

          "It's not just the exits, it's the fact that Californians don't understand the delicate art of signage"

          Much like Nevada, Utah and France in my experience...

          1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

            I can add Scotland and the Czech Republic to that list. Without satnav or a competent navigator, getting to somewhere you don't know in either of these places is ... interesting.

            However, on topic, and probably mentioned further down (and if so, apologies), I'm not sure I'd want to be travelling 700+mph on something supported above ground that tends to move as much as it does in California ...

        2. Tom 13

          Granted it's been a while since I've been to Cali and I never drove there

          but given your description I'd have to say they are doing better than Maryland. At least they used 5+ lanes to make it that dangerous. Maryland does it with only two.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Tell me please

          These word you used, signage and later signs, are they like what the fortune teller sees when playing with those funny cards?

          -- Average Californian

    2. wayward4now
      Linux

      Could get messy!

      The biggest drawback to any ground based rail is cars at intersections with rail. Cars and trains famously do not get along well, or any thing else in their path. Plus, with rail you have to surrender the real estate, which costs a fortune before you even start to lay track. Monorails, or this tube proposal, makes much more sense. Building the tube shouldn't be a major effort when we already have plenty of experience building them for the oil industry. You might need some sort of pressure washing system in place for when the strawberry jam happens with capsules of humans rocketing along at 700mph collide with something. Could get messy.

  6. sunnyskies

    Yeah, good luck.

    The sad fact is that the United States is no longer capable of even building a high-speed rail system, which has existing in other parts of the world for nearly fifty years now. It's not that people in California haven't been trying, either. There have been various plans for high-speed travel between S.F. and L.A. since the 1940s. The history is both entertaining and sobering.

    Hyperloop is like saying you want to build a supercomputer when you can't even design a mobo with standard components.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Yeah, good luck.

      There are tremendous difficulties in building a Californian high speed rail link.

      Even with the costs of modifying SUVs to run on rails - how are people supposed to overtake ?

    2. julianh72

      Re: Yeah, good luck.

      If this is technologically viable, the Chinese will have one working before anyone else. They have the ability and the will to mobilise "whatever it takes" to do just about anything.

      And they're not too fussed about whether it is economically or ecologically viable - as long as it would be seen as "world-class". E.g. consider the Shanghai MagLev train from the airport to down-town - 30 km in 8 minutes, running every 15 minutes, with a top speed of 430 km/hr. I can't for one moment imagine that it is remotely economically viable - but it is undeniably cool!

      1. corestore

        Re: Yeah, good luck.

        Seconded.

        Fact is, I'm tempted to arrange a Shanghai stopover just to give it a whirl... just back from two weeks riding Shinkansen in Japan and ready to take things to the next level.

        They have a prototype maglev in Japan - the Chuo Shinkansen - which runs up to 550kph. The first section of the line completed has been used as a test track and is being opened to paying passengers as a funride this year, apparently; the full line between Tokyo and Nagoya won't open until 2027. So it's back to Japan for me later this year :-)

        Mike

        1. sunnyskies

          Re: Yeah, good luck.

          Good point.

          To actually build this proposal (which Musk is apparently "above" doing himself), the issue is neither a matter of engineering nor finance. It's a question of national will. Asia and Europe have already expressed this will. There is no real debate around HSR, except in the U.S.

          Fundamentally, Americans have not decided whether they really want HSR or not. Of course, many people really do want it, but they get shouted down by an equally large contingent that doesn't want to spend any money on "socialist" projects like public transport.

          Getting them out of their cars is like getting them to give up their guns — they just won't do it.

          The rest of the world doesn't have these kinds of "collective identity" issues. If Hyperloop is in fact technologically and economically viable, then it'll be built elsewhere. Not in the US.

          1. Abot13

            Re: Yeah, good luck.

            no debate about HSR in Europe? come again? There is a huge debate about HSR at the moment in both the Netherlands and Belgium.

            A HSR line was built between the two mentioned countries, it went way over budget, schedule etc etc. When it was finaly completed, the italian built trains turned out to be total failures. they are so bad they are banned in Belgium.

            In the end we have a HSR that is unfit for purpose and a dozen or so trains, that you wouldt even house pigs in, standing still and going nowhere ever. the HSR is a write of before even being really used, its a miracle that no one got killed.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Yeah, good luck.

              Are there millions of Europeans arguing against existence of the French TGV, the Eurostar, Thalys, or the German ICE?

              I don't see that, but I do see millions of Americans arguing against HSR.

              It seems the problem with the project you describe is in its implementation, not whether it should exist in the first place. That's the situation in the US.

              In any case, what were they thinking, buying the rolling stock from Italy?

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Yeah, good luck.

                > There is no real debate around HSR, except in the U.S.

                And Gloucestershire, apparently.

              2. Tom 13

                Re: not whether it should exist in the first place.

                As usual you misscharacterize your fellow Americans. Our objections aren't against its existential potential, they are about the logical fallacies of the HSR proponents. The proposed train will only get you between specific cities. You'll still need a car. If Musk can make it commercially viable, I don't have a problem with that. If it costs twice as much to build and only develops a quarter of the traffic he foresees and depends on the public dole, I have huge problems with that. The car still gets me there if slower, on already existing infrastructure that will be more readily and frequently used. The problem with conventional HSR is that given the historical track record of passenger rail, it wouldn't even make the failure numbers I've assigned to the Musk project. So they are IMPLEMENTATION objections, not existential.

                Full disclosure: You damn fools have funded one of these boondoggles that I take to work everyday. Since I'm paying for it anyway I use it. Doesn't mean I can't see the problems with it or what better solutions might be out there.

            2. Professor Falken
              Facepalm

              Re: Yeah, good luck.

              And a little closer to home... HS2 anyone?

            3. John Hughes
              FAIL

              Re: Yeah, good luck.

              What kind of loony buys Italian trains for HSR?

