back to article First successful Hyperloop test module hits 100mph in four seconds

Spectators in the Nevada desert have witnessed the first public test of a Hyperloop test vehicle as it accelerated from zero to over 100 miles per hour in a few seconds before running out of track. The vehicle, built by Hyperloop One (formerly Hyperloop Technologies), is intended to show off that the technology publicized by …

  1. corestore

    $6bn and that needs government money to fund it?

    The biggest technology project of the 1960s was Project Apollo.

    The second biggest technology project of the 1960s was the IBM System/360. IBM totally bet the company on it... bringing it to market cost IBM $5bn - and that IS in 1964 dollars! $35bn in today's money...

    1. TheOtherHobbes

      Apparently HS2 needs at least £20bn to run a fairly conventional choo choo train all the way from London to Birmingham - which is about a quarter of the distance of LA to SF.

      It could cost as much as £80bn to build both phases of the HS2 network.

      Hyperloop may appear bonkers but Musk has a history of Getting Shit Done, and I'd be inclined to throw some R&D money in his direction, just in case.

      1. bazza Silver badge

        Snake Oil

        "Hyperloop may appear bonkers but Musk has a history of Getting Shit Done, and I'd be inclined to throw some R&D money in his direction, just in case."

        Musk does not yet have a reputation for getting stuff done. He has a reputation for starting off a lot of stuff that might yet be really good, but it's still too early to tell if it's a commercial success. Both Tesla and SpaceX are losing a ton of cash at the moment (it's early days), and it's by no means clear yet that they can successfully turn a profit. Musk's Gigafactory for instance is extremely vulnerable to be rendered obsolete should someone else invent a battery more practicable than today's lithium-ions.

        Hyperloop Passenger Throughput

        Hyperloop is completely unrealistic. To be commercially successful public transportation needs high throughput. It doesn't matter how fast it is, if it can carry only a few hundred people an hour it's not going to pay for itself.

        Last I heard Hyperloop would carry maybe 20 people per pod. With pods travelling individually (they can't have a set of them joined together like a train), you'd be leaving a gap of at least, say, 2 minutes between pods for safety, so that's 600 people an hour.

        That's truly pitiful. A Shinkansen can carry about 1500 people, and there's one every 5 minutes between Tokyo and Osaka. That's 18,000 people an hour, 30 times more people. And they can run them more regularly than that if they have to.

        Is Even that Rate Achievable?

        To be honest I doubt that they could ever get Hyperloop working that regularly either. To launch it you have to get people into a pod (1 minute), strap them in (5 minutes), put the pod in an airlock (30 seconds?), pump down the airlock (5 minutes?). So that's a launch time per pod of about 12 minutes, meaning you'd need at least 6 launch stations to keep sending them once every 2 minutes. And then with the usual "hang on a mo I've got to kiss the girlfriend goodbye" type delays that schedule could be easily screwed.

        If they had a bigger pod they'd simply increase the loading time (more people, more air, more room for screw ups).

        And to make that schedule work at all you'd need airline style check in to make sure people are in the right place at the right time, or passengers would have to be queued up to ensure there's a ready supply of passengers to fill pods. Both are bad news for the passenger experience. What's the point of queuing for an hour in the hope of getting a pod, or checking in 1 hour beforehand for a 30 minute journey?

        Trains don't have this problem. A train pulls into the station, the doors are open for 1 minute, and you're away. 1500 people have got on and are on their way. It doesn't matter that people haven't sat down yet or put their luggage away because trains don't accelerate at Hyperloop's unnecessarily high rate. If demand increases you simply run longer trains.

        Emergency Braking

        And getting back to that 2 minute gap; to be able to go from near Mach 1 to stationary in 2 minutes requires a deceleration of at least 0.25G, though probably more given the signalling block sizes, etc.

        That's actually quite a lot; along the entire length of the tube a pod would have to be able to generate this much braking force for it to be deemed 'safe' to run a pod once every 2 minutes. Given that a pod has no wheels, or anything else like it, the only tractive force available is electromagnetic.

        But the whole point of Hyperloop is that the pods in the cruise phase have very little drive (which makes it cheap), so it would also have very little braking power.

        So where does that 0.25G braking come from? Does the tube also have to act as a braking surface for friction pads? Does that wear out? Can it be used again afterwards?

        There's so many technical barriers to safe and regular operation I can't see it happening. Increasing the inter-pod time makes the throughput even worse. Installing the necessary braking system makes the tube much, much more expensive.

        Just Build the Train

        In comparison to Hyperloop, high speed rail between LA and SF works commercially. It's approx 350 miles, which is 1 hour 45 minutes in a standard bullet train without stops. In that time you'd also have WiFi, 4G, a snacks trolley, etc. so the "extra" travel time isn't a complete waste. It's a good proposition for passengers.

        Putting any government money into the snake-oilesque hyperloop would be a waste and a travesty. The companies involved are putting forward the "hey isn't it cool" without doing the simple analyses that say whether it's commercially realistic.

        I notice that Musk himself isn't actually devoting much of his own money to the project, in effect licensing out the concept to others to do all the hard work. If that isn't a worrying sign about its lack of commercial viability I don't know what is.

        1. bazza Silver badge

          Re: Snake Oil

          Another aspect is stations.

          If you have a public transportation system that purports to bring economic benefit to towns and cities that it connects, it inevitably brings economic disadvantage to the places it bypasses.

          Governments don't like that. It causes them a lot of subsidiary problems.

          Trains and motorways and airlines are good because they can easily be made to bring benefit to all. You build a station, or an exit or an airport, none of which costs much and don't negatively impact the ability to operate an express train, drive straight past or run a direct flight. Build a high speed train line between LA and SF, and everywhere in between where there's a station also benefits.

          In fact train companies often make more money by buying up unused land next to a small town, building a train line and station to it, and then sell the land off for housing. The train company wins - they make a profit. The town wins - people now want to come and live there. The people moving there win - they've got somewhere to live at an affordable price that's within easy commuting of their place of work in the smokey city.

          [This can go a bit too far. In Japan, Nagoya and, to some extent, Kyoto and Osaka are becoming dormitory towns for Tokyo. Business is moving towards Tokyo, people are moving out. They're currently building a bonkers maglev between Tokyo and Nagoya, and eventually Osaka (Kyoto aren't happy at being missed out), which will exacerbate the change. Bonkers, because it's 70% tunnels and it will bankrupt the train companies leaving the tax payer to bail out the scheme.]

          In comparison Hyperloop only works at all if it bypasses everywhere in between LA and SF (it's not exactly station friendly). At best it's only ever going be the plaything cool ride for fools easily parted from lots of cash who happen to live in SF or LA. It's never going to be a mass transportation system. So why would the government be motivated to put a single penny into it?

          1. Suricou Raven Silver badge

            Re: Snake Oil

            "This can go a bit too far. In Japan, Nagoya and, to some extent, Kyoto and Osaka are becoming dormitory towns for Tokyo."

            Half of the southeast UK is becoming a dormitory for London - the city provides a huge number of jobs, but very few people can actually afford to live there.

            1. bazza Silver badge

              Re: Snake Oil

              @Suricou Raven,

              "Half of the southeast UK is becoming a dormitory for London - the city provides a huge number of jobs, but very few people can actually afford to live there."

              Yep, it's crazy. That'll happen anyway to some extent whether or not train lines get built. No population / government / state / civilisation anywhere in history has ever solved this problem. I fear that's just how we (i.e. this species) are built.

              1. The Indomitable Gall

                Re: Snake Oil

                @bazza

                "That'll happen [increasing movement of work to capital city] anyway to some extent whether or not train lines get built. No population / government / state / civilisation anywhere in history has ever solved this problem."

                West Germany did a pretty good job of keeping economic activity geographically diverse. The rail network in the former West is a true network, unlike in former East Germany, where it takes on the hub-and-spoke form around Berlin, the same form that France has with Paris at the centre, and Spain has with Madrid at the centre (and a secondary hub at Barcelona).

                Germany rode out the big recession pretty damned well compared to the rest of the continent, so I don't know why we're all still modelling the French approach rather than the German one.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Snake Oil @ The Indomitable Gall

                  Germany rode out the big recession pretty damned well compared to the rest of the continent, so I don't know why we're all still modelling the French approach rather than the German one.

                  Germany rode out the great recession so well because (as a result of the Euro project's flaws), they joined the Euro with an undervalued entry currency. That kept their manufacturing exports relatively cheap and highly competitive. The corollary of the deutschmark being undervalued was that in Southern Europe (and to an extent France) they joined with over valued currencies (largely for vanity reasons), and that made their exports uncompetitive, and is a major contributor to their moribund economies and appalling youth unemployment rates. And the catastrophe in Southern Europe helped avoid the Euro skyrocketing on FX markets, and that locked in the German export advantage when dealing with non Euro markets.

