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Transportation

Colorado Company Says It Plans To Test Hyperloop Transport System 258

Posted by timothy
from the pie-in-the-tube dept.
Freshly Exhumed writes "Elon Musk's dream of a hyperloop transport system seems to be closer to reality than he anticipated. Hyperloop transportation, referred to by Musk as a "cross between a Concorde, a railgun, and an air hockey table", is a tubular pneumatic transport system with the theoretical capability of carrying passengers from New York to L.A. in about 30 minutes at velocities near 4,000 miles per hour, while maintaining a near-continuous G force of 1. Colorado-based company ET3 is planning to build and test its own version of such a hyperloop system, Yahoo reports." A more critical article would point out that the numbers presented seem absurdly optimistic; $100 for a 4,000mph cross country trip may be "projected," but construction of a cross-country train tube is a long way off, and so are ticket sales.
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Colorado Company Says It Plans To Test Hyperloop Transport System

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  • Is there a documentary I could watch that will give me some idea of the absurd disaster scenarios somebody has invented for this technology?

    • by avgjoe62 (558860) on Sunday July 14, 2013 @11:42AM (#44277387)
      I understand that the investigative documentarians at SyFy already have an expose, TubeShark-aggedon, in production.
    • by RubberDogBone (851604) on Sunday July 14, 2013 @04:49PM (#44279477)

      Is there a documentary I could watch that will give me some idea of the absurd disaster scenarios somebody has invented for this technology?

      Yes, there was. Sort of. The show called Extreme Engineering has gone through a couple of completely different incarnations. The current one has a host on-camera. The show's original version was just a documentary with a narrator, normally Greg Stebner if I remember right. Stebner's version was vastly superior to the whiny current version. Not sure why they even bother to call the shows by the same name. They are nothing alike.

      Anyway, the original,show did an episode on things like a transcontinental super train which was theorized to operate at supersonic speed in tunnels held at vacuum. So naturally there were examples of what would happen if the seal failed or there was an earthquake or other events. So it's not exactly like the domestic US concept but close enough.

      No idea where you can find this old show. Discovery is fixated on rerunning the current version when they show it at all.

  • by BLToday (1777712) on Sunday July 14, 2013 @10:27AM (#44276789)

    It's already 3000 AD? Time to go shopping for my Lucy Liu bot and Slurm.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    of a Spruce Goose. And? Every time Musk says something we latch on to it and hype it. Besides, I'm sure the progress of 3D printing means we'll be able to 3D print ourselves at the destination. After all, the first modems only had 300 baud, look how fast they are now, therefore anything is possible. Especially when comparing two completely different things.
    • by jkflying (2190798)

      Let's judge Musk by his track record, not somebody else's, OK?

      1. PayPal
      2. Tesla
      3. SpaceX

      So far 3 out of 3 are successful, or at least looking that way. As to what will happen in the future, who knows? I don't, and you certainly don't either.

  • Send packages first (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 14, 2013 @10:29AM (#44276815)

    Let's see how fast it gets fresh salmon from Seattle to Kansas. Build a six inch wide tube or something. If that works out, then maybe think about humans.

    Train accidents are bad enough already. 4000 mph? Would there even be anything left for the NTSB to sift through? What happens if the tube decompresses? Musk has some great ideas; but I think he's gone off the rails on this one.

    • by iamhassi (659463) on Sunday July 14, 2013 @10:56AM (#44277021) Journal
      They've only been dreaming of pneumatic tubes for 180 years or so, but they've never gone further than bank drivethrus and some buildings. Even something like the mail, that you would think would benefit greatly from pneumatic tubes compared to planes and vehicles, hasn't switched over. Truth is pneumatic tubes are great for short distances, but when you have them run over miles there's too many complications, if it breaks down you can't just hop off, you're stuck in a tube 100 miles from rescue. That's why we have been dreaming of it forever and had the technology for a hundred years but even countries with the money and means built bullet trains instead. We'll probably see Star Trek teleporters before pneumatic tubes http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pneumatic_tube [wikipedia.org]
      • by adolf (21054) <flodadolf@gmail.com> on Sunday July 14, 2013 @01:59PM (#44278337) Journal

        They've only been dreaming of pneumatic tubes for 180 years or so, but they've never gone further than bank drivethrus and some buildings. Even something like the mail, that you would think would benefit greatly from pneumatic tubes compared to planes and vehicles, hasn't switched over.

        But it did switch over. And it eventually switched back.

        New York City, for one, once had a fairly comprehensive tube network [untappedcities.com] for mail delivery.

        I'd like to think that we've learned a few things about metallurgy and other materials in the past 100 years that could make such a system far more viable today than it was way back then.