              Buy TGV's (or, even better AGV's).

              1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: Yeah, good luck.

                What kind of loony buys Italian trains? - there, I fixed it for you.

          2. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Yeah, good luck.

            "Getting them out of their cars is like getting them to give up their guns — they just won't do it."

            So build the slightly larger one which takes 3 cars and passengers.

            The most annoying thing about public transport (or flying) is having to arrange wheels at the other end anwyay.

            Make it large enough to hold 18-wheelers and you have a ready market, freighters and truckers will happily piggyback if it's cheaper and faster.

            1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

              Re: Yeah, good luck.

              @Alan Brown

              There, you've hit the mark. Most rail in the US is owned by freight companies and the passenger rail runs between. It isn't much of a problem in the port cities where the freight originates but anywhere down the line has to deal with the inconsistencies and often it only takes a hundred miles or two to totally screw the commuter schedule.

        2. henchan

          Re: Yeah, good luck.

          I'd like to try that test track fun-ride this year. Do you know where to buy tickets?

        3. JetSetJim Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Yeah, good luck.

          The Shanghai MagLev train is indeed cool, and wondrously easy to use as a transfer into the city. Use it before it falls over due to shoddy construction techniques - IIRC, there have been a few articles in recent years on the concrete supports not being of the highest build quality.

          Apparently they've also extended the metro out to the airport, too, which is a goodly amount cheaper to use (10RMB/£1 rather than 50RMB/£5). The ticket machines can also operate in English, so also rather easy to use (provided you know where you're going).

          Either way is a lot more relaxing than the roller-coaster ride of the local taxi drivers. Beware landing around 11pm at Pudong, it's end of shift time and some of the drivers struggle to stay awake while driving....

        4. Chris Glen-smith
          Happy

          Re: Yeah, good luck.

          I rode it last year. IIRC it did 450kph (there's a digital speed display inside) and what surprised me most : it was dam noisy, it rattled like an old style tube train! It didn't seem that fast from the inside, until the other train passes at the hallway point : blink and you'll miss it.

          1. Tom 38 Silver badge

            Re: Yeah, good luck.

            I rode it last year. IIRC it did 450kph (there's a digital speed display inside) and what surprised me most : it was dam noisy, it rattled like an old style tube train! It didn't seem that fast from the inside, until the other train passes at the hallway point : blink and you'll miss it.

            I didn't like the sections where the maglev banked quite viciously to the right. There is something disconcerting travelling above 400 kph, at an angle, looking down at the dismantled shanty town below.

            Well worth a ride though. I wouldn't go to Shanghai just to ride the maglev, but if you are in the area it is a damn good experience. Interestingly, maglev is too expensive for China, I don't think they intend to build more maglev lines.

            1. Daniel B.
              Alert

              Re: Yeah, good luck.

              Interestingly, maglev is too expensive for China, I don't think they intend to build more maglev lines.

              They were going to extend the Shanghai one to somewhere else, can't remember where ... but the project stopped because they favored their own home-grown HSR system. I also remember some weird ripoff they were doing (called something similar to Feng Shui) which was suspiciously similar to the Transrapid Maglev, so much that it is suspected it was basically stolen/copied Transrapid technology. So maybe the Chinese do have the money to do maglev, they just want to pirate it ;)

      2. Mike Richards

        Re: Yeah, good luck.

        The Chinese might have bought it, but the Shanghai MagLev is German.

    3. Malcom Ryder 1

      Re: they are called airplanes

      To every American whining about why we don't have a high speed rail system, we have airplanes. They are faster. At any one moment in time about 60,000 Americans are in the air over the US. It is faster to fly long distances and cheaper to drive shorter ones.

  7. Graham Marsden
    WTF?

    "The SF to LA route alone would cost only $6bn to build"

    Unless you're talking about Government expenditure, since when did the words "only" and "six billion" ever go together...?

    1. Ed 13
      FAIL

      Re: "The SF to LA route alone would cost only $6bn to build"

      Also, when did "massive novel civil engineering project" and "on-budget" come in the same sentence?

      It one of the more silly ideas I have come across recently.

      File under:

      Mono-Rails (the Simpsons episode says it all)

      Maglevs (Yes, i do know there are some in use, but they are just status symbols, whose function could be replaced much more cheaply, at only slightly lower performance, with conventional HSR)

      Goerge Bennie's Rail-plane

      etc.

      1. JetSetJim Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: "The SF to LA route alone would cost only $6bn to build"

        The Hoover Dam?

  8. K. Adams

    Sounds a lot like the Transit Tubes...

    ... in "Logan's Run" (the 1976 film, with Michael York and Jenny Agutter).

    It also pays homage to the BAMA Transit System in William Gibson's "Sprawl Trilogy" ("Neuromancer", "Count Zero", and "Mona Lisa Overdrive").

    Unfortunately, "only" US $6 billion sounds way too optimistic... It appears he may have forgotten to include the cost of more "abstract" requirements (such as political kickbacks and favours, things being the way they are).

    I personally think it's a brilliant idea, but economically, there's too much at stake, and you can bet Pounds to Jelly Babies that the Powers-Behind-The-Powers-That-Be will do whatever they can to boondoggle the project, if it ever gets underway. Musk's ability to prove that you can put product into space for 10% of the cost of a typical United Launch Alliance or SeaLaunch flight has made him a lot of enemies among the established Aerospace Industry players...

    -- Example:

    -- -- The Register UK: SpaceX goes to court as US rocket wars begin

    -- -- http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/06/20/spacex_sues_consultant/

    ... and I doubt the terrestrial transport folks are going to take this idea lying down...

    I bet in a totally egalitarian, corruption-free society, we could get a pneumatic transport system up-and-running for "Ten and Six" (ref. "Top Gear", "Reliant Robin Shuttle" episode). :-)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Re: Sounds a lot like the Transit Tubes...

      in "Logan's Run"

      Or this from somewhat earlier.

