Elon Musk’s Boring Company has recommitted to building a network of high-speed transport tunnels, including a Hyperloop vacuum-tube supersonic transport system between New York and Washington DC, which it claims will whisk people from A to B at 600mph in a vacuum tube.
Having originally spawned the idea, releasing plans for the cross between a “Concorde and a railgun and an air hockey table” in a 57-page document free for others to verify and build on, Musk announced his intentions in July saying he had verbal approval from the government to build a New York to DC Hyperloop.
Officials from Maryland, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, New York, Baltimore, Washington DC, the US Congress and others said Musk didn’t have approval. But the White House said it had had “promising conversations” with Musk about the developing technology, which has yet to be proven viable for a public transport system.
Now the Boring Company has further detailed its plans, which include an underground network of tunnels for both short and long-distance travel, similar to a modernised and higher-speed version of the London Underground and other city metro systems.
The company said: “At the Boring Company, we plan to build low-cost, fast-to-dig tunnels that will house new high-speed transportation systems. Most will be standard pressurised tunnels with electric skates going 125+ mph.
“For long-distance routes in straight lines, such as NY to DC, it will make sense to use pressurised pods in a depressurised tunnel to allow speeds up to approximately 600+ mph (AKA Hyperloop).”
It is still unclear whether the Boring Company actually has government, city and state authority to do so.
While Musk has previously committed to building a Hyperloop test track, and setting up competitions for advancing the technology, it has been third parties such as Hyperloop One, which is currently testing a prototype system north of Las Vegas, that have made the most progress.
Hyperloop One recently sent a pod through its test track at 190mph over a distance of 437m, which falls well short of proposed maximums and is still slower than some trains travel but at least is making progress.
Many will argue that if the high-speed vacuum transport system is to succeed, it will need a name with brand power to make it happen in the US, and Musk could provide that element.
Founder of Hyperloop company Arrivo, Brogan BamBrogan, told Wired: “The industry can’t get built by any one company, and to have a heavyweight like Elon put his hat in the ring says a lot of good things. It validates the market and the idea that the tech can create some real value for people.”
Whether the Boring Company’s Hyperloop and metro system plans come to fruition still rely on proving the technology is viable and getting the all-important permission to actually dig tunnels, which in itself is typically a long and boring task.
Experts from Nasa, the US Department of Transport and Hamburg University agree that, after crunching the numbers, the theoretical technology could be a viable, cheaper and greener alternative to short-haul flights as well as long truck journeys. But others have pointed to the likely cost of building a system, particularly underground, being significantly higher than current estimates unless radical improvements in tunnelling technology are developed.
Transport systems are notoriously financially unviable, meaning any successful Hyperloop system would likely rely on government subsidy, and therefore political will.
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