Hyperloop One Wants to Put Cars in Super-Fast Tubes

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There are futuristic pieces of tech that we all think science needs to figure out right now. We want transporters that can zip us from place to place in an instant, spaceships that can take us to the stars, and the ever elusive flying car. Hyperloop is taking on the car challenge, not by making them fly in the sky, but by setting them in the hyperloop and zipping them across the planet at outrageous speeds.

The concept of a hyperloop is the brainchild of Elon Musk, but he was very busy with other things like SpaceX and Tesla. So, he put his idea out there for the public to give it a go and Hyperloop One, based out of Los Angeles, is working on a functional prototype.

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The idea would be to have tubes that could transport people at the same speeds as a plane, but for far less and without ever leaving the ground. Try to imagine monorail-style structures, but instead of a monorail car gliding along the top of the rail, there would be a tube with shuttles to whisk you to your destination.

Now imagine your personal car pulling up to a hyperloop station, driving into the tube, and zipping you to wherever you want to go without the bother of that whole road trip thing. Hyperloop One senior vice president, global field operations, Nick Earle told The Verge, “The idea is you have a transmitter in your car. As you approach the hyperloop, it would be like a fast pass on the freeway. So you actually get the ability to open the air lock and drive into the tube.”

It hinges on the availability of autonomous cars. An autonomous vehicle isn’t solely about driving without human intervention. The autonomy extends to communication so cars can talk to each other and to the infrastructure. If traffic gets congested on your usual route, an autonomous car will have this information ahead of time and be able to reroute you around the trouble. This is how they plan to communicate with your car and get it to a hyperloop station so you don’t have to endure the traffic jams of the annual family road trip.

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The problem is making the tech work and then finding the cash to build it all. Hyperloop One figures it will cost about $11.5 million per mile of tube, which is outrageous. Still, they have funding to get it started and plan to test it some time early this year.

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Nicole Wakelin

Nicole Wakelin