Out of the various projects Elon Musk has been pushing for in the last few years, the Hyperloop Project is probably the most improbable sounding one. A sealed underground hyperfast system that would make transportation across continents a matter of hours instead of days – it sounds like something only the most futuristic science-fiction writers would dream of. However, it has been Elon’s pet dream since 2012, and he may finally be getting a start on actually building it.
In a development that might mark a significant moment for the Hyperloop Movement, it has come to light that the Washington D.C. government has given The Boring Company, Elon’s company working on its Hyperloop project, permission to start digging in a small fenced-off parking lot of the city. The permission, issued in November, allows The Boring Company to start preparation and excavation work at the parking lot located at 53 New York Avenue NE. A company spokesman said on Friday that “a New York Avenue location if constructed, could become a station” in the wider Hyperloop or Loop system.
The spokesman added, “Stations in a Loop or Hyperloop system are small in size and widely distributed in a network – very different from large-station termini considered for train systems.” This implies two different transportation systems under development – a Hyperloop system that uses a vacuum-based setup to eliminate wind resistance for high-speed transportation of people and cargo, and a Loop system that might be a non-vacuum system for shorter intra- or inter-city transportation.
Elon announced in summer 2017 that he had received “verbal government approval” to build an “NY-Phil-Balt-DC Hyperloop”. Estimates released by The Boring Company on the basis of preliminary tests and projects state that the completed Hyperloop project could complete travel time between New York and Washington D.C. to 29 minutes, down from the nearly four hours it takes with current means of transport.
Of course, there are numerous concerns about the project, ranging from safety issues with building a massive underground system of hyper-fast transport pods, to logistical and funding concerns behind what is sure to be a massive and expensive project. However, Elon has received backing from the White House Office of American Innovation as well as the Maryland Governor. The concept has also captured the attention of people around the world – eight companies around the world are already working on variants of the Hyperloop project (Virgin Hyperloop One, Arrivo, Hyper Chariot, and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies in the US, TransPod Inc. in Canada, DGWHyperloop in India, Hardt Global Mobility in the Netherlands, and Zeleros in Spain), and there are multiple student-led teams around the world also working on R&D to make the concept cheaper, viable, and safe. Elon himself has said that the idea behind the technology is “explicitly open-source”, encouraging others to take it forward and find a viable real-world solution.
After the recent successes of SpaceX and Tesla, The Boring Company is likely to be high on Elon’s radar. He has already successfully raised about $11 million for the company through highly-covered offbeat campaigns including the sales of 50,000 Boring Company hats and 20,000 Boring Company flamethrowers. He is clearly a man on a mission, and the permission from Washington D.C. could be just the start he needs to make his Hyperloop dream a reality.