If you have been living under a rock (or on the beach!) this summer you might have missed Elon Musk’s Hyperloop Design release this past Monday August 12th 2013.  You might not be interested in California’s transportation issues, or what fantastical ideas Musk has come up with lately.  But maybe you should.  You see, Musk might just break the spell of our apparent reluctance to shift the status quo or to be ‘different’.  By flinging himself onto the economic scene via PayPal, then swinging the pendulum of believability to Space X and finally coming to back to test the automotive industry and their paradigm with Tesla (and made it work!) Musk is more the anomaly than the norm.  However, he has tapped into our imaginations, our expectations, and our desires on a very universal level.  So when it came time for him to announce his plans for his idea for a Hyperloop, fifth form of transportation, which would connect Los Angeles to San Francisco in 30 minute, many were curious.

What’s the hype about the Hyperloop?

If you have even taken a train in the US you will undoubtedly have preferred to drive.  It is slow, cramped, classic yes but dated.  If you have driven in LA then you probably find the legendary traffic jams disturbing to say the least.  California’s solution to connecting the two major cities of LA and San Francisco was to propose and approve a high-speed rail system that would conservatively cost just under $100 billion and disturb much of the landscape along the way – think HS2 in the UK.  This pissed Musk off because a – it will be slow, b – it is not self-powering and c – its bad economics! 

Enter the Hyperloop, a self-powering, super fast, economic solution to getting from one (mega) city to another.  You can read (a great read!) all the technical specifications and theory in the PDF that he released via Tesla’s and SpaceX’s website, its actually very clear, but the nut of it is that passenger capsules would be propelled by air pressure through tunnels on earthquake-proof pylons.  With dozens of stations peppered and power by solar arrays along the entire route a 28-passenger capsule would be ready every 30 seconds to take you on the 30 min ride across 350 miles at a cost of about $20.00 and $6 billion to build.  He admits that teleportation would be cooler and better, but until then this was his proposal.

Hyperloop Mania

What followed his announcement before and after Monday was a lot of social commentating and creating of ideas around the concept of ‘what if?’ the Hyperloop could actually work.  And this reaction is vital, it is what fuels invention and creativity, it is what keeps us passionate about life.  By proposing the Hyperloop as an Open Source project that Musk likens to Linux he has opened the possibility for development and cooperation from anybody anywhere.  Much in the same way as he has challenged the status quo in the automotive industry (renown for patents and confidentiality) by bypassing dealerships and opening Tesla owned and run dealers and proving that a pure electric car can be profitable he turns the government sponsored project on its head and asks the people to answer. 

Social, transparent, eco-centric, and a little mad seems to be the ingredients for the future of design invention.  We are at a critical crossroads where old industry and rhetoric will be replaced by a much more fluid way of making and doing business, and Musk knows this.

Hyperloop Design

As always we are big fans of design at GCD and aesthetically there is a lot of work to do on the Hyperloop, so it's a good thing that Musk left the door open for any aspect of the project to be developed by anyone, even you.  Try your hand at any of the following:

1 - More expansion on the control mechanism for Hyperloop capsules, including attitude thruster or control moment gyros.

2 - Detailed station designs with loading and unloading of both passenger and passenger plus vehicle versions of the Hyperloop capsules.

3 - Trades comparing the costs and benefits of Hyperloop with more conventional magnetic levitation systems.

4 - Sub-scale testing based on a further optimized design to demonstrate the physics of Hyperloop.

You can send your proposals to hyperloop@spacex.com or hyperloop@teslamotors.com.  Good luck and keep us informed so we can share the developments.  In the meantime Musk might give you a run for your ideas as he announced the day his release that he would build a proof of concept…he is a man of his word!

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