Now that the Detroit Auto Show is moving into the public showing phase, Tesla founder Elon Musk can focus on another project: the Hyperloop. In a series of tweets, he said he plans to build a five-mile test track in Texas to allow companies and student teams to use for testing.
In fact, the serial entrepreneur tweeted he’d like track to play host to a student competition similar to Formula SAE, where student teams form fictional companies and then design, build and test a Formula One-style race car.
The concept of the hyperloop is akin to what you’d see at bank drive-through lanes: put the container with your deposit into a tube and then a huge blast of compressed air moves it along into the bank.
Musk has described it as a cross between Concorde, a railgun and an air hockey table. Passengers sit in cars that are fired down the tube which had had most of its air removed. A system of magnets would accelerate and brake the capsules, and also keep them from touching the sides of the tube.
“Actually it would feel a lot like being in an airplane,” Musk said during a conference call. “There would be initial acceleration and once you were travelling at speed you wouldn’t notice the speed at all.”
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In this case, he’s proposing the Hyperloop as an alternative to a high-speed rail line linking Los Angeles and San Francisco. According to Musk, the Hyperloop would be faster – moving passengers back and forth in less than 30 minutes – and significantly cheaper.
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Musk believes the loop could be built for $6 billion while the high-speed line is estimated at $70 billion although Musk said he thinks it will end up costing $100 million.
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However, he’s also trying to avoid using his $6 billion to build it saying he’d rather let others handle it, but “I do want to see it come to fruition.” The upside is that he already has some outside interest.
A crowd-funded California-based project named Hyperloop Transportation Technologies has started work on how it could be constructed, although they don’t have working prototype. There are about 100 engineers across the U.S. working on the development of the system, but they are at least 10 years away from a successful system.