Could Elon Musk's Hyperloop tube system truly revolutionize mass transit? Maybe, if he had any inclination to do it. Right now it exists as little more than a brilliant concept from a guy whose hands are a little tied at the moment. But one California startup actually wants to make it happen.
Wired has the scoop on JumpStartFund, a startup with a subsidiary called Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, Inc. It's a collective of 100 engineers across the country who are crowdsourcing ideas and crowdfunding cash with the goal of building an actual Hyperloop transportation system.
They're not just your run-in-the-mill engineers, either; they're the cream of the crop, with day jobs at NASA, Boeing, Musk's own SpaceX and others. In addition, they've partnered with 25 students at UCLA to work out everything the system would need.
Musk's original plan called for a Hyperloop between San Francisco to Los Angeles, but this group is looking at a different route due to political conflicts, earthquakes and other unavoidable issues, like Los Angeles to Las Vegas or other parts of the U.S. They envision criss-crossing networks of Hyperloops around the country and the world, which is kind of amazing to think about.
They've also done some thinking on the capsules themselves. From Wired:
As the UCLA students imagine it, a passenger would arrive at a station and drop her luggage off with a Kiva robot (the kind Amazon uses in its warehouse). She would pass through security on what seems to be a moving sidewalk going under a metal detector, an idea that sounds tricky when you consider how often people in airports forget to take coins or various terrifying objects out of their pockets. But once through, she would be able to kill time in the lobby doing some shopping, grabbing a bite, using the bathroom, or renting a tablet for the trip. Then she heads to her platform, gets in her assigned seat, and is whisked away.
The Hyperloop would be made of two stacked tubes, in which the capsules travel in opposite directions. When a capsule reaches a station, the bubble slides out sideways and onto the platform, and the passengers unload. Then the capsule is moved to the opposite tube and ready to get going again.
We're at least 10 years from a commercially viable Hyperloop, but JumpStartFund CEO Dirk Ahlborn thinks that once all the planning they're doing gets sorted out we could see the first prototypes as early as next year with a final product within the decade.
Extremely ambitious, maybe even a little too optimistic. But it's something, right?
Check out the full story over at Wired.