      1. Black Rat
        Devil

        Re: Sounds a lot like the Transit Tubes...

        Close but no cigar for the Brunell reference.. try this

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Pneumatic_Despatch_Company

      2. Magister

        Re: Sounds a lot like the Transit Tubes...

        Or Harry Harrison's alternative history story - known as "A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah" or "Tunnel through the deeps" depending on which side of the Atlantic you read the story.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tunnel_Through_the_Deeps

        1. Dom 3

          Re: Sounds a lot like the Transit Tubes...

          Or "2010: Living in the Future" by Geoffrey Hoyle, 1972:

          http://2010book.tumblr.com/

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sounds a lot like the Transit Tubes...

      Yup, or Roddenberry's Subshuttle from "Genesis II"? Or, the Rand Corporation's Planetran?

      We've been here at least a few times before...

    3. Ralph B

      Re: Sounds a lot like the Transit Tubes...

      It sounds like it might be more of a Shelbyville idea to me.

  9. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Holmes

    35 minute trip with no bathroom?

    After a few months I am not sure you could PAY me to sit on those seats.

    (I demand upvotes for fitting, but unexpected use of Sherlock Holmes icon.....)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 35 minute trip with no bathroom?

      Yes, and what about when the cars need to stop for some technical reason, with no bathroom on board?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 35 minute trip with no bathroom?

      The doors bolt shut, the car shoots into the vacuum tube and...

      ... you realize that Mr. Creosote and his American cousins (even fatter) are sitting all around you...

    3. stucs201

      Re: 35 minute trip with no bathroom?

      Its not exactly unusual to go that long between boarding a plane and it getting into the air and the seatbelt signs being switched off. Or drive that long between motorway service stations.

      Possibly more of an issue in the case of a breakdown, but for normal journeys it'd be fine.

    4. taemyks

      Re: 35 minute trip with no bathroom?

      I do have to say that 35 min without a bathroom is inconsequential. That's like 40 miles on a freeway. If you can't hold it that long you have problems that need dealing with before entering the hyperloop.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 35 minute trip with no bathroom?

        That's assuming it always works and the system NEVER has any technical problems. Obviously, there will be breakdowns for time to time. Trains stop unexpectedly. It's normal.

        It really depends on how the Hyperloop design accommodates failures. If any one of those cars has a malfunction, all other cars behind get stuck until the broken one is towed. It's like a traffic jam on a one-lane road. There must be a plan to do something about this, but it probably wouldn't be economically viable to have "turnouts" and a towing service every kilometer of the route.

        If you got stuck in a monster traffic jam and had to relieve yourself, the side of the road isn't very far away.

        The same simply isn't true when you're sealed in a low-pressure tube that stretches from L.A. to S.F.

        1. Marketing Hack Silver badge

          Re: 35 minute trip with no bathroom?

          If you are boarding a plane you can get up and use the restroom if you get an upset stomach. Likewise if you are driving between San Jose and San Francisco or Los Angeles and Anaheim and the "urge" hits you--lots of exits, lots of fast food restaurants and gas stations. Trapped in a tube for 40 minutes? Before too long you will be on a train where someone has to go.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: 35 minute trip with no bathroom?

            Just call it the "Hyperpoop-loop" ;-)

          2. Duffy Moon
            Go

            Re: 35 minute trip with no bathroom?

            Perhaps without the fast food 'restaurants' there won't be so many 'upset stomachs'.

            Perhaps along with a sick bag and 'in-flight' magazines (if they still have those - I haven't flown since 2000), there should be a free nappy.

    5. hplasm Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: 35 minute trip with no bathroom?

      I can go 35 minutes without having a bath.

    6. Lars Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: 35 minute trip with no bathroom?

      35 minutes is not enough for a bath. never had one on a train though.

    7. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      Re: 35 minute trip with no bathroom?

      Most suburban transit systems (e.g. the London Underground) have journey times at least as long, and none have toilets.

      Why would you want to take a bath while you're travelling, anyway?

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: 35 minute trip with no bathroom?

        I think the problem might be 35mins with no opportunity to buy fast food

  10. Captain DaFt

    Yeaaarrrggghh!

    It's getting to me... Everytime I hear 'Hyper Loop Highway' this is what goes through my head:

    https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=SzZ24kAjCxU

  11. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Trollface

    Will TSA tubesters ride with you?

    Imagine the company tries to break even - then the movies "Speed: The Tube", "Snakes on a Tube" and "Tube 9/11" (possibly also "Sharktubo") come out.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Will TSA tubesters ride with you?

      There is a certain inherent difficulty in hijacking a vehicle that can only travel inside a metal tube.

      I have a gun - now build an extension and fly this to Cuba.

      1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        Re: Will TSA tubesters ride with you?

        No, but threatening to blow it up would get attention fast. (Wasn't there a Thunderbirds episode with something similar? If not, why not?)

  12. Don Jefe

    Speed

    It isn't the speed of the cars that'll slow this thing down. It'll be the same assholes that can't get on or off a plane without a big fuss and consideration for their 'special exceptions'. California is the North American breeding ground for special cases and pansies and by the time they feel they're being 'treated fairly' the whole project will be dead and buried.

  13. Jim84

    Fatal flaw, hyperloop is DOA

    This thing is a city to city system with no stops along the way in the San Joaquin Valley, meaning that they will see no economic benefit, meaning that this Hyperloop is Dead On Arrival. Musk is a perhaps a bit disingenuous when he states that Hyperloop will be a "statewide mass transit system".

    One of the reasons that the proposed high speed train is so slow and costly is all the stops and stations in the valley. An ideal futuristic system would allow fast LA to San Diego transport, but would allow people to get on and off along the way, perferably with the 'train' not having to stop at each station. Something like that proposed docking trains by Priestmangoode:

    http://www.priestmangoode.com/transport/

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fatal flaw, hyperloop is DOA

      Yes, just look at the opposition to the existing HSR plans in California. It'll be the same problem for Hyperloop, except worse.