                  This had precisely diddly squat to do with the layout of their rail networks, and everything to do with the fact that nobody in their right mind would pay the (UK) £25k starting list price for a weird and frangible Citroen C5 when that's the same starting list price for a BMW 3 series.

              2. NomNomNom

                Re: Snake Oil

                "No population / government / state / civilisation anywhere in history has ever solved this problem. I fear that's just how we (i.e. this species) are built."

                No population / government /state /civilization anywhere in history has ever put me in power.

                1. Mass building program of free residential areas. Just churn them out. That money we spend on trident or on HS2? Spend it on building underground accommodation units throughout cities and towns. They are small, but people can apply to live there and the rent is dirt cheap, like £20 a month.

                This will collapse the rental housing market and cause house prices in general to plummet all over the country. A whole bunch of people will no longer be wasting large amounts of their paychecks on rent or long commutes, because they can very easily move into accommodation in the city they work in. People could even rent units in different cities, or choose to live in different place at the weekend.

                Traffic all over the country will plummet, because there is less need to travel.

                2. Abolishment of the 9-5 working day. Make it law that employees can choose the times they work, where applicable, including being able to choose to work 4 day 10 hour day weeks. I don't care what the repercussions are really, employers will adapt. A lot of the current system is about employers not trusting their staff which is really the employer's failure. Having a fixed working day is like fixing prices in an economy, it's stupid. If employees are left to decide on their hours they will naturally move to avoid things like rush hour, such that rush hour will greatly diminish. It will also combat the current stupidity of shops opening in the week while people are at work and cannot use them.

                The amount of money and time wasted through the rent based housing system, mortgage slavery, and commuting is ridiculous. If people have more money to spend - and more time to spend it - on other areas of life those other areas will boom. All the bars and pubs and shops will likely be boosted and improve. Rather than in our current economy all the money flows through landlords, banks and train companies.

            2. BurnT'offering

              Re: southeast UK is becoming a dormitory for London

              True - they work all day in London, and then sleep standing up in mobile dormitories that move slowly back and forth along rails radiating out from London. It's a very effective solution to the housing crisis

          2. LDS Silver badge

            Re: Snake Oil

            No, you can't really mix high-speed trains and "slow" ones on the same line. You won't have many intermediate stations along an high speed line, because they may also require the train to slow down while passing by for safety reasons. Nor you can have an high-speed train make many stops.

            There's a benefit because on the old lines there are less express trains and they can be better used for local traffic - but high-speed trains are designed to connect major cities only along dedicated lines.

            While an highway exit may be not expensive, airports, even smaller ones, are. Especially if they have to accept airlines planes and thereby require a full air traffic control and instrumental landing infrastructure, plus all the maintenance, safety and security requirements. And the less you use an airport, the more expensive it becomes.

            1. corestore

              Re: Snake Oil

              "You won't have many intermediate stations along an high speed line, because they may also require the train to slow down while passing by for safety reasons"

              Not so - in Japan they often have this on Shinkansen lines. Four lines through the station; two next to the platforms for stopping trains - and two in the middle for non-stop services that blast through at full line speed. Quite a sight!

          3. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: Snake Oil

            In comparison Hyperloop only works at all if it bypasses everywhere in between LA and SF (it's not exactly station friendly). ... It's never going to be a mass transportation system. So why would the government be motivated to put a single penny into it?

            Well... given high-speed transport in general needs longer distances between stations to show any worthwhile benefit, there is one use case that Hyperloop could fit, namely, connections where there is little need or possibility of intermediate stations and benefits in having a short transit time, for example a line between Scotland and Norway under the North Sea. But then flying is probably still going to be quicker and cheaper end-to-end...

            1. ZanzibarRastapopulous

              Re: Snake Oil

              @Roland6

              > "...for example a line between Scotland and Norway..."

              That's a bit harsh on Norway. Couldn't we just use a cannon and fire them westward into the Atlantic?

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Snake Oil

                "...for example a line between Scotland and Norway..."

                That's a bit harsh on Norway. Couldn't we just use a cannon and fire them westward into the Atlantic?

                Fantastic idea. Aim for Rockall with the beggars. It'd be like throwing tomatoes at a wall.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Snake Oil

              > connections where there is little need or possibility of intermediate stations and benefits in having a short transit time

              90 minutes from New York to Paris...

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Happy

              Re: Snake Oil

              The Trans-Atlantic Tunnel, Hurrarh!

          4. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Snake Oil

            " They're currently building a bonkers maglev between Tokyo and Nagoya, and eventually Osaka (Kyoto aren't happy at being missed out),"

            I strongly suspect the reason for this connection is due to the fact the route connects quite a few of the major airports in Honshu: Haneda, Narita, Nagoya Centrair, and eventually Kansai. Such a route would also likely put Kobe within reach. Kyoto can complain, but they don't have nearly as much pull.

          5. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Snake Oil

            "In fact train companies often make more money by buying up unused land next to a small town, building a train line and station to it, and then sell the land off for housing."

            Substitute "more money" for "more money than ever made from operating the railway line" in most cases.

        2. jb99

          Re: Snake Oil

          Yeah sounds hard. Might as well give up now.

        3. Greg D

          Re: Snake Oil

          They are all valid points, but dont you think a little negative in light of potential benefits? Not an attitude I quite agree with, basically saying don't build it, you'll fuck everything up that we already have and some already rich people will be less rich.

          This is Elon Musk we're talking about here, he built Tesla and SpaceX out of nothing. They may not be entirely profitable at the moment, but that is primarily because they are a paradigm shift in each respective industry. How does one expect humanity to progress? Very stagnant attitude.

          Had a look on the oil companies job sites? They could use someone like you to stop the hydrogen revolution.

          1. bazza Silver badge

            Re: Snake Oil

            @Greg D,

            "They are all valid points, but dont you think a little negative in light of potential benefits? Not an attitude I quite agree with, basically saying don't build it, you'll fuck everything up that we already have and some already rich people will be less rich."

            What positive benefits? 600 people an hour per tube at the very best (and even that is in doubt)? It's not significantly better than laying on 3 extra 737s between SF and LA, and they'd be massively cheaper. It's not better than laying on corporate jets for paying passengers, and they'd still be cheaper...

            Th only thing it has going for it is that it'd be a wild ride and techno-geeky cool. But that's not a transport solution, that simply limits the customer base to people who like roller coasters served with their morning commuting latte.

            As for it being a cock up, how many taxpayers would welcome their tax dollars being lost on such an obviously fanciful scheme. One also has to hope that pension funds aren't investing in it...

          2. Eddy Ito Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: Snake Oil

            @Greg D

            It isn't Elon Musk we're talking about. Sure, he came up with the idea and unleashed it upon the world but it's not him doing any of this. There are multiple competing companies working on it. The one in the article is Hyperloop One (formerly Hyperloop Tech). The other main company in the LA area is Hyperloop Transportation Technologies which is largely a crowdsourced cooperative effort and is trying to put up a test track near I-5. Elon Musk is not directly involved in either of these ventures nor is he involved with other players like TransPod.

            Ok here's a general concept for "BlastPast" that has cars linking up into a train on the freeway in the "Blastpast" lane. The system would allows individual cars to dynamically link and unlink at their respective exits to reduce the aerodynamic drag and efficiency of the whole while allowing higher speeds. It benefits from using existing infrastructure and would require only minor tweaks to existing vehicles for anyone who wanted to use it. There, I've defined almost as much of "BlastPast" as Elon Musk has defined for Hyperloop now I should be able to kick back and take all the credit for the work the entrepreneurial minions will undertake to make BlastPast a reality.

          3. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Snake Oil

            Greg D, Musk took over Tesla Motors from the founders, he didn't start it. All three of his main enterprises are seriously in the red, Tesla, SpaceX and Solar City. The question is which one is going under first. None of them are paradigm shifts. Tesla Motors might be the closest, but that's because the established manufacturers were too conservative to introduce an alternately power luxury vehicle that costs as much as a home in many area of the US. I could open a rocket company next week, since it's Friday already, and offer launch services in a couple of years for half of what SpaceX charges. I definitely wouldn't be making any money at it and that's the big issue, making a profit. Most major rocket technology was developed in the 50's and 60's by the US, UK and USSR. Pick up a copy of "Rocket Propulsion Elements" by Gary Sutton, understand the contents and you are well on your way to designing your first rocket motor. There are tons of NASA publications that go deep into all sorts of different fuels and oxidizers. The computers and electronics have become much better and lighter then they were in the sixties and new materials have made better designs feasible. From a top level perspective, SpaceX isn't doing anything new, They're just refining some bits and pieces along with a different approach to running the business end. They would be unique if they're main headquarters, test facility and launch site were all within 500 miles of each other.