    • by taz346 (2715665)
      From "A Reporter's Notebook" Portsmouth, N.H., 1900: "As 1900 dawns, the Seacoast faces a shocking new technology. Is electricity safe? Is it just another toy for the rich? Do we really need it when gas lights work just fine and horses are easier to ride than cars? Should we develop this new science or leave the genie in the bulb?... A few automobiles have already made their way through our fair city, lured by the nearby sandy beaches, fine hotels, Revolutionary history and panoramic scenery. Hoards more o
  • by Mt._Honkey (514673) on Sunday July 14, 2013 @10:30AM (#44276821)

    The ET3 website [et3.com] looks like some kind of scam. They are offering to sell licenses for their amazing technology for only $100! I've seen it listed on several articles about Musk's plans, but I suspect that some lazy journalist just googled some shit and found that page.

    Does anyone know if Musk actually has a company working on this technology?

  • Compressed air. Constant 1G acceleration. Underground tunnels. No problem!

    • you know....you experience 1G of acceleration every moment of your life.

      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        Yeah, but the seats would have to be oriented in such a way that the acceleration was down. So you'd have to be lying on your back. And then, they'd have to somehow flip you around so your feet would face the other way, so you could handle the 1g deceleration for the other half of the ride. They could put you in roller coaster restraints, and just have you sit normally, but I don't think most people would enjoy that kind of ride. even if it is only half an hour. I could see Six Flags putting this out as a
      • Oh, I dunno, lets do some maths...
        We don't know how much it will weigh, but lets just assume that loaded with passangers it weighs about as much as your average locomotive without any train cars attached... so 150 tons.
        Traveling at 4000 miles per hour at peak speed...
        and that comes out to about 57 tons of TNT going off if it impacts something.

        On the bright side, if anything went wrong, you'd never know. I believe your nervous system has been calculated at under 600mph.

  • by Are You Kidding (1734126) on Sunday July 14, 2013 @10:45AM (#44276921)
    credit for the invention belongs to Dr. Joseph V. Foa who was awarded US Patent 3213802 for a "train in a tube" in 1965. This was the basis for a number of years of research into the concept at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the 1960s.
    • by whit3 (318913) on Sunday July 14, 2013 @12:15PM (#44277583)

      credit for the invention belongs to Dr. Joseph V. Foa who was awarded US Patent 3213802 for a "train in a tube" in 1965. This was the basis for a number of years of research into the concept at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the 1960s.

      It's far older than that, of course. Isambard Bunuel was tinkering with 'atmospheric railway' hardware a century and a half ago. Patents issued in Britain, 1838.

    • by sociocapitalist (2471722) on Sunday July 14, 2013 @12:16PM (#44277587)

      Sounds like a bit of a pipe dream to me...

    • by joe_frisch (1366229) on Sunday July 14, 2013 @12:51PM (#44277853)

      Yes! I remember this idea from when I was growing up in the early 70s. Nothing wrong in principal, but there are the same practical difficulties today that there were 50 years ago. You need an enormous (read expensive) high vacuum system. Switching "tracks" is very difficult at those speeds, the switch sections would need to be tremendously long. Tubes need to be point to point and follow very smooth curves - probably means very deep underground construction. Mostly point to point connections means that you need a lot more length of tubes than you would need for rail. The high speeds limit the minimum train separation and limit throughput - or you need to accept possibly horrendous multi-train wrecks.

        While the system can recover the kinetic energy when it decelerates, it still needs a very high peak power output. The energy storage requirements if it is done onboard on the train are very difficult. If the energy is stored on the surface, then you either need active accelerating track (very expensive / length), or some way to transfer the power to the train (its much too fast for cantenary pickups).

      You could in principal build something like this, but the capital costs would be huge. Consider the expected costs of the California high speed rail system - and that is just simple tracks on the surface.

      I'd really love to see something like this (and have wanted to see it since I was a kid), but I just don't think its practical.

      • Yes! I remember this idea from when I was growing up in the early 70s.

        Yep. Some TV science fiction movies were even made featuring it back then: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genesis_II_(film) [wikipedia.org]

        An elaborate "Subshuttle" subterranean rapid transit system was constructed during the 1970s, due to the vulnerability of air transportation to attack. The Subshuttles utilized a magnetic levitation rail system. They operated inside vactrain tunnels and ran at hundreds of miles per hour. The tunnel network was comprehensive enough to cover the entire globe. The PAX organization inherited the still-working system and used it to dispatch their teams of troubleshooters.

        . . . created and produced by . . . Gene Roddenberry . . .