      The train must pass through dozens of different municipalities, and the calculus is the same for each one: "Will it stop here and benefit our economy? No? Okay, then this unsightly construction will have a negative effect on local property values and we are opposed."

      Either the state forces the train through by appropriating land under "eminent domain" laws — which are wildly unpopular for obvious reasons — or they have to pay off the cities and run the train underground, which blows the construction costs sky high.

    2. Don Jefe

      Re: Fatal flaw, hyperloop is DOA

      But there will certainly be $6B of economic benefit between just LA and San Francisco in a reasonably short time. I know people who make that flight every day. It'll take nearly 200 years to see $64B in economic benefit from a commuter train that will be empty for most of its route. The road to economic viability for the rail line is paved with bullshit.

    3. julianh72

      Re: Fatal flaw, hyperloop is DOA

      Ejector seats?

      1. Jediben
        Devil

        Re: Fatal flaw, hyperloop is DOA

        Never mind that bollocks, the first time an earthquake hits, the tube breaks up and a few hundred Americans are ejected at 400km/h into the desert.

        On second thoughts...

        A plan with no drawbacks. Carry on!

  14. Antidisestablishmentarianist

    G's

    What are the G forces people will be exposed to on 'take off'? And will the little speed ups result in the pulsing sensation so effortlessly achieved by Singaporean taxi drivers who are unable to maintain constant speed? Bluuueergh.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: G's

      Read the spec.

  15. dssf
    Joke

    Well, IF it works, then it will be

    LIKE, OMG, TOTALLY Toobyouluhr....

    1. Darryl

      Re: Well, IF it works, then it will be

      Only for the Valley Girls

  16. taemyks

    Holy hell. As soon as a company picks this up I'll apply for whatever job I can get. This is the coolest thing I've seen in my lifetime.

  17. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    IT Angle

    Pragmatic, sensible and workarounds exist for the problems

    Not hard vacuum, well below the milliTorr range. So relatively easy to create and maintain.

    Sidesteps eminent domain because he plans to site next to Interstate 5.

    1 track is more equal to a freeway lane than a conventional rail track, with its associated security fences etc.

    Putting it on stilts mitigates the earthquake issue in CA and allows re boost if it slows down.

    Small town don't have to be cut out of the loop as you could install Y joints (admittedly at very shallow angles) to allow them to join the path.

    The joker in the pack is the software. We're looking at something like the Denver baggage handling system with the baggage carriers moving at M0.9. Anyone remember how well that worked out?

    TBH I think it's a very clever idea and sidesteps the need for a working "Subterrene" but that SW issue is a biggie.

    Musk has said he's not really interested in anything that either helps fund his trip to Mars or helps build the tech needed to get him there. I think this could help with the funding. The really attractive part of this is that it's incremental costs are low (relative to rail) once you've built the tube.

    For the duration of a short drive and the price of a bus ticket (I'm guessing) you get a long journey done in a very short period of time.

    BTW I've also learned that "Kantrowitz's limit" is why why drop a soda can into the end of an empty food tin it slides like an air piston. Interesting.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Pragmatic, sensible and workarounds exist for the problems

      >> Putting it on stilts mitigates the earthquake issue in CA ...

      Not really. Take a look at a map of faults in CA. There are small ones all over the place and they are moving quasi-independently. There will be sheering problems along the length of the Hyperloop. This is not a big deal with a normal roadway, but trying to build a 613 km long low-pressure vessel on top of that seems kind of tricky.

      Also, another issue: on the S.F. approach, the plan calls to run the Hyperloop following the path of the Bay Bridge. Now, as we sit here, the eastern span of the Bay Bridge is being replaced. The old span has been declared seismically unsound and could suffer another structural failure as it did in the 1989 earthquake. However, the old span actually has a higher load-bearing capacity, as it once carried two train tracks on the lower deck, these for the old Key System train.

      The new span is to be more resilient in an earthquake, but at the expense of a lower load capacity. It cannot support train lines.

      So, the Hyperloop, if it does go into S.F. will have to go under the Bay. This has been done before (BART) but it adds to the cost and complexity of the project.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Pragmatic, sensible and workarounds exist for the problems

        "ot really. Take a look at a map of faults in CA. There are small ones all over the place and they are moving quasi-independently. There will be sheering problems along the length of the Hyperloop. This is not a big deal with a normal roadway, but trying to build a 613 km long low-pressure vessel on top of that seems kind of tricky."

        Darn I think you've hit it's Achilles heel. Perhaps page 5 might give some guidance.

        "A ground based high speed rail system is susceptible to Earthquakes and needs

        frequent expansionjoints to deal with thermal expansion/contraction and

        subtle, large scale land movement.

        By building a system on pylons, where the tube is not rigidly fixed at any point,

        you can dramatically mitigate Earthquake risk and avoid the need for expansion

        joints. Tucked away inside each pylon, you could place two adjustable lateral

        (XY) dampers and one vertical (Z) damper"

        As long as those dampers have the range to accommodate those motions (and this thing is ever built) that should not be a major problem.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Pragmatic, sensible and workarounds exist for the problems

          Yeah, I read that. The problem is that there is really quite a bit of movement along these faults.

          There are many fault systems in California, the San Andreas being only the most famous. Surveys of the S.A. have shown that that system moves around 2 inches per year. The movement is uneven, with some zones moving more, and others less.

          It's not necessarily the immediate risk during an earthquake, but rather what might happen to the Hyperloop over time. As you say, the dampers need to have the range to accommodate the motion, but what if the motion is two inches in a year? The concrete pylons will move with the earth, placing stress on the steel tube.

          It just sounds dodgy to me.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Pragmatic, sensible and workarounds exist for the problems

            It's not necessarily the immediate risk during an earthquake, but rather what might happen to the Hyperloop over time. As you say, the dampers need to have the range to accommodate the motion, but what if the motion is two inches in a year? The concrete pylons will move with the earth, placing stress on the steel tube.