        4. Richard 31

          Re: Snake Oil

          The vacuuming process for any pod need not take much time at all. No need for it to ever leave the tube.

          Consider if it works more like the London Underground on the stations where they have barriers and doors to stop people falling or jumping onto the track. ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I-Pec4GvDwQ ) for example

          The pods door aligns with a platforn door, the platform extends a boom onto the pod and the door can open into normal atmosphere. It could easily be the similar to the ingress exits used for jumbos at airports.

          Slow the acceleration and it would be easy enough to have straight regular tube seating.

          No need to evacuate the whole system for maintenance either. Each section just needs a doors that can seal off a section. Would be simple enough to add sensors to automatically shut doors and stop trains at the next emergency exit door.

        5. streaky Silver badge

          Re: Snake Oil

          To be commercially successful public transportation needs high throughput. It doesn't matter how fast it is, if it can carry only a few hundred people an hour it's not going to pay for itself.

          If this were true nobody would fly anywhere, which my understanding is exactly what hyperloop is initially designed to compete with anyway - both on price, cost and speed.

          I see some serious technical issues that will need to be sorted through but I don't see capacity as one of them. As for your 2 minute rule, it sounds pretty nonsense, assuming they're automated you should be able to fling them seconds apart and I see no technical issue with running them in a train just there's no benefit to doing that; there's little drag to contend with which is the entire point and drag/air resistance reduction is precisely where trains benefit.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Snake Oil

            > As for your 2 minute rule, it sounds pretty nonsense, assuming they're automated you should be able to fling them seconds apart

            So you'd be happy with aeroplanes flying nose-to-tail a few seconds apart?

            I believe the minimum distance at speed is typically 5 miles (so at 550mph that's about 30 seconds).

            But planes have the ability to move in three dimensions: even if the plane in front of them stopped dead in mid air, they'd probably still be able to manoeuvre around it.

            1. Vic

              Re: Snake Oil

              I believe the minimum distance at speed is typically 5 miles

              Without prior agreement, minimum lateral separation is typically 3 miles under radar observation.

              By prior agreement, aircraft can fly much closer together than that. Flying within 20ft[1] of another aircraft does concentrate the mind...

              But if these things can accelerate to 100mph in 4 seconds, there's no reason why, in an emergency, they couldn't decelerate in the same time. This could leave capsules traveling approximately 5 seconds apart.

              Vic.

              [1] My CFI claims I don't fly close enough. His argument - and it is well-founded - is that the closer you fly, the less you are affected by turbulence, since all aircraft move together. But I don't have the balls for that :-)

        6. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: Snake Oil

          While you make some good points, there are some holes in your arguments. To address one:

          "But the whole point of Hyperloop is that the pods in the cruise phase have very little drive (which makes it cheap), so it would also have very little braking power. So where does that 0.25G braking come from? Does the tube also have to act as a braking surface for friction pads? Does that wear out? Can it be used again afterwards?"

          Why would anyone assume a maglev vehicle would use friction as its primary method of braking? As a backup method, it might make sense, but turning all that momentum back into electricity is a better approach. It is used in electric cars and - shocker - maglev trains.

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Snake Oil

            "Why would anyone assume a maglev vehicle would use friction as its primary method of braking? As a backup method, it might make sense, but turning all that momentum back into electricity is a better approach. It is used in electric cars and - shocker - maglev trains."

            You just push it back into a Shipstone.

        7. 100113.1537

          Re: Snake Oil

          Thanks for the sober reflection. I could envisage a door system to allow passenger entry without an airlock for the pod, but that doesn't really change the throughput issues significantly. I think that this is a freight only technology unless you are going to run very long distances. And is there that much money in freight?

          I was also wondering about stopping - the PR test had a water brake which looks fun the open air......

        8. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Snake Oil

          The throughput can easily be solved with more tubes, there needs to be two anyway - one for outward and one for return journeys, so if they are laying 2 why not four? the costs wouldn't double as you would already have the holes in the ground and the man power on site when laying them (Obviously the costs would go up, just not double) the added benefit is that you can switch the lines based on demand.. more people going in one direction than the other? Lines 1-3 head TO SF and the remaining one handles the return journeys.

          Also this is still a work in progress, there may be ways found to increase capacity in future versions.

          All of the above said, I still think that its a bit daft, the Japanese have (as you pointed out) nailed maglev, its fast clean and safe, I really don't see the need for HyperLoop - but its cool and I like cool things so let them build it.

        9. teknopaul Silver badge

          Re: Snake Oil

          There is no reason "pods" can't be as large as planes. Or trains. Or chained together.

        10. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

          Re: Snake Oil

          But, But it's the new monorail!!

          1. d3vy Silver badge

            Re: Snake Oil

            "But, But it's the new monorail!!"

            Stopping at Shelbyville, ogdenville and north haverbrook?

        11. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Snake Oil

          California is also know for earthquakes and lots of faults. A break in the tube and, Whoosh, the air comes rushing back in creating a serious aerodynamic load. Are the pods going to be built to take that. In the other direction, if the pod gets cracked, all of the air rushes out and you are left with a sticky mess. The sensitivity of the operating environment is a bit issue and leaves the systems indefensible to terrorist attacks or just plain mad bombers.

          What happens in the case of fire? Power outages? How can you re-introduce air into the tubes manually and allow people to evacuate the tunnels? I'll just drive, thanks.

          Economically, it may be the same as the high speed rail that California is throwing money at and that will have to be ultimately scrapped after billions of dollars are wasted. The cost is so high and growing that it's cheaper to take a portion of the high speed rail budget and just give away plane tickets. The HST will never pay for itself from the fare box, serves too few communities and isn't needed. "Faster" train service would be a better solution. Amtrak (passenger service) shares the same tracks as freight trains at a lower priority. Just paralleling some additional tracks exclusively for passenger trains would speed up the service considerably. If one factors in all of the hassle of showing up at the airport hours early with minimal baggage, the strip search and other time wasters, a train trip from LA to SF isn't that much more time. 5 1/2 hours for the train vs. 4 hours all-in to fly. Trying to go faster with Hyperloop doesn't make any more sense than a private company doing a stunt flight to Mars. (Hmmmm, ring any bells)

      2. bazza Silver badge

        @TheOtherHobbes,

        "Apparently HS2 needs at least £20bn to run a fairly conventional choo choo train all the way from London to Birmingham - which is about a quarter of the distance of LA to SF."

        Land isn't cheap in the UK, and the ground is not very suitable (too soft) for building a high speed railway so we may have to lay down concrete foundations for big chunks of it.

        But it's still probably worth it. The land in Japan isn't very good either (mountains, mud planes, requiring a lot of tunnels and a lot of elevated concrete track), but it didn't stop them and the resulting benefit to Japan is incalculable.

        One big difference in Japan; the rest of their transport network is up to the job of feeding passengers to the Shinkansen lines, airports, etc. The density of metropolitan railways in Japan is unbelievable, meaning hardly anyone needs to drive anywhere at all (at least not in the major towns). Even their buses are really good.

        In contrast in the UK the buses are poor and it's only really London that has an widespread metropolitan railway network. The result is a lot of us will have to drive to the high speed train stations. No one wants to spend and hour or two on buses to get a 45 minute train to London. If we have to jump in our car to make the journey time sensible, why not just drive the whole way?

        So I think that whilst HS2 is a good idea, there's a hell of a lot of work to do beyond that.

      3. Rocket_Rabbit
        Facepalm

        That's because in the UK, we are world leaders in red tape and NIMBYism. If HS2 was being built in China, it be done in 2 weeks and cost £500. The real kicker is that it'd work!

        1. BurnT'offering

          Re: The real kicker is that it'd work!

          With the odd head-on collision

      4. Bill Stewart

        California's $80B HSR "Plan"

        A few years back Californians got to vote on the early version of High Speed Rail funding. We were asked to approve $10B in bonds to fund a $30B rail project (SF-LA and beyond to SD and SAC), with the rest of the funding being magic money that would appear from the sky, and $55/ticket SF-LA, cheaper than Southwest Air on sale. Immediately after it was approved they said "Oh, ooops, we'll have to pay interest on bonds! Ok, it's $40B." After a while it was "$70-80B, $110/ticket", and recently it's "Oh, apparently ridership will depend on ticket price, who could have guessed that? So maybe we'll need to subsidize it more to get ridership up!"

    2. bazza Silver badge

      Hyperloop will do us no favours!

      @corestore,

      "$6bn and that needs government money to fund it?

      The biggest technology project of the 1960s was Project Apollo."

      The feats of the 1960s were truly amazing and, I think, surprisingly cheap. Considering what they set out to do Apollo came in amazingly cheap I thought, and had incalculable knock on benefits.

