The Boring Company announced in a tweet that “full-scale” hyperloop testing will begin this year, following an update from creator Elon Musk.
Musk first presented the hyperloop in a white paper in 2013 as a speculative proposal for a transportation system that would transport passengers in self-driving electric pods via a vacuum-sealed tube at speeds exceeding 600 mph.
Musk clarifies in a recent tweet that “[hyperloop] is the fastest route to move from one city centre to another for distances less than 2000 miles, according to known physics. For longer travels, a starship is preferable.”
He also indicated that “in the next years,” The Boring Company will seek to develop an operational hyperloop. The Boring Company just raised $675 million at a valuation of $5.7 billion.
Transportation on the ground at “plane speeds”
Musk called on other firms to take up the mantle when he first published his white paper on the hyperloop concept in 2013 because he was primarily focused on his work with SpaceX and Tesla at the time. Between 2015 and 2019, SpaceX conducted a hyperloop competition in which students and hobbyists developed prototypes of the transportation pods.
Though firms like Hyperloop TT have developed concepts like the hyperloop port for efficient ground cargo movement at “airplane speeds,” the technology is currently theoretical. Virgin Hyperloop recently announced that it had altered its focus from passenger to cargo transportation in order to address the pandemic’s supply chain problem and avoid regulatory barriers.
We have yet to witness a hyperloop in action, and some have speculated that the system may not be commercially viable. According to leaked Hyperloop One documents from 2016, the cost of hyperloop is likely to be significantly higher than Musk predicted in his 2013 white paper due to the numerous factors that must be considered based on the track’s location.
Musk had previously predicted that a mile of hyperloop track would cost $11 million. Still, The Boring Company is working to make Musk’s vision a reality, and if all goes according to plan, we could see results as early as this year.
The system, as Musk envisions it, would rely on vacuum technology to allow cars to go quicker in a low-friction environment similar to that of space. The Hyperloop could travel at speeds of up to 7 miles per hour below the speed of sound in an idealized form of the technology.
The world’s wealthiest billionaire isn’t the only one who sees a future in which hyperloop technology might alleviate transportation woes. Virgin Hyperloop, its competitor, performed the first passenger trip in its levitating transportation system in 2020. At a Nevada test track, the pod reached speeds of almost 100 miles per hour and traveled roughly a third of a mile in just 15 seconds. According to Virgin Hyperloop and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, the technology will be available to the general public by 2030.