  • Come on -- TFA even says, "ET3's Hyperloop-like project".... Musk still hasn't announced what his "hyperloop" actually is and, no, Rand Corp and not even Gerard O'Neil in his book "2081" called the evacuated tube EM levitation system "hyperloop".
    • by slew (2918)

      ET3 ~ evacuated tube propulsion
      Hyperloop ~ pneumatic tube but with magnetic propulsion (air pressure would keep "cars" from colliding instead of being used to pull the cars along)

  • by sribe (304414) on Sunday July 14, 2013 @10:53AM (#44276993)

    Yeah, sure. Assuming you can get the Federal Government to build the whole thing so that you only have to cover marginal operating costs instead of amortizing construction costs into the price, and each seat is filled every time, and you count in 1950's dollars ;-)

  • The words 'Elon Musk' and 'Loop' make me think of the Lofstrom [wikipedia.org] variety, not underground tunnels.

  • by Meneth (872868) on Sunday July 14, 2013 @12:22PM (#44277633)
    Original 1972 paper here: http://www.rand.org/pubs/papers/2008/P4874.pdf [rand.org]
  • http://www.dvice.com/archives/2012/07/hyperloop-elon.php [dvice.com]

    LA to SF in 30 minutes. Still much faster than current high speed rail, but nowhere near as insane as NY to LA in 30 minutes. Getting a mass transportation vehicle to travel at Mach 5.2 might happen one day, but we will have to see many evolutionary steps between now and then.
    • we will have to see many evolutionary steps between now and then

      What better time to start taking them than now?

      Honestly I'm a bit skeptical of this one though. I've been hearing about this approach since I was a teenager. Still, I'd rather hear about some dreams than listen to this frickin' "can't be done" whine that seems to have become so popular in this country. I suppose a trans-continental railroad or electric power to every home is unrealistic too.

  • by slashmydots (2189826) on Sunday July 14, 2013 @01:59PM (#44278341)
    I feel I should point out that maintaining 1G constantly (or anything near it) to get that distance in 30 minutes and reach that speed is completely impossible. The math just isn't there.
  • by yusing (216625) on Sunday July 14, 2013 @03:36PM (#44279033) Journal

    NY-to-LA at 4000mph for a fortunate few at inconceivably-enormous cost? That may have appeal for the self-appointed "job-creators", but strays laughably far from any possible reality.

    In a local transit scenario, this technology will rule. Support infrastructure is very lightweight. The path of individual tube "cars" under computer control means NON-MASS transit with highly-individualized trajectories for everyone, right down to the sub-neighborhood level. No engines, no fuel, no batteries, just huge centralized (and thus greatly efficient) vacuum generators powered with *whatever*. Vacuum-powered "switches" so simple that (apart from seal maintenance) there's nothing to fail. Acceleration and braking through sectorized control of pressures.

  • by Areyoukiddingme (1289470) on Sunday July 14, 2013 @04:15PM (#44279251)

    Doesn't anybody read the old masters of science fiction anymore? Slashdot, of all places, should already be familiar with all the details of subsurface evacuated tube transportation. This idea has been around for at least half a century, and has been electrically and mechanically feasible for decades. Financially is another story, which is why the whole thing is the pipe dream so cleverly pointed out by another poster.

    But let's talk about the real concept, instead of all the (bad) guesswork.

    An absolutely straight tube would be quite bad, especially for that distance. What you want is a great circle arc [wikipedia.org], and the only way to achieve one that's perfect enough and stable enough is to bury it and bury it deep, to avoid mountains, valleys, cities, etc.

    It's not pneumatic. That's just silly. It's electromagnetic. You use coils at either end, accelerating with them on the way out and decelerating (and incidentally storing a great deal of the initial launch energy to be reused) at the end. Your vehicle is ballistic in the middle, in free fall. Helluva way to travel, but very cheap, energy-wise, assuming you build giant ring capacitors at each end to store the recovered energy each time the vehicle arrives. Then you only have to make up the losses in the system, which is reasonable to do. The tube is evacuated to vacuum to eliminate air resistance losses, which is so high at useful speeds that it prevents the whole system from working at all, never mind cost effectively.

    And no, you don't switch. The tubes are point to point, and there's only one large vehicle per tube, going back and forth between each end. Of course, while you're at it, you might as well build two parallel tubes, 'cause the marginal cost of boring another hole isn't too bad. Still, the system has a hard capacity limit for each route. It's a very high limit if you build a large enough vehicle, but it's also a very hard limit. Once you hit it, the only way to expand capacity, beyond making the vehicle longer (a process with strictly diminishing returns with its own hard limit) is to bore another hole. Time-consuming and energy-intensive, at best.

    Of course, it will never happen. Quite aside from property rights problems (land ownership extends right to the center of the Earth), the time and energy required to bore a hole long enough to be useful is extreme. It took 6 years to build the 50km long Channel Tunnel. At that rate, New York to LA would only take 579 years. (Admittedly the actual boring time wasn't anything like 6 years, but still... The project has all the same problems, magnified.)

    We'll all be riding in self-driving all-electric vehicles long before anybody bores a transcontinental train tunnel.

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