            How about a floating mount, with enough room to slide for some distance before you had to intervene? IOW, instead of it being bolted to the pylon, it simply rests on something like a tray on top.

      2. Lunatik

        Re: Pragmatic, sensible and workarounds exist for the problems

        @AC 07:34

        Yeah, because there are no natural gas, oil or water pipelines in the same part of California, are there?

        As for the Bay Bridge, Hyperloop should present far lower loads on a bridge, certainly dynamically, than traditional rail so running it across wouldn't necessarily be an issue.

        Anyway, the PDF addresses many of these concerns and given the smart people behind it I think we can assume there's been some significant thought gone into it and it's not just a "gee, wouldn't this be cool?" thing for Musk.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pylons 100m apart?

    And the think is traveling through earthquake country?

    Methinks the designers have been smoking something they shouldn't. Look at elevated freeway sections and what happened to them in the SF earthquake back in the 1980's. Frankly even 50m is way too far apart for me.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Boffin

      Re: Pylons 100m apart?

      No pylons spaced 100 feet apart. Page 7, 2(b).

      American audience, so the metric unit is in brackets.

      Does 30m apart make you feel better?

  19. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    LA <--> SF in 30 mins for $20

    How does that compare with the alternatives?

    Well page 8 of the report says

    $105 for HS rail taking 2:38

    $158 by air 1:15

    $115 by car 5:30 (30mpg with fuel at $4/gal)

    Provided there is adequate parking and vehicle rental facilities at either end it sounds like a pretty good deal to me. Of course if some of those vehicles were battery powered and they got their charge from the surplus produced by the line....

    1. returnmyjedi

      Plus it's the brainchild of Mr Musk and none of his projects has ever had any technical issues (my lawyer told me to say that).

    2. Def Silver badge

      Re: LA <--> SF in 30 mins for $20

      But it wouldn't be $20, would it? For a significant improvement in journey time, you'll be charged a premium price accordingly.

      More likely it would be $200 per person.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Meh

        Re: LA <--> SF in 30 mins for $20

        If the passenger volume is a result of the pricing they've used then no they won't. Higher price --> lower volume --> fall in overall volume.

        If you've got the car you're already OK with the delay. If you fly It's borderline.

    3. James Micallef Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: LA <--> SF in 30 mins for $20

      Frankly if it does what it says on the tin they could charge considerably more - say $40-$50 for a peak rate and $20 to go at some ungodly hour, and they would still be FAR more competitive than anything else.

  20. Justin Stringfellow

    what could possible go wrong?

    A metal tube, with a partial vacuum, and capsules full of squashy humans travelling at 760mph, 30s apart through deserted countryside. It's not as if our gun-toting friends are known for say, taking pot shots at things....

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevenm_61/2271781767/

    Need to pull over -1g for the whole 30s to avoid a collision, if one stopped suddenly. That's a long time especially for a yank who's pushed a greasy burger, fries, and a litre of fizzy coke down his gullet just before hopping in.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: what could possible go wrong?

      What happens to the passengers in the event of accidental, massive depressurization?

      The Hyperloop proposal states:

      "In the case of a more significant depressurization, oxygen masks would be deployed as in airplanes."

      "Safety of the onboard air supply in Hyperloop would be very similar to aircraft"

      Is that going to be good enough?

      At 40,000 ft, atmospheric pressure is about 200 millibars. For Hyperloop, they are saying 1/6 the atmospheric pressure of Mars, which works out to around 1.25 millibars.

      Seems like they are off by a factor of 160, no?

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Meh

      Re: what could possible go wrong?

      "A metal tube, with a partial vacuum, and capsules full of squashy humans travelling at 760mph, 30s apart through deserted countryside. It's not as if our gun-toting friends are known for say, taking pot shots at things...."

      You are perhaps thinking of something with the thickness of air conditioning ducting?

      Think again.

      This stuff is 20-23mm thick. That's high pressure gas pipe thick. I suspect quite a lot of ammo will simply crumple if fired at it.

      In a pipe that's either 7'4" or 10'10" wide it'll take a pretty big hole to depressurize a 700 km long pipe.

      BTW If you want to work out the air volume rushing in keep in mind that the pressure difference would need to be about 1.4 atm to get choked, IE speed of sound airflow, so below 340m/s of air in rush speed.

      1. Justin Stringfellow

        Re: what could possible go wrong?

        > You are perhaps thinking of something with the thickness of air conditioning ducting?

        And you're perhaps thinking that US gun ownership stops at 9mm handguns :)

        e.g.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.950_JDJ

    3. James Micallef Silver badge

      Re: what could possible go wrong?

      @Justin Stringfellow: " through deserted countryside"

      No, they're planning to pass it above the freeway. I doubt there's anyone taking pot shots at the cars on the freeway just for kicks. Safety is of course a concern because it might be very vulnerable to deliberate attack, but I'm sure the paranoid yanks will have that angle covered as well (and of course like that they will outsource the cost of protecting the thing to the Department of Homeland Security)

      1. Darryl

        Re: I doubt there's anyone taking pot shots at the cars on the freeway just for kicks.

        No, it's California - usually it's people in the cars taking pot shots at other cars

  21. Frankee Llonnygog

    Capsules 30s apart ...

    ... and travelling at 760mph

    If one stops unexpectedly, the passengers will go ballistic

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Capsules 30s apart ...

      ...or maybe just go to mush.

      1. Justicesays
        Boffin

        Re: Capsules 30s apart ...

        Assuming near instant signaling, if the capsule had to full emergency break to avoid hitting something 30s ahead, it would have to decelerate at a little over 1g. So pretty abruptly, but not mush levels. Loose objects in the capsule would be more of a problem. Especially for those sitting at the front...

  22. Simon Ward

    So basically ...