      I also like the story behind Lockheed's Skunk Works. The F117 was a truly revolutionary aircraft (not just for its stealthiness), yet they got 2 flying prototypes working for only Only Only ONLY $30million (1970's millions), and the cost:benefit ratio for the production version was very good indeed. Even the A12/SR71 was astonishingly cheap for what it did.

      It goes to show what you can achieve with government funding and a band of trusted engineers.

      Hyperloop Will Do Us No Favours

      One of the truly awful things about Hyperloop is that it will do the community of engineers no good whatsoever. There's a bunch of loon engineers pushing a "cool idea" that will inevitably fall flat on its face and will cost investors all their money and deliver nothing. That puts the whole engineering community in a poor light. It makes it harder for us sensible engineers to be believed by investors, etc.

      1. Trumpet Winsock IIIrd
        Pint

        Re: Hyperloop will do us no favours!

        Great commenting.

        I often find that the comments on articles can be more informative than the article itself.

        Have a rec and a Pint Bazza.

        1. Known Hero
          FAIL

          Re: Hyperloop will do us no favours!

          @snake oil proclaimers,

          Your probably right lets just give up now, everything is fine, we don't need to strive for more.

          Seriously, yes they may be potential flaws with the system, but think back they built the underground with steam trains !!! WTF is that all about.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The fun part for is is imagining what would have to be done When Things Go Wrong.

      I'm not sure if you can tach a maglev failure with wheels and brakes, but I guess that's not a new problem and probably already solved in Japan. Where it gets entertaining is humans locked in an air filled tube, inside a tube with as little air as possible, with possibly another pod already on its way.

      I'm not sure this may happen at all, but if it does I reckon we will have solved a lot of problems for when we ever get to colonise the moon or even Mars. Maybe that's the real win of this project: new engineering patents..

      1. BurnT'offering

        Re: When Things Go Wrong.

        You get traffic jam - and you need a big spoon

    4. Annihilator

      "$6bn and that needs government money to fund it? The second biggest technology project of the 1960s was the IBM System/360. IBM totally bet the company on it... bringing it to market cost IBM $5bn - and that IS in 1964 dollars! $35bn in today's money..."

      Yes, but IBM would have been confident in there being much more than $5bn in direct benefits to IBM.

      The problem with big infrastructure projects like this is that they don't usually generate benefits back to the company that builds the thing (particularly once you factor in running costs). Infrastructure projects generate economic benefits (well, they're meant to) which usually points at the government to fund.

  2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    Los Angeles to San Francisco route comes in at $6bn

    Underestimate. How much for the land and 'right of way'? Embodied resources.

    How many passengers per hour? Doesn't scale. Make a list of all city pairs.

    What happens when it fails, and passengers are trapped in a vacuum with the next car hurtling towards them at Mach 1? How long does it take to plasma cut them out? How much energy to evacuate the tube after maintenance?

    Conceptually, it's one advantage and then a long list of nonsense.

    1. jphn37

      Re: Los Angeles to San Francisco route comes in at $6bn

      There may be problems. That's what the startup are for: to iron out the problems with the tech. But what's with the massive negativity?

      Yes, of course it wouldn't be only $6bn. Nothing ever comes in at budget, but the high-speed rail California has started to build is projected at many times that amount.

      The tubes are not at complete vacuum. The tubes have magnetic propulsion at regular intervals that can also be used for braking. The pods could also have braking built in somehow. I believe they also have some kind of drive mechanism planned that could limp the pods to a place for evacuation. The energy to evacuate the air to a semi vacuum is negligible. Pods also have an air supply.

      This is a concept vehicle. They are currently prototyping, with private money. Jeez Louise. Perhaps you're one of those folks who hates all buses, subways, trains, and bike lanes?

      1. bazza Silver badge

        Re: Los Angeles to San Francisco route comes in at $6bn

        @jphn37,

        "There may be problems. That's what the startup are for: to iron out the problems with the tech. But what's with the massive negativity?"

        The negativity comes from the fact that even a cursory examination of the engineering barriers to achieving an economically viable and beneficial high throughput passenger service leads one to realise it's a dead-duck of an idea.

        Sure, something could be built, but as currently envisaged it won't carry many passengers, so it won't deliver a useful service, and therefore it won't pay. Imagine:

        1: "Lets go to LA!"

        2: "Sure! Plane, car, train or 'loop?"

        1: "Not the 'loop, the queues are awful and you can never get on it"

        2: "Well I don't wanna drive, and we haven't got air tickets booked"

        1: "Let take the train then, it's only a couple of hours".

        or

        1: "Lets go to LA!"

        2: "Sure! Plane, car, train or 'loop?"

        1: "Not the 'loop, I know it's fast and there's no queues these days, but it's soooo expensive"

        2: "Well I don't wanna drive, and we haven't got air tickets booked"

        1: "Let take the train then, its only a couple of hours".

        Result: no one ever goes by 'loop.

        1. ZanzibarRastapopulous

          Re: Los Angeles to San Francisco route comes in at $6bn

          @bazza Something of a logic error there...

          1: "Lets go to LA!"

          2: "Sure! Plane, car, train or 'loop?"

          1: "Not the 'loop, the queues are awful and you can never get on it"

          2: "Well I don't wanna drive, and we haven't got air tickets booked"

          1: "Let take the train then, it's only a couple of hours".

          or

          1: "Lets go to LA!"

          2: "Sure! Plane, car, train or 'loop?"

          1: "Not the 'loop, I know it's fast and there's no queues these days, but it's soooo expensive"

          2: "Well I don't wanna drive, and we haven't got air tickets booked"

          1: "Let take the train then, its only a couple of hours".

          Result: no one ever goes by 'loop.

          If there are queues then everyone is going by the loop, and if there are no queues on the loop then the train must have the queues, unless fewer people are travelling.

          1. Uffish

            Re: queues on the loop

            I think the cause of the queues on the loop would be the limited capacity compared to the train, road and air infrastructures.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Los Angeles to San Francisco route comes in at $6bn

        The problem is not if they research that technology and try to get past usability issues.

        The problem is if everybody just wait for it to become feasible, while the rest of the transportation system is hopelessly outdated and slow. High-speed trains are an existing working solution, using a proven technology. Why wait for a more futuristic one still in its infancy?

        There could be some resistance form airline companies that may not like shorter routes flights becoming noncompetitive against the trains, as it happened in many countries that deployed high-speed trains, and may want to delay the inevitable.

        But the US had many of the most advanced trains until the 1940s - then modernization stopped, and they started to lag behind not only Japan and Europe, but China as well. Rebuilding a railroad infrastructure will have more benefits than bailing out banks and insurances went bankrupt due to their own greed...

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Los Angeles to San Francisco route comes in at $6bn

          "The problem is if everybody just wait for it to become feasible, while the rest of the transportation system is hopelessly outdated and slow. High-speed trains are an existing working solution, using a proven technology. Why wait for a more futuristic one still in its infancy?"

          Because train of any form in the US is too expensive. Remember that this proposed Hyperloop is meant to REPLACE a proposed bullet train project from LA to San Fran that already had a ten-figure price tag. IOW, the people said NO to the train, mostly due to price issues on what you describe as a proven technology. Status quo is not viable long term, yet the only practical option's been rejected. That's why people are starting to look outside the box: they're out of options.

          PS. The main reason planes replaces trains was that the infrastructure for airlines was easier long-term for a large country such as the US. You only need to build infrastructure at endpoints, not along the way, which means trains will never beat the airplane for something like the New York-to-Los Angeles run.

    2. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Los Angeles to San Francisco route comes in at $6bn

      "How much for the land and 'right of way'?"

      I believe the plan is to build this over I-5 and other lands already owned by the government, minimizing right-of-way costs.

    3. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Los Angeles to San Francisco route comes in at $6bn

      Conceptually, it's one advantage and then a long list of nonsense.

      Conceptually it is one advantage and a long list of engineering and logistics problems to address. Funnily enough 85% of them have existing solutions in railway engineering.

      1. What happens if it fails? Same as wit a train - it is no different from a heavily loaded train line like the east or west coast mainlines in the UK. Speed differs, but so does breaking

      2. 1:1 pairs, maintenance, etc - that is a trivial dual track design with regular interchanges.

      And so on...

    4. Shady

      Re: Los Angeles to San Francisco route comes in at $6bn

      "What happens when it fails, and passengers are trapped in a vacuum with the next car hurtling towards them at Mach 1? How long does it take to plasma cut them out?"

      The passengers will BE plasma. It shouldn't be hard to extract their remains, all you'll need is a hosepipe and a bucket.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Los Angeles to San Francisco route comes in at $6bn

        "What happens when it fails, and passengers are trapped in a vacuum with the next car hurtling towards them at Mach 1? How long does it take to plasma cut them out?"

