Elon Musk on stage

Elon Musk commits to building US hyperloop

The Tesla and SpaceX founder has – according to a company spokesman – committed to building the infrastructure necessary for his theoretical high-speed transport system in the US, although it is not yet clear whether he has secured any form of government permission.

Musk first pitched the idea of a hyperloop system in a 2013 white paper, following his frustration at the inefficiency of road-based transport. He described a futuristic transportation system based around a network of tubes in which pods containing cargo or passengers are propelled across great distances in a near vacuum. This could, in theory, allow for high-speed transportation with a minimal carbon footprint.

Despite much excitement and discussion surrounding the concept, no full-speed prototype has yet been built.

In his white paper, Musk encouraged other companies to attempt to make the concept a reality, stating that he was too busy with other ambitious ventures to pursue the idea.

However, when Musk announced via Twitter in December 2016 that traffic was “driving [him] nuts” and that he would “build a tunnel boring machine and just start digging” to expand transport beyond two dimensions, speculation began that his plans for tunnelling could be related to a hyperloop system.

Under the name of “The Boring Company”, Musk began digging a test tunnel on private property outside his SpaceX headquarters in Los Angeles. In July, he announced in Twitter that he had received “verbal government approval” to begin digging a hyperloop tunnel spanning the country from New York to Washington DC. This prompted denials from officials that any consent had been given.

Now, Musk has expanded on his vague but ambitious plans, committing to building the New York-Washington DC hyperloop tunnel, among a network of underground tunnels for both long-distance travel and short journeys.

“At the Boring Company, we plan to build low-cost, fast-to-dig tunnels that will house new high-speed transportation systems,” a Boring Company statement said.

“Most will be standard pressurised tunnels with electric skates going 125+mph [200+km/h]. For long-distance rotues in straight lines, such as NY to DC, it will make sense to use pressurised pods in a depressurised tunnel to allow speeds up to approximately 600+mph [965+km/h] (aka Hyperloop).”

According to Brogan BamBrogan, co-founder of Hyperloop One and later founder of Arrivo, another hyperloop company, “The [hyperloop] industry can’t get built by any one company and to have a heavyweight like Elon put his hat in the ring says a lot of good things.”

“It validates the market and the idea that the tech can create some real value for people,” he told Wired.

Of the many hyperloop start-ups which appeared following the publication of Musk’s white paper, Hyperloop One has enjoyed the most tangible success so far. The company has recently run successful tests on its “DevLoop” test track in Nevada, although not yet reaching the intended velocities, which are comparable to those of aircraft.

“While we’re encouraged that others are making some progress [with the hyperloop], we would like to accelerate the development of this technology as fast as possible,” said the Boring Company statement.

It remains unclear whether Musk’s company has secured any of the building or environmental permits necessary to allow construction to begin.

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