    ... he's (re)invented the transport system from Logan's Run ....

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Facepalm

      Re: So basically ...

      "... he's (re)invented the transport system from Logan's Run ...."

      No.

      He's engineered a transport system pictured in Logan's Run.

      Which means doing like, actual mathematics.

      Films are like product demonstrations. Anything can look good in a movie.

      This looks good IRL.

  23. Phil Atkin

    Try as they might, they will not keep those tunnels free of low-pressure hardened rats

    So what happens when one of these 'fearless of a gentle vacuum' rodents enters the compressor at 760 mph? Probably a big old train wreck.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Try as they might, they will not keep those tunnels free of low-pressure hardened rats

      Those steel tubes are pretty thick. And while rats have been known to chew through some pretty tough things, there are limits. Unless you can site an instance where a chewing rat caused something an oil pipe leak (similar-strength pipe)?

  24. g e

    We need Elon in the UK

    To have him replace the farcical HS2 train project.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And how much are we paying for HS2?

    Seems a waste to spend all those billions on yesterday's tech.....

    1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

      Re: And how much are we paying for HS2?

      Ah, the midlands has woken up. Good morning!

    2. stucs201

      Re: And how much are we paying for HS2?

      Inevitable petition:

      http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/53736

  26. jubtastic1

    Branching

    Easy to do in 2D with rails, a little bit harder in 3D, near vacuum and near supersonic speeds, whilst keeping it under 1G, on stilts and ensuring that in no circumstances can a pod hit the crotch of the Y.

    Engineering safe branching systems and airlocked sidings for disabled / depressurised pods are the hardest part of this whole scheme yet they barely get a mention in the PDF.

    1. James Hughes 1

      Re: Branching

      I can see how branching could work. Have a larger pipe enclosing the one input pipe and two output pipes. Output pipes next to each other, whole section of pipe flexes from one output to the other. If whole enclosing pipe/building is evacuated (to same pressure as transport pipes), you don't need to worry about airlocks on the end of the unused pipes.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Branching

        I've seen some sci-fi stories take that approach with tube trains, and you're right about enclosing the junction in the same partial vacuum to eliminate airlocks. But that still doesn't address the potential for striking the "crotch" (more properly, the gore point) of the junction. You're still talking mechanics so the junction could get stuck in the middle (like a rail point only set halfway). Or bad timing could result in the car entering the junction in mid-transition. Either way, the results would not be pretty and there's little you could do to mitigate such a risk, especially since the speeds involved shrink the margin of error.

  27. jnewco81

    Obligatory Simpsons Reference

    I call the big one "Bitey"

  28. Mips
    Childcatcher

    7.4m passengers

    Breakeven is 7.4m passengers a year. Lets see now at 24 people per pod that's 30800 trips per year or 35 per minute and they are going every 30 seconds so you actually need 13 tubes. Did someone drop an order of magnitude somewhere?

    I hope he is better with SpaceX; it could be whats wrong with Tesla. And it probably accounts for my PayPal bill.

    1. rh587 Silver badge

      Re: 7.4m passengers

      You've possibly missed a step...

      7,400,000 / 365 = 20,274 passengers/day

      20,274 / 24 = 844 passengers/hour

      844 / 60 = 14 passengers/minute

      Two 24-capacity pods per minute, in EACH DIRECTION gives a total departure capacity of 96 pax/minute.

      Of course passenger demand at 1am or Christmas Day won't be the same as 7am on a work day. But then their theoretical throughput is 6.9 times what has been suggested as target uptake. So they can get their 7.4m with just 17% uptime.

      96 passengers per minute gives a theoretical maximum of 96 x 60 x 24 x 365 = 50,457,600 passengers/yr.

      They'll never hit 50m with one tube in each direction as they'll need downtime for maintenance, and they simply won't be running at max capacity during off-peak hours (although overnight freight could boost revenue), but 7.4m looks an eminently achievable figure with room to grow if the system were built and achieved the target of one departure every 30 seconds.

    2. LHGFLICOD

      Re: 7.4m passengers

      Did someone drop an order of magnitude somewhere?

      Yes I think you did (although my maths is often dodgy) 7.4 million divided by 24 is 308,300 trips per year, divide by 365 is 845 trips per day, divide by 24 is 35 per hour. If 7.4 million is one way that is an average of 17.5 per hour in each direction.

      However demand is not going to be even so during peak load its could be a long wait for a capsule (Mr Erlang had some maths for this but its been a while and I don';t know what the assumptions are in the 7.4 million guesstimate), also there is an assumption that the whole boarding,security and luggage loading process can be streamlined, if so could Mr Musk please sort out Heathrow and Gatwick airports baggage systems.

  29. cs94njw

    Earthquakes

    Love the idea, probably will never happen, but it sounds so cool.

    One question? You want to send thousands of people back and forth inside a piece of rock that is destined to fall into the ocean at some point in the future, thereby creating Arizona Bay?

    Even a small shift of underlying rock is going to be messy surely?

    1. Don Jefe
      Happy

      Re: Earthquakes

      It'll never actually fall off. The USGS maps, for the far, far future, based on fault location and known areas of high sheer say there'll be a gulf formed next to the coast. It'll start about San Diego and run North East for about 600 miles. It'll be like a new Florida except full of fake tits and dental implants instead of colostomy bags and dentures.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Earthquakes

        ... and more Mexicans and less Cubans

  30. Richard Brown

    The construction costs per mile for the Hyperloop are $12,000,000. This is slightly higer than the published figures for freeway construction in the US, but less than the costs associated with light railway construction in urban environments.

    The ticket price suggested is 5 cents/mile, this compares with 13 cents/mile for a low cost airline ticket.

    Journey time by Hyperloop is 30 minutes, by air 80 minutes.

    So construction costs are probably a reasoable approximation subject to confirmation in engineering design. There is obviously some leeway in ticket price as it could double and still remain competative with airlines. Jouney time is very competative and is likely to be city centre to centre giving another two hour advantage.