        Don't worry, sound can't travel through a vacuum, so at Mach 1, the next train will never arrive....

    5. Known Hero

      Re: Los Angeles to San Francisco route comes in at $6bn

      What happens if it fails ??? Well yes you can use plasma cutters etc etc and cut into vacuums.

      But I think you may be making things more difficult than they need be.

      Just let air in! this will:

      Slow the trains down, the air pressure between carriages will actually provide a natural braking effect, the faster the difference the quicker it slows.

      It will also allow people to breath

      have emergency exits.

      Again similarity's are close to the underground issue, what do you do in an emergency? pretty much the same, but you can have emergency exits from the hyperloop.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        Re: Los Angeles to San Francisco route comes in at $6bn

        Feeding in air will generate problems on its own. It can create turbulence inside the tube, and apply the wrong forces on the pod - and the pod shape should be designed to take that into account. At those speeds, friction will also generate heat that would need to be dissipated properly. Then the pod should be able to move itself to an emergency area and allow people leave it.

        Another solutions could be to have emergency thrusters to slow down, but most of them will "contaminate" the environment and probably block the whole line for a while.

    6. Greg D

      Re: Los Angeles to San Francisco route comes in at $6bn

      Short sighted views-R-us.

      What the hell do you think the purpose of this test is? To go straight to commercial service? Hah. Private money is funding a physical proof of concept. No one's tax money is going near it at this stage. The idea of the concept testing phase is to do exactly what you're saying - iron out the issues, and work out emergency procedures such as the one you mention.

      Please dont tell me you work on any project management business. That would just be a disaster.

      1. smartypants

        Re: Purpose of the test

        The purpose of the test is to encourage investment from people like those on this forum who are excited enough about "the future" that they're willing to ignore the basic numbers that already show it incapable of returning their investment.

        This isn't the first time nor the last that this sort of thing will happen.

        But what problem are these people exactly trying to solve? If you want to ship small numbers of people rapidly from A to B for obscene prices, what's wrong with business jets?

        At least in a business jet, when turbulence hits, you can chuck up in your sick bag and take a trip to the loo to freshen up.

        In "the tube", as soon as someone barfs, you're likely to end up sharing their chunks for 30 minutes. And with those numbers of G force and the 'rollercoaster' effect, I wouldn't be surprised if there's a "chucker" on every trip.

    7. JoshOvki

      Re: Los Angeles to San Francisco route comes in at $6bn

      "What happens when it fails, and passengers are trapped in a vacuum with the next car hurtling towards them at Mach 1? How long does it take to plasma cut them out?"

      As opposed to a plane which will just fall out of the sky.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Los Angeles to San Francisco route comes in at $6bn

        "As opposed to a plane which will just fall out of the sky."

        Only if parts fall off. If a plane runs out of fuel but is still intact, it's designed to start gliding, which at least gives time to find someplace to land the bird.

    8. Down not across Silver badge

      Re: Los Angeles to San Francisco route comes in at $6bn

      What happens when it fails, and passengers are trapped in a vacuum with the next car hurtling towards them at Mach 1? How long does it take to plasma cut them out? How much energy to evacuate the tube after maintenance?

      No worries. In hyperloop no one can hear you scream.

  3. Tom 64

    Nonsense

    Is it just me or is hyperloop just the stupidest thing ever?

    It is going to be horrifically expensive to build and maintain, will support very few passengers or cargo cans/hour and can only be outrageously unsafe for anyone brave enough to set foot in one.

    Yes you can go fast in it, but there are already better alternatives.

    1. Shugyosha

      Re: Nonsense

      Rail travel at high speed is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia. - Dr. Dionysus Lardner (1793-1859), Professor of Natural Philosophy and Astronomy at University College, London.

      1. itzman
        Trollface

        Re: Nonsense

        Rail travel at high speed is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia. - Dr. Dionysus Lardner (1793-1859), Professor of Natural Philosophy and Astronomy at University College, London.

        And the whole point of the 'loop, is to finally make this statement true...;-)

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Nonsense

          And the whole point of the 'loop, is to finally make this statement true...;-)

          Hum, get the acceleration and deacceleration wrong and the G's will kill the passengers...

          1. Vic

            Re: Nonsense

            Hum, get the acceleration and deacceleration wrong and the G's will kill the passengers...

            0 -> 100mph in 4s is a touch over 1G. It doesn't take superhuman effort to overcome that...

            Vic.

      2. CarbonLifeForm

        Re: Nonsense

        Clever but he was provably wrong even by the science of his time. The fact that he was important did not mean that he understood the physics even of his today. Godard was told that Rockets cannot work in a vacuum by I believe the New York Times. They too were probably wrong by the science of their time and of centuries before. Just because important people don't understand physics and make boneheaded pronouncements about impossibilities does not mean that every time somebody mentions physics and call something impossible or impractical they are wrong.

        But in many ways that is beside the point. There is nothing about the hyperloop that is physically impossible. But it is a vacuum and that has engineering and logistical and safety considerations. It is accelerating *very quickly*. and we understand very well the physical ramifications of that. It also falls prey to amdahl's law, which in this case means speeding up a portion of a trip a lot just not necessarily improve the overall trip time all that much.

    2. Tchou
      Pint

      Re: Nonsense

      They might find out it is better to carry goods instead of people.

      Instead of vacuuming the tube to lower air resistance , they could go for good old MHD properly done (bring resistance to nearly zero WITHOUT emptying the tube, the air pressure become the thrust by redirecting the normally even-across-object-surface pressure to the rear, and vacuuming the front by redirecting air atoms with Laplace forces)

      1. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

        Re: Nonsense

        So how exactly do you do a magnetohydrodynamic drive "properly", then? Turn the air in front into a plasma and eject it with a magnetic field (Lorentz, not Laplace, I assume)? Sounds totally impractical to me.

      2. jzl

        Re: Nonsense

        The Hyperloop isn't evacuated. It runs at low pressure.

    3. Greg D

      Re: Nonsense

      Well I'm glad you cleared all that up. Elon can pack away his toys now and go back to, you know, being better at everything than you.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. Someone Else Silver badge

      Re: Nonsense

      Is it just me or is hyperloop just the stupidest thing ever?

      Yes, it is just you.

  4. Mark 85 Silver badge

    It definitely has some possibilities. The catch that I see is California and the dreaded earthquake zone Much, if not all of the Hyped Loop* would be in the middle of that zone. Even going down into bedrock might not add to the problems.

    *The hype is obviously going to start flowing after this test.

  5. Ropewash
    FAIL

    Holy shit.

    Now WE can be those little message capsules the old-timers might remember feeding into the vacuum tubes at work.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Holy shit.

      I've professed this as a way to get this done a lot cheaper - not so much vacuum pulled as blown - 2 psi . The air would be handy to stop things bashing into each other too hard. A 5m diameter tube with a 2.2 psi pressure gives 215kg of thrust. That's a lot for a car weight pod over a few miles.

      However the problem will be that of airports - getting there and parking and checking in and security etc etc and you save no real time at all.

      1. Steven Jones

        Re: Holy shit.

        Pumping large amounts of air down a tube at high speed is incredibly inefficient. You'd lose huge amounts in friction and turbulent flow. That's why this system uses a near vacuum. You get that small pressure distance over a large area but suffer relatively little loss in friction and turbulent flow.

        In addition, if imagine the consequences of trying to stop all that air flowing in an emergency. There would be a huge amount of kinetic energy in all that moving mass of air.

  6. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    Freight is toughter than you think

    Are they talking pallets about 1mx1m or containers IE 8' x 8' in cross section?

    One is relatively human sized, the other is not.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Freight is toughter than you think

      Actually, a shipping container sized pod makes sense. Slot a container, into it and off you go. That container could be full of freight, or fitted with seats. Then the passenger loading (and all the associated people problems) is decoupled from the train.

      1. bazza Silver badge

        Re: Freight is toughter than you think

        Actually, a shipping container sized pod makes sense. Slot a container, into it and off you go. That container could be full of freight, or fitted with seats. Then the passenger loading (and all the associated people problems) is decoupled from the train.

        It's unconvincing. You still have to get the containers ready and load them. You'd simply be pushing the problem back a bit.

        As for freight, it's a joke. To move a container that way you'd be putting it on a truck, driving it to the loop station in the centre of SF and then you'd be waiting for a free slot. Either you pay a lot of money to get an early slot, or you wait a long time.

        One wonders just how far down the road to LA the truck would now otherwise be, or how much cheaper air freight would have been.

