Four years ago, Tesla CEO Elon Musk published a lengthy document about a dream he had. He wanted to get people from Los Angeles to San Francisco in under 30 minutes. Via what? A new car? A plane? Well, via something else — a new type of train.
A high-speed train, to be more specific. So high-speed, in fact, it crosses over to science fiction territory.
While Musk laid out both the ideas and the goals of the notional project, he failed to share any concrete framework, let alone an in-depth study looking into its feasibility. Essentially, he published a highly complex outline of a dream transport — an ideal one, more than anything, but rife with enough technical research for others to chew on, and chew on they did.
Fast forward to August 2017. Hyperloop One just blasted its prototype pod down the 500-meter test tube somewhere in the Nevada Desert. It reached a top speed of 192 mph before stopping to a halt, and this is the fastest one it has ever recorded.
Hyperloop One Gains Speed Boost In Second Full-System Test
Hyperloop One says the tube was depressurized down to the equivalent of 200,000 feet above sea level. The XP-1 pod zoomed through the tube via magnetic levitation, which, in theory, can allow for top speeds of 760 mph. This is actually where the Hyperloop differs from other typical transport systems: gliding above the track limits aerodynamic drag.
This month's recorded top speed is a huge leap from the first full-system test this past May. This time, the XP-1 traveled 4.5 times further, 2.7 times faster, and had 3.5 times more horsepower.
For all its successes, Hyperloop One still has to face a bevy of challenges before revolutionizing transportation. The first ordeal has to do with bureaucratic constraints, surely, seeing as how getting anything built in the United States is always a long stressful endeavor. Hyperloop One, an enormous undertaking, will definitely face scrutiny at the very least.
If Hyperloop One proves successful especially, then it's easy to imagine railway companies doing everything in their power not to be outranked by the new kid on the block.
Taking A Look At Elon Musk's Vision For Hyperloop
A less crucial but still important factor in all this is how Elon Musk's vision of the Hyperloop compares with Hyperloop One's current state.
Firstly, Musk imagined a really tiny Hyperloop vehicle — significantly tinier than the XP-1, which is closer to a small train car. Still, if the XP-1 can propel more people in a single ride, then that's certainly better.
More importantly, Musk's initial Hyperloop plans called for a much faster mode of transportation — traveling at an average speed of about 700 to 760 mph. The Hyperloop One is, of course, nowhere near that mark, and it needs to work really hard to get there.
Speed is perhaps the most important factor in the Hyperloop project because it's what sets it apart from conventional railway transportation. Of course, shortcomings are to be expected in any engineering endeavor, especially if the project itself originated in some kind of idealistic sci-fi dream. Hopefully, when Hyperloop One manages to launch a finished version, it'll be worth it.