    When the Channel Tunnel was built the tunnel itself was constructed on time and on budget. The additional cost and delays occurred during fixed equipment installation. I would expect the same thing to happen on the Hyperloop project. Hanging what is essentially a long pipeline off pylons or on stilts has been done before, it's the trains and the partial vacuum that is novel and where costs will be less predictable.

  31. d3rrial

    And on Mars, most of those problems wouldn't exist, as Mars doesn't have plate tectonics and thus no earthquakes. Also because Mars has a low pressure atmosphere already, maintaining a low pressure inside the tubes isn't as hard as it is on Earth. Sure, the Terrain of Mars is pretty rough, but that shouldn't be the problem. I can see tho that getting work-force and material up there could be quite difficult, but isn't that what SpaceX is for?

    1. Shrimpling

      Materials for building something like this shouldn't be a problem... Isn't Mars red because of the Iron oxide?

      That said its not all positives building this on Mars... The sunlight is weaker by the time it reaches Mars, would they get enough sunlight to power it on the solar panels still?

      Also, correct me if I am wrong, I don't think there are 2 large metropolitan areas that would like to be linked together in a quicker way on Mars yet. One of the 6 wheeled, nuclear engined vehicles will be enough for the foreseeable future.

  32. CSeipp

    Hard to imagine constructing the 15 mile tunnel section alone for less than $6 billion.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      The tunnel section is only a few meters in diameter and doesn't need any infrastructure - no roadways, cabling, air supply, emergency exist, maintenance tunnels etc.

      We dig a lot more tunnels than this every year through much harder rock just to get at some soft shiny metal

    2. Richard Brown

      Channel tunnel was three tunnels, each of 50 km length. So that is 150 km in total plus two terminals and rolling stock for $15bn. So you might just get that 15 miles for less than you think.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        But wasn't that also some 20 years ago when the dollar wasn't as inflated? If that $15B price you give in dollars THEN or dollars NOW? Because by my estimate if it's THEN, the cost in dollars NOW would be closer to $24B.

  33. R.P.Charlie

    20 Year bonds look highly risky

    given the rate at which California seems to be sliding into financial oblivion.

    Maybe they will be filming Detroit II by then.

  34. Inachu

    This might fail

    This is what fears me the most!

    Air quality.

    Lets say all the Jane and John Does have atheletes foot and or farts a lot!

    We need a fan system that makes sure the aire is vented downwards to the floor and fresh air from the top.

    Well this is all good and nice but now the tube itself will be clogged up with foul old air.

    What device will keep the air fresh and clean. Using air fresh spray cans will just make the air more toxic.

    So this is the main reason why I think this transit system will fail in the long run.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: This might fail

      Each car will house an air compressor. It's multi-purpose: draw away incoming air to reduce forward air friction, produce an air cushion to prevent contact with the tube wall, and propel out the back for additional thrust. I imagine some of the pneumatics could be used to cycle the air in and out of the car.

      As for cleaning the air within the tubes, since the system must maintain a partial vacuum in any event, there will probably be pressure stations along the line that would maintain the partial vacuum. Part of its function could be to keep refreshing the air like they do in road and rail tunnels today.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Viable option instead of HS2

    Maybe if the Americans don't patent it network rail could look at it instead of HS2. The British after all like tubes...

  36. Mike Moyle Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    One thumbs-up to Iain Thomson

    For using the proper term "damper", rather than the lamentably common "dampener".

    (If there were [only] one thing that I could never forgive "Star Trek: The Next Generation" for, it would be the promulgation of that horror. A "damping field" would be a field that inhibits a reaction; a "dampening field" would be the north forty under a heavy dew.)

    (Sorry... Pet peeve. </curmudgeon>)

  37. Chris Miller

    Single point of failure

    I've read the PDF, but can't find any reference to this problem: the compressor is a single point of failure. The compressor is needed to:

    1. enable the (barely) subsonic speeds by preventing a pressure wave building in front of the 'pod';

    2. provide suspension through the air pads; and

    3. provide air for the passengers.

    There's a battery powerful enough to last the entire journey, so electrical power supply failure isn't a problem, but what if there were a mechanical failure? It seems to me the pod would rapidly decelerate to a halt (pressure build up in front and friction below) - I don't know if this would be rapid enough to cause injury, but it sounds unpleasant. Also the oxygen masks would be needed as there's no longer an air supply.

    In addition, all the following pods would need to stop, but there doesn't seem to be a rapid braking system - just coasting to a halt.

    Have I missed something? (I hope so, I like the concept.)

    1. Chris Miller

      Re: Single point of failure

      PS Spotted that there's a reference to an 'emergency mechanical braking system' (4.5.3), though it isn't explained. It seems to suggest that pods could trundle to their destination on wheels, but that could take several hours, couldn't it?

      1. James Hughes 1

        Re: Single point of failure

        Well, compressor tech is fairly well understood and pretty reliable (jet engines on airliners come to mind). So I think mechanical failure will be unlikely. More likely would be electrical failure - but hey, that's why they have prototypes. And testing.

        1. Chris Miller

          Re: Single point of failure

          Jet engines fail regularly (but rarely catastrophically) - that's why there are no single-engine airliners, even though they have very strict maintenance regimes . If the compressor reliability was comparable with an airliner jet engine, I'd expect a failure about once a month (given a fleet of around 30 operating 'pods').

    2. veeguy
      WTF?

      Re: Single point of failure

      You needn't worry about this failure mode. When the following capsule impacts the disabled capsule at 740 MPH, it *will* move. As to brakes, has anyone calculated the G load on the canned humans imposed by going from 740 MPH to zero MPH in under 30 seconds? I'd hate to be the peon employee who hoses out the capsules involved in "mishaps".