        1. lglethal Silver badge
          Go

          Re: Freight is toughter than you think

          From what I remember reading (admittedly it was a while ago), they would plan to build one end of the loop stations at the port. My guess was that the idea was to ship the containers via hyperloop directly across the city to somewhere near the highways/train tracks leading out of the city, and transfer the containers to trucks/trains then. This could actually be a good use of the hyperloop system, since getting large numbers of containers through a busy city is a right pain in the a***.

          How well it actually worked would come down to costs, and having some amazing logistics people at the other end. But for passenger transport - its a lame duck... (to put it politely!)

          1. Seajay#

            Re: Freight is toughter than you think

            they would plan to build one end of the loop stations at the port

            So we're talking here about shipping containers which have just spent a couple of days cruising across the ocean at 20mph? Why the hell would we want to accelerate that to Mach 1 at huge expense? Clearly there can't be anything in there which is time critical.

        2. ZanzibarRastapopulous

          Re: Freight is toughter than you think

          @bazza

          You still have to get the containers ready and load them. You'd simply be pushing the problem back a bit.

          Eh? They're already in the containers when they arrive in LA from China.

      2. Steven Jones

        Re: Freight is toughter than you think

        I'm struggling to understand just what sort of bulk shipping requires speeds like this and would be cost effective. The sort of goods transport that uses very fast air distribution (and this is primarily and alternative to air transport) doesn't use standard shipping containers.

        Something like hyperloop would surely only be used for relatively high value, time-critical cargo as would normally travel by air. If the economics were right, then some goods currently carried by rail and/or road might get moved across, but surely not the sort of bulk stuff that foes by shipping container. Those will surely still be transferred by appropriate bulk systems, like water, rail and some trucks.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Freight is toughter than you think

      Speed isn't important for freight, cost is. Freight is all about bulk and weight which is why such much of it is done over water. Containers are not built for minimal wind resistance!

  7. Suricou Raven Silver badge

    A bit more than required.

    Converting to metric and allowing for the planet nearby, you're pulling about 1.5G in that. Enough to make any passengers feel rather uncomfortable, so more acceleration than the finished product needs. I expect they are accelerating a bit harder so they can use a shorter test track, and to test the structural limits of designs.

    I still don't see how the expense of this project can be commercially justified. Yes, it can get you across the country super-fast. But high-speed rail is 'fast enough' for a fraction of the cost.

  8. Jeroen Braamhaar
    Holmes

    Basically it's a giant vacuum hamster tube and they expect people to trust their lives to it ?

    Madness.

    1. Known Hero

      And you basically trust your life to hundreds of people every day guiding metal boxes travelling much faster than the human body was ever designed to travel.

      1. sgp

        The human body wasn't designed.

        1. Uffish

          Re: designed

          ... 'evolved' works just as well in his argument.

      2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        @Known Hero

        The fact that 50% of all drivers have not died in a fiery crash tends to somewhat invalidate your argument.

        1. Known Hero
          FAIL

          Re: @Known Hero

          well lets take that logic,

          Last year alone in the UK alone fatalities only (not all crashes) were totalled up to 1,775. the total amount of actual crashes must be immense.

          How many deaths have been caused by the hyperloop : none.

          So the hyperloop is much safer :)

          @sgp, designed by nature, and lets veer away from that argument :D

        2. mosw

          Re: @Known Hero

          The fact that 50% of all *hamsters* have not died in a fiery crash tends to somewhat invalidate your argument.

          FTFY.

  9. hplasm Silver badge
    Facepalm

    So many luddites...

    ...so little optimism.

    Is everyone just waiting for the new Fall of Rome?

    Oh wait! X-Factor is on!!!

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: So many luddites...

      Because we don't believe in an overhyped technology with a lot of obvious unresolved engineering and logistical issues (that bazza outlined better than I could earlier in this thread) we're Luddites? I suppose you were one of the cheerleaders for Segway when it was announced, too?

      1. Known Hero

        Re: So many luddites...

        and lot's of people don't think electric cars will work either, but we are well on our way to achieving it.

        1. itzman
          Unhappy

          Re: So many luddites...

          and lot's of people don't think electric cars will work either, but we are well on our way to achieving it.

          Well really, are we?

          Or is that a perception fostered by interested parties.

          WE are as stalled and stuck with electric cars as we have been since their invention back in the dying gasp on the 19th century.

          Lithium as a battery material has made them almost feasible, but lithium technology is now well developed and there is not a lot more to come in terms of energy density, which is the real target.

          I am a great fan of electric vehicles of all sorts, but I am only too aware of the inherent limitations of batteries.

          There is a faint possibility that a lithium air battery might just break the energy density barrier and be as good as fuel in terms of recoverable watt hours per lb. But that's it. A faint possibility.

          And at what cost?

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: So many luddites...

            Re: electric cars

            We are also stalled on their charging. Yes we have 'basic' charging capabilities, but scale that up to a typical filling station: 8 pumps/charging points, full tank/charge in under 10 minutes, with minimal wait time between customers, and the electricity supply needs go through the roof and that's just for one forecourt - multiply that across the country...

            1. davenewman

              Re: So many luddites...

              You swap batteries at the station. Already tested in Denmark.

          2. DropBear Silver badge
            Trollface

            Re: So many luddites...

            "I am a great fan of electric vehicles of all sorts, but I am only too aware of the inherent limitations of batteries."

            Nonsense! I have it on good authority we're forging ahead full steam - just last year have I seen at least 2359816 different major battery-related breakthroughs right here on El Reg, all of them on the very brink of being commercially available, ready to revolutionize the storage of electricity. One of them is bound to land in stores any second now! You'll see...!

            *sound of crickets*

            ...verily, any second now...!

        2. Uffish

          Re: well on our way to achieving it

          London (England) had electric taxis in 1897.

      2. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: So many luddites...

        "Because we don't believe in an overhyped technology with a lot of obvious unresolved engineering and logistical issues (that bazza outlined better than I could earlier in this thread) we're Luddites?"

        Engineering issues like hot landing a first stage booster stage on a floating barge having delivered the second stage to a geosynchronous transfer orbit?

        Or like building an electric car which will do more miles to the charge than many of the petrol cars I've ever driven - and can have their battery swapped in less time than it takes to fill a tank?

        Good thing we don't have the same person trying to change too many forms of transport. I mean a consistent approach can't possibly work on a third transport mode can it?

        Is sanity doing the same thing that has worked before and expecting it work again?

        1. FIA

          Re: So many luddites...

          Good thing we don't have the same person trying to change too many forms of transport. I mean a consistent approach can't possibly work on a third transport mode can it?

          To quote this piece....

          "The test of Hyperloop One's propulsion system is just one step of many on the path to achieve a dream put forth by Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who first drew up a plan to transport people at 760mph in low-pressure tubes in 2013. Musk decided not to pursue this business venture, which he called Hyperloop, but his whitepaper spawned two rival Hyperloop companies and an international student engineer competition."

          Emphasis mine.

      3. hplasm Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: So many luddites...

        " I suppose you were one of the cheerleaders for Segway when it was announced, too?"

        And I suppose that you are over 150 and were afraid that steam power would kill us all.

        See- I can 'suppose', too. Now I shall also get off your lawn.

  10. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    I don't know about you lot, bit I'm having flashbacks to the 1990ies.

    1. TheProf
      Happy

      I'm having flashbacks to the Space 1990s. And every other SF TV programme with a travel tube.

      1. lglethal Silver badge
        Trollface

        Futurama for the win... ;)

    2. CAPS LOCK Silver badge

      1990s, 1990s? 1960s more like...

      ...https://youtu.be/KKE2BHUSDBA?t=50s

  11. frank ly

    Technical Question

    "The reduced air pressure allows the vehicles to move at nearly the speed of sound while using very little propulsive power."

    What is the speed of sound in a "near vacuum"?

    1. MrDamage

      What is the speed of sound in a "near vacuum"?

      Slow enough for the sheep to hit you in the face before you can hear the dopplered and somewhat panicked "Baaaa!

    2. Jos V

      Re: Technical Question

      Just to be a little pedantic, speed of sound is not related to air pressure. No air (or any other gas) of course means no sound propagation, but near vacuum is still not vacuum. Speed of sound does change as a function of temperature.

    3. DwarfPants

      Re: Technical Question

      In Hyperloop no one can hear you scream.

      Leaks tube to atmosphere, not too bad things go a bit slower.

      Leaks capsule to tube, not so good (never mind the shortness of breath, its the boiling body fluids that will smart), but you still go fast.

    4. itzman
      Headmaster

      Re: Technical Question

      What is the speed of sound in a "near vacuum"?

      Oddly enough, it doesn't change much...

      "For a given ideal gas with constant heat capacity and composition, the speed of sound is dependent solely upon temperature; see Details below. In such an ideal case, the effects of decreased density and decreased pressure of altitude cancel each other out, save for the residual effect of temperature."

