August 14, 2013

California Dreaming: The Hyperloop

The world would have probably dismissed it as the rantings of a lunatic had it not been its source. Billionaire inventor Elon Musk Musk – the founder of Tesla Motors Inc.and visionary leader of SpaceX – the world’s first private space company. No one could question his credentials like that, or even say with complete certainty “it will never be built”.

It caused a media frenzy. First, because it was one of those “made for the Internet” kind of stories. Cool technology, a legendary entrepreneurial inventor, a futuristic vision – who wouldn’t want to write about that? First there was the leaking of the mysterious name “hyperloop” – and it was hinted that fantastic speeds would be possible. Then the actual announcement – promoted like a media campaign complete with beautiful artists renderings of the hyperloop vehicles.

As described in a plan he posted online the technology would feature a tube suspended above ground on pylons. Inside the tube there are pods with electric compressor fans. They would move back and forth in a low pressure environment, gliding atop a cushion of air. Something like those phonetic tubes they used to use in banks, but for people.

Musk has been describing it as “equal parts Concorde, rail gun and air hockey table”. He estimated that it could travel between San Francisco and Los Angeles in 30 minutes and would cost about $6 billion to $10 billion to build.

After this exploded on social media, there was a second wave of “it will never be built” pundits but even they seemed to have fun with the idea. That’s ok, it probably will never be built but we all had fun with it, and we all got inspired by this crazy idea.

Mr. Must reportedly got the idea because he must currently commute between his job as head of Tesla in the Bay Area, and of SpaceX in the Los Angeles area. Well that is what startup founders often do right – find an area of personal “pain” or a problem in their own lives that needs to be solved. Most of us don’t need to commute between Los Angeles that often or that quickly. Still, it is fun to imagine what California would be like if that was possible. Would this unite the State? Would this make us more dynamic?

This gave of all a chance to pause for a minute from all the bad news, and ponder a crazy dream. Even if will never happen, it is nice to be reminded that there are still California dreamers.

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