A 30-minute trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco is inching closer and closer to becoming a reality. SpaceX and Tesla head, and general technologically forward thinking dude, Elon Musk, has been kicking around the idea of a high-speed Hyperloop transit system for some time, and he recently took to social medial to offer some updates on its progress.
The project includes work from established players like of Boeing, Tesla, and SpaceX, as well as from engineering students at UCLA’s SupraStudio. Musk took to Twitter to say that the Hyperloop is getting a new test facility that will most likely be constructed somewhere in Texas (SpaceX has regional offices in Houston). The track will be roughly five miles long and both the student teams and the companies will be able to use this facility to test out their pods.
Musk also brought up the idea of an annual student pod race, similar to the Formula SAE, which is an event held by the Society of Automotive Engineers where teams design, build, and race automobiles. You also can’t help but think of the pod race scene from Star War: Episode I—The Phantom Menace, but I imagine there are some significant differences.
Intended to connect cities that are roughly 1000 miles apart or more, the Hyperloop technology sounds straight out of science fiction, as it thrusts aluminum pods full of goods and passengers through a steel tube, maintained in a partial vacuum, at speeds of close to 800 mph. That sounds terrifying. The proposed LA to SF route would roughly parallel Interstate 5 most of the way and would take somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 minutes each way. The idea is to have 70 pods on the route, with one leaving every 30 seconds or so. Much like traditional trains and subways, there will be stations where the cars or pods or capsules load and unload passengers at each stop. Musk once described it as being like Space Mountain at Disneyland.
Musk has been talking about the Hyperloop, which he calls a “fifth mode of transport,” since 2012. Part of what he envisions is a system with an immunity to inclement weather, cars that don’t experience crashes, low power requirements, and the capability to story energy so it can operate 24 hours a day.
There’s no timeline, but if Musk does build such a facility, where teams can go to tweak, refine, and perfect their designs, that’s a big step on the path from conception to reality.