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speed_of_sound

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Technical Question

        I think I get it. The speed of sound IS affected by density (which is why it travels faster in liquid and faster still through a solid), but in a gas this is perfectly counterbalanced by an inverse correlation regarding gas pressure (meaning it slows as the pressure rises). Keeping temperature constant, raising density also raises pressure and the reverse, and the two factors cancel each other out.

        Now, under normal circumstances, evacuating a chamber will pull heat out of it, making it colder, so taking temperature into consideration, pulling a partial vacuum would lower the speed of sound, though not by a tremendous amount given we normally hover near 300K anyway and the partial vacuum isn't likely to drop that by more than 10-15% under practical conditions.

  12. David Roberts

    Concorde

    See title.

    1. Adam Foxton

      Re: Concorde

      No, Concorde was the British version.

      We dispensed with the American's vulgar evacuated tube concept and simply added wings and engines to get it to a height where there was naturally sod all air.

      This also allowed it to travel rather a lot faster than a Hyperloop, take off and land all over the world without needing to lay new track, operate alongside existing infrastructure, and for a bill of £1.2Bn rather than $6Bn.

      Its passengers also didn't suffer the G-force issues Hyperloop passengers will, and had access to what was described as a 'surprisingly large' selection of drinks. If it was still in operation it'd also no doubt have wifi, which will be in short supply inside a big steel tube in a bigger steel tube.

      So Concorde looked better, was faster, more flexible, more practical and pleasant... and we built it about 50 years ago. A more elegant solution from a more civilised age.

      1. Annihilator

        Re: Concorde

        "This also allowed it to travel rather a lot faster than a Hyperloop, take off and land all over the world"

        It was only faster than Hyperloop where it was allowed to fly supersonic, ie over oceans. The sonic boom carpet for Concorde was around 20 miles wide and meant that flight routes were rather limited sadly. It's why the Singapore route was discontinued.

      2. Vic

        Re: Concorde

        So Concorde looked better, was faster, more flexible, more practical and pleasant... and we built it about 50 years ago. A more elegant solution from a more civilised age.

        Have you seen this project?

        It's something of a long-shot, but would be marvelous if it were to come off...

        Vic.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If I was a betting man I'd say someone will build a non-trivial hyperloop system somewhere in the not to distant future. What I wouldn't like to bet on though is whether that can be done and make money. It seems to me that trains at best teeter on the edge of profitability at the best of times so building what amounts to a more complicated and therefore expensive train may not work. Going for freight transport early on is definitely the right choice though, freight is a lot more forgiving than passengers.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      They're are trains and trains. On the whole they teeter on direct profitability because they tend towards universal service with hop-on, hop-off access. Commuter services are designed to reduce traffic so pricing is often political: it needs to be low enough to deter car journeys.

      Some of the highspeed rail services can be highly profitable: Cologne-Frankfurt, for example but I think also parts of the French network such as Paris-Lyon.

      Freight doesn't need speed; it needs faster transfer between modes.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        And regarding intermodal transport, trains have optimized themselves considerably over the last two decades. One of the big changes was the well car which let trains carry two standard transport containers per car (and here's the beauty: with a powerful enough locomotive, you can pull hundreds of these cars; I routinely see freight trains pulling nearly 200 cars at a time, though in my neck of the woods they're mostly ore cars). Combined with improved rail-line communications to track trains and cars and optimization at transfer points, they can easily beat trucks in land transport efficiency under many different scenarios.

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Freight trains are indeed coming along like, er, freight trains. Energy recovery when breaking, lower noise.

          Biggest problem is that it is almost impossible for passenger and freight trains to share track. This is the biggest problem in the US and the most difficult to resolve because new track means more land and land is always expensive.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            (Nods) Especially in the places where new transport is needed the most: big cities. By default, these places are already considerably built up so it poses a real problem regarding transportation: trying to cram the 13th egg in a carton only made for 12. Plus Americans attitude toward trains is mixed, particularly regarding arbitrary transportation needs (which can only be met with a personal car).

          2. hmv Bronze badge

            Really?

            I must imagine regularly travelling by train on a line that carries much freight then. Must stop eating blue cheese.

            1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

              Sounds like you're one of the lucky ones. I'm by no means an expert on the situation but freight generally runs happily on single track, passenger doesn't. See http://www.economist.com/node/16636101?zid=302&ah=601e2c69a87aadc0cc0ca4f3fbc1d354

  14. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Ummmmm

    "Shifting cargo is going to be the first stage of Hyperloop One's plans"

    The only economic way of moving cargo is pack once, repack never.

    That means they need to be able to carry "normal" seafreight containers - NOT repacking those contents into airline ones.

    I've been saying this for a while. The proposed tubes are too small in diameter (not the prototype ones in the video - those are even smaller than the current proposed finished product diameter)

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Ummmmm

      There's also the matter of their physical dimension (long and oblong) which makes transporting them along an enclosed tube very difficult. Plus cargo transport usually doesn't have a middle ground. If time is important, you normally just fly it. Otherwise, you can be patient which means it's easier just to haul it by freight train which is open-air (so easy to load and unload), well-developed, and already with an existing infrastructure and support system to handle it all: no additional expenditure needed.

  15. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    It's an IQ Test.

    Anyone that can't immediately see that it's a fundamentally stupid concept....fails.

    Clearly Musk is an alien. His Human Harvesting Spaceships must be nearby.

    The only question is: Will they be gathering up the dumb ones (those mindlessly defending Hyperloop with empty platitudes as 'solutions' to the objections) to use as fertilizer on some distant dusty planet, or the smart ones to use as breeding stock?

    1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: It's an IQ Test.

      $6 billion for one route.

      Even at just 10% amortization, that's over $1,000 per MINUTE just to service the capital.

      Taking into account the inevitable cost overruns, staff, maintenance, peaky demand cycles, insurance, other costs, it'll be at least $10,000 per minute.

      It's fundamentally unaffordable.

      Cover the planet with such tubes? There's literally not enough wealth on Earth ($240T) for that.

      Stupid concept.

      Ballistic hurling of capsules into a big net at the far end actually would make more sense. Which is to say, none at all.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    surrealism much ?

    five of the six "related articles" are all on the topic of 'virtual reality' ....

  17. phils

    Monorail

    Monorail, monorail, monorail

  18. Richard 31

    Vacuum implosions

    Can't help thinking this:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zz95_VvTxZM

    would happen once some git inevitably crashes into the loop.

  19. Mikel

    Public money

    You're not going to get public money for transit in the US without a plan to carry the Mobility impaired passenger.

    1. ZanzibarRastapopulous

      Re: Public money

      Yup, despite their love of cars even the roads are crumbling.

  20. Ken 16 Silver badge
    Devil

    Ski ramp at end?

    If it doesn't take off commercially, maybe have a siding that points up, launch passengers into low orbit?

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Ski ramp at end?

      You don't need the ski ramp, just enough speed. A high peak with a long ridge to the west would be best.

      Manual Garcia O'Kelly Davis goes over all of this in "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress". They also have an underground ballistic subway.

  21. TeeCee Gold badge
    Facepalm

    Meanwhile, in the real world.....

    estimate..........comes in at $6bn....

    Add 10 years and another 12bn for the NIMBY planning objections, protests, court cases, removing crusty tossers from construction sites, etc ad nauseum.

    The days when you could build a railway and actually have people be fucking grateful for it are, sadly, long gone.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Meanwhile, in the real world.....

      You'll also get massive cost overrun because it's never been done before. Yes, putting rockets into space is rocket science and space is a notoriously harsh environment, but at least it doesn't have weather.

      A near vacuum tube between LA and SF is going to have to put up with a lot of shit and on projects like this it's often the little things that over time cause the most problems. On the Cologne-Frankfurt lines it was problems with toilets and air conditioning that caused the most problems.

      I do like the basic idea of Hyperloop – trying to displace as little air as possible – I wonder if there isn't some kind of halfway house using some kind of fairing with a maglev system. As for the proposed line – I'm not sure that LA - SF really is the route to be looked at: how many people really want to travel between downtown LA and downtown SF? Highspeed rail has excelled at shrinking the commute so something that halved the current journey time on Caltrain between Gilroy and SF and the same for LA's dormitories would be transformational. Of course, this requires all kind of ancillary investment to make using the new lines easier.

  22. davenewman

    Better use a Shweeb

    That is a bicycle powered monorail

  23. Steven Jones

    Perhaps a little too much

    1G acceleration? That's a lot of coffees down the front of a lot of suits...

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A series of tubes

    Finally some invents the real internet.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A series of tubes

      Finally someONE invents the real internet.

  25. ma1010 Silver badge
    Boffin

    Objections, objections...

    I expect that when the first caveman floated across a river on a log, all the local pundits derided the whole thing because they didn't see any quick ROI on it. Of course they were right, and maritime navigation never did the human race any good. Right?