  38. TS

    Recharge stations

    He should also build recharge stations every 50 miles or so. Nice big banks of batteries to store energy for the hyperloop... but also allow people to recharge their electric vehicles on the road.

    Can't get zoning from some town? Offer to build an electric vehicle recharge station there. Depending on how much the hyperloop requires, it could be free charging. Or maybe very cheap charging vs. plugging into the grid.

    Could help get more electric vehicles on the road.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Recharge stations

      Would be a useful way to employ excess power if they achieve double breakeven, but I still question those calculations: particularly for nighttime and inclement-weather operations. And yes, there are times when weather fronts can stretch from border to border. Plus there is the possibility of the precipitation being damaging hail or (although scant in this particular route) light-blocking snow. Can the system be built rugged enough to withstand severe weather like a lightning strike, the occasional Pacific hurricane, or a tornado?

      IOW, I have an issue with the estimates. I'd be more confident if they can vouch for their estimates being CONSERVATIVE...but this is marketing right now, not engineering. In marketing, conservative doesn't tend to sell.

  39. davenewman

    Try a Scheeb now

    to get a feeling for what it is like to travel in a tube. See http://shweeb.com/

  40. DanceMan
    Coat

    But.....

    Why would you want to leave San Francisco and go to LA?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: But.....

      to find some hetrosexuals?

      1. veeguy
        Holmes

        Re: But.....

        Hey! There *are* some straight people in San Francisco. At least I think there are.

  41. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Not going to happen

    These sorts of concepts come around all of the time. Some sort of passenger rail system in the US would be quite nice. There are only a few lines that go to limited places with the unfortunate planning of not connecting up with other forms of transportation. Even though the Acella (sp?) service on the east coast is used to capacity and trains in California are often at or near capacity, the politicians seem to think that the public don't want train service. Well, with price tags estimated (or grossly underestimated) at tens of billions of dollars, they aren't going to get built. Somebody needs to stop thinking up space-age designs and have a serious rethink about getting existing technology optimized to make it pay for itself in a reasonable interval of time.

    LA to SF

    Train: 9.5 hours (some segments by bus (yuck))

    Plane: 75min (plus time to get to gate, time for TSA feel-up, plus delays, wait for lost luggage at dest.)

    it's closer to 3.5-4 hours in real terms on a good day.

    Car: 5.5 hours (leave either end when you want, no government sexual abuse and you have a car when you get there with no extra cost.

    I would be very happy to have better standard train service in the US that went to more places. LA to Las Vegas is a no brainer that has been talked about for decades. They keep talking high speed when standard service could do quite well. Traffic is a bitch on the weekends and I have beaten people that took to the air in a car. No sense in wasting the days on the hired car by leaving it in an airport car park. The petrol was about the same price as the plane ticket and being able to get around was nice.

  42. veeguy

    OK, so the capsules are "fired" to their destination at 760 MPH? How do they return? Wouldn't a complete system require *2* tubes, one in each direction? Otherwise if the routing system "screws up" you would have 2) 28 person capsules meeting at a combines speed of 1540 MPH, sort of like a human linear accelerator (or human Quisanart) is Soylent Green a byproduct of this device? Perhaps put in taps every mile to extract the juicy goodness?

    What happens the first time a meth crazed truck driver crashes his 7000 gallon gasoline tanker into one of the supporting pylons? The whole system is taken out for days, weeks or months?

    This entire plan while very imaginative, reeks of a high school study hall sketch, not very well thought out beyond "Gee, wouldn't it be cool..." Estimating a six billion dollar cost is wildly low balling the actual costs, by perhaps a factor of 10X to 20X -or more.

    The 30 minute transit time is also wildly under estimating the actual time people will be "canned". Between loading, strapping in, transferring to the tube and then transferring out at the destination, unstrapping, unloading, etc you will have people unable to use the restroom for well over an hour. Accidents will happen, probably often. People will have medical emergencies. Any such system will require sidings for such happenstances. This will boost the costs.

    You will face opposition from businesses along the route who will lose business from current travelers. It will be the 21st century equivalent of the railroad bypassing your town. Why should cities along the route support this system? They stand to gain *nothing* in return. The only people gaining anything are the residents of the terminus cities that need to commute the *exact* route the system connects. Good luck with that. Perhaps tomorrow's study hall sketch should "invent" a flying car of teleporter system, or something a bit more practical?

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      It wouldn't be two separate tubes but one LOOPED tube. Thus why it's called a HyperLOOP. It may look like two tubes to you, but a Mobius strip looks like it has two sides yet it doesn't.

      Protecting the pylons? Known science. After that bridge collapse in Tampa (which involved impact by a SHIP), people are well aware of the need of buffer zones and better impact-deflecting column designs (think a circular column with a parabolic base—anything running into it should be deflected away). If they can keep SHIPS from colliding with support columns, a truck shouldn't be that challenging.

      As for businesses along the way, they may not get a say. The loop's being built on already-allocated right of way: along the I-5 corridor for the most part, switching to I-80 for the Bay Bridge run. All that land's ALREADY owned by the state, so two words: they lose.

      As for flying cars, reliability keeps them from being practical (Breakdown in midair? *shudder*). Teleportation? I think the Uncertainty Principle gets in the way. And status quo is unacceptable (observe the typical LA rush hour). So you're basically in gold rush territory: boom or bust, with nothing in between left for you.

  43. Palf
    Thumb Up

    I read the report and think that it has a good chance of success. It certainly puts the state-approved scheme to absolute shame, being cheaper to build (10x), faster (5x), cheaper ticket price (5x), safer, more energy-efficient, less environmentally demanding, quicker to build and quicker to board. I hope there are sufficient red faces in Sacramento this week (assuming that politicians are capable of experiencing shame) to kick them into action on scrapping that boondoggle they recently approved, which would end up costing not $68B, but more likely over $100B.

    The aerodynamic control and the thermal issues may be problematic, but I see no technical showstoppers here. So let's get this show on the road!

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