    If we could go back in time to when railroads were first invented, I'm morally certain there were the same sort of nay-sayers around pointing out many difficulties in using railroads:

    High expense of acquiring land right-of-way

    High cost/availability of fuel

    High cost of laying track

    High cost of maintaining/replacing track

    Many, many water/terrain obstacles and high cost/time taken to build bridges

    Mountains! Many are too steep to go over, and it would cost a real packet to try to make a tunnel through one, if it were even possible, which it clearly is NOT.

    Yet all these obstacles, and many others, were overcome by genius engineers. Hyperloop will probably have some of those working for them, too.

    Some of the the objections to hyperloop seem questionable to me. Even I can think up some at least plausible answers to them. I expect real engineers could do a lot better than I can. So let's look at some that I can think of answers to:

    Low passenger volume due to each capsule operating separately. Why couldn't you hook multiple hyperloop capsules together into a long, uh, TRAIN? Just because they can operate independently doesn't mean they must.

    Stations: These would be open air platforms, just like train stations. Several hundred passengers could board/leave the train in one minute.

    Time to evacuate the tube: Once loaded, the train would go into an airlock. You could have many air tight doors. The train would go into the tube and right up to the door leading into low pressure. The station would then close the door closest to the rear of the train, then open the "front" door. Since the train would fit fairly closely into the tunnel, and little space would be left behind and in front of the train, the air volume inside the "airlock" would be insignificant and just vented into the tunnel. (Tunnels would need to have vacuum pumps running all the time, anyhow, because of leaks, etc.)

    Braking: normally electromagnetic, but in an emergency (say, a power failure), the train would drop, and the guides would contact the rail. You'd get metal-to-metal braking just like trains use. Not sustainable for constant use (at least, not without a lot of maintenance), but it works fine in an emergency.

    High G forces: Why use high G's? Right now they're playing around and showing concepts. Yes, it accelerates fast. But in real use, except for emergency braking, the acceleration and deceleration could use forces no higher than than passengers normally encounter in an airliner.

    There are always issues, questions, and sometimes serious problems to be solved in any major endeavor. But these can often be overcome.

    1. smartypants

      Re: Objections, objections...

      You're entering into the same fallacious argument posed by others here, which goes:

      "If you are against X, then by definition you are wrong because new things that were hard turned out to be easy"

      This isn't actually a guide to anything. Instead of hyperloop, let's say I came up with something called "Para-bol". The parabol service is better even than hyperloop. It will deliver you from a "launch station" to anywhere within half a planet's distance in the same time as it takes to launch and deliver a nuclear warhead.

      Only the "luddites" are saying that it'll cost a lot and all the people who enter a launch station find that they've died very shortly after the start of the journey.

      At this point, people like you come in with your quotes about cars needing a bloke with a red flag, and if they could sort out the tin-opener, then surely Para-bol has a future.

      Or not.

      1. kyza

        Re: Objections, objections...

        "If you are against X, then by definition you are wrong because new things that were hard turned out to be easy"

        Well no - they still proved to be hard, and in many cases still are hard even though they have solutions that have been used for decades.

        Spaceflight is a good example.

        Perhaps all the issues raised by people on this thread are all completely unsolvable; perhaps some are but not in a satisfactory way; perhaps some can be solved, or solved in a better way, by changes to other parts of society and environment.

        Public & private investment money gets wasted on far worse and worthless things than a high-speed transit system that can be wholly powered by non-fossil fuels, and can potentially reduce car and air transport use over medium-long distances but hey, I know from being here a long time that EngineerReg seems to be comprised of people who really don't like new ideas if they personally can't see a solution to the issues at hand.

  26. ZippedyDooDah

    This test looks suspiciously like one from 64 years ago but far far less impressive. The test also had some very interesting G forces measured, and it was manned.

    December 10th 1954

    A sled powered by 40,000 lbs of thrust from 9 solid fuel rockets

    0 to 632 MPH in 5 seconds

    632 to 0 MPH in 1.4 seconds, more than 45Gs

    I would guess that there were less Gs on the acceleration phase

    Done by John Paul Stapp. Blood vessels in his eyes burst, cracked ribs, both wrists broken. He recovered and wanted to do 1000MPH but the USAF said "nope".

    Hyperloop? Pah, it's for sissies.

    http://www.popsci.com/blog-network/vintage-space/john-paul-stapp-real-life-rocket-sled-man

  27. Borg.King
    Happy

    Gravity...

    I can drop a fridge off a building and that'll reach 87mph in 4 seconds.

    Can I have $6bn please?

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Gravity...

      Only if you can achieve the same thing in reverse and not crush it or its contents.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Gravity...

      > I can drop a fridge off a building and that'll reach 87mph in 4 seconds.

      > Can I have $6bn please?

      Sure, here you are. Just dig a tunnel straight down from London to Sydney, and drop an elevator in it. The acceleration on the first half of the trip will exactly match the deceleration on the second; all you need to do is catch it as it comes to rest at the other side.

      You'll need some tubes that don't melt or bend, and a good aircon system, but that's just a small matter of engineering.

      P.S. Gravity declines linearly as you enter into a solid body; somebody with better maths skills than me can do the integration to work out the journey time. However, a quick simulation suggests a journey time of about 42 minutes, with a peak cruising speed of 7.9 km/sec or 17,800 mph as you travel through the centre. So the tube probably needs to be evacuated.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Gravity...

        "You'll need some tubes that don't melt or bend, and a good aircon system, but that's just a small matter of engineering."

        You left out the casino, bar and a buffet. And, the toilets.

  28. harmjschoonhoven

    0 - 100mph in four seconds

    For freight transport? I would not put all my eggs in thát basket.

  29. karthikaqpt

    Hyperloop One did Propulsion Open Air Test for the Super Speed Transportation System

    Hyperloop, the supersonic transport system proposed by Elon Musk, has taken a small step towards reality with the first public test of a prototype propulsion system.

    A company named "Hyperloop One" which was previously known as "Hyperloop Technologies" successfully did an open-air propulsion test in the Nevada desert.

    With the Hyperloop, passengers could travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco in under 30 minutes, radically transforming the speed and safety of passenger mass transit.

    During the Nevada test, a bare-metal sled — not a tube — rocketed down a track, with the sled elevated slightly by magnetic levitation technology. It accelerated at 2 g-force before hitting a patch of sand 100 yards down the line. Watch this video also https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPzi3eAqzvA

  30. Seajay#

    Like a plane - except worse in every respect

    However, that's just for now. Once we get a bit more serious about climate change and start introducing carbon taxes which reflect the real cost of burning jet fuel the calculation could change significantly. You have to buy up a bunch of land for this thing to run on, so run a load of solar panels alongside and this could require no net energy at all.

    Then all you've got to deal with is the fact that it's also worse than a bullet train in almost every respect.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Like a plane - except worse in every respect

      "However, that's just for now. Once we get a bit more serious about climate change and start introducing carbon taxes which reflect the real cost of burning jet fuel the calculation could change significantly."

      Or the Navy could perfect is fuel-generating technology using reactors and the costs plummet. Not only that, the tech is carbon-negative (it pulls in CO2 to convert into the fuel) so not even the tree-huggers can complain.

  31. Seajay#

    The key question

    How much of the cost of running a bullet train is spent in overcoming drag?

    If that percentage is high, this is a valuable project.

    If it isn't (and I suspect it isn't) then why are you giving yourself a load of extra hassle for something which isn't really an issue?

    1. AdamT

      Re: The key question

      Well, according to this ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TGV_world_speed_record#Preparation_of_the_train_for_Operation_TGV_150 ) - about the current rail based speed record - you need a mechanical power output measured in 10's of MW which suggest the total of the various drags are considerable.

      1. Seajay#

        Re: The key question

        Domestic electricity is about 8p /kWh. Presumably if you're buying it in these quantities you can get a better deal but just to set an upper bound it would cost you about £750/hour for 9.3 MW, ie running the train flat out over a very long distance without stopping at intermediate stations so that the acceleration costs aren't significant relative to fighting the air.

        That means this $6Bn dollars would be enough to run a TGV for 5 million hours, 570 years.

        Of course you couldn't really run a TGV for 570 years with that money but that's precisely the point. The cost of overcoming drag is not the main factor, or even a significant factor.

        1. AdamT

          Re: The key question

          Well, it's not just about the cost of the power. It's also about the cost of the infrastructure necessary to deliver that power such that it can be consumed at any point along the route. Point of Hyperloop being that (a) less power is needed, and (b) it only needs to be delivered at a few key points on the route.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I feel like I have walked into a simpsons episode....

    http://www.kisspanda.net/the-simpsons-season-4-episode-12-marge-vs-the-monorail/

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