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Businesses Transportation Technology

The Hyperloop Industrial Complex 218

Jason Koebler writes: Two and a half years after Elon Musk pitched the technology, actually traveling on a hyperloop is still theoretical, but its effect on business is not. There is a very real, bonafide industry of people whose job description is, broadly speaking "make the hyperloop into a tangible thing." The SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Design Weekend at Texas A&M University earlier this weekend was the coming out party for people in that industry.
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The Hyperloop Industrial Complex

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  • by k6mfw ( 1182893 ) on Monday February 08, 2016 @04:44PM (#51464933)
    USA struggles just to get started in high speed rail systems of what rest of industrialized countries has for years. HSR has face significant resistance in culture and business (sorry the excuse for it costs too much is bankrupted considering how much this country has spent on other stuff with not much to show for it). Now along comes Hyperloop and HSR opponents immediately say we need to go this route because it's done by private industry. Not that there is anything wrong with private industry but I don't see them as implementing it where it needs to go, only where the investment pays off for them. However, as gstoddart pointed out this is a buzzword before business model that may kill HSR in the US and then it will go way of all those dotcom companies leaving nothing behind.
    • by zlives ( 2009072 )

      i my mind, HL is just an evolved form of HSR. and unfortunately, chances are it will be implemented exactly in the same manner. we can't do HSR because it costs too much but we will do HL because is costs even more?!! yeah i won't hold my breath. heck we don't even have a decent public transport system within cities.

      • by bws111 ( 1216812 )

        Where are you getting the idea the HL costs more than HSR? The whole point of it is it is supposed to be much cheaper. The initial proposed route of LA-SF is supposed to cost $6B for HL, or $70B for HSR.

    • by eth1 ( 94901 )

      USA struggles just to get started in high speed rail systems of what rest of industrialized countries has for years.

      Expensive HSR just doesn't make sense in the US. Look at a map of Japan, for example - its geography forces the major cities to be more or less lined up, such that rail built between any two major cities will be usable by a lot of traffic not necessarily going to or from those cities. The major cities in the US are all over the place, often with huge distances in between. You'd limit the potential passengers to only the people going between that handful of cities (which is made even worse, since with more m

      • Expensive HSR just doesn't make sense in the US. Look at a map of Japan, for example - its geography forces the major cities to be more or less lined up, such that rail built between any two major cities will be usable by a lot of traffic not necessarily going to or from those cities.

        California is also long and narrow. A lot of those cities in Japan that are along their HSR were non-existant or very small towns before it was built. If anything, they should build it along an emptier stretch of land than along an already populated city centers. That would make HSR much cheaper. HSR is an investment into a longer term future of population growth.

    • by k6mfw ( 1182893 )
      boy oh boy, all these comments comparing US to Japan, Europe, etc. No! I'm not talking HSR across entire country like San Jose CA to Butte Montana. I'm talking about HSR to and from densely populated areas relatively nearby. Look closely at some areas it is much like Japan and Europe. Yes, it's expensive and yes it will be lots of work. What's the alternative? Just let hwy 101 and 5 between northern and southern California become a parking lot? My only take is the culture of this country knows of only two m
  • Seriously. I was a big fan of Hyperloop Alpha. But the MIT team that won the "Hyperloop" contest is proposing something nothing like Hyperloop. The test track that SpaceX is building is designed to support a wide range of vehicles, most nothing like that in the Hyperloop Alpha document. So if I say "I like hyperloop", I don't know what exactly it is I'm supporting anymore. What exactly is "Hyperloop" these days?

    All I can say is that I really liked the alpha one. The MIT team's maglev thing is Meh^2.

  • by meerling ( 1487879 ) on Monday February 08, 2016 @05:28PM (#51465225)
    First, let's drop the hype, this idea is ancient for 'new ideas', it was published in an issue of Popular Mechanics older than Elon Musk (40s era issue I believe) .
    Now here's a huge issue I haven't seen anyone talking about that gets progressively worse as the track/tube length increases, subsidence and ground movement.
    Yes, that's right, all those super tight tolerances needed to keep it air tight and within safe turning range of a high speed capsule are at risk.
    No matter how much we like to pretend, the earth isn't 'rock solid steady'.
    If you don't know what I'm talking about, look up soil subsidence, faults, and even earth tide.
    Earth tide is an interesting one and it can be around half a meter, depending on location and conditions, but it effects pretty much the entire planet.

    The point is, there are serious issues about trying to keep an airtight low pressure tube of extraordinary length intact and functionally safe, especially when you're going to be shooting giant passenger carrying bullets down it. That's one target you better not miss.

    Yes, there are probably a ton of other issues I've never thought of, but I'm not an engineer and it's not my job to be intimately familiar with variant thermal expansion rates or whatever else might go wrong with this concept. I still think it makes cool mad science fiction, but I don't see it being a rational expenditure of resources and effort at this time. (By the way, how much material would such a full sized tube use up, and whats the current national production of said materials?)
    • by wildsurf ( 535389 ) on Monday February 08, 2016 @07:18PM (#51465951) Homepage

      Now here's a huge issue I haven't seen anyone talking about that gets progressively worse as the track/tube length increases, subsidence and ground movement.

      The subsidence / ground movement effect is dwarfed by the simple thermal expansion of the tube over the day/night cycle, which can grow/shrink up to hundreds of meters over the length of the tube. This effect can be compensated for by allowing the tube to slide smoothly across the pylons to achieve tensile equilibrium. (Perhaps with motorized assist to overcome friction.) The "slack" is taken up at the endpoint stations, through a telescoping system. Each pylon can allow for perhaps a meter of lateral flex to account for local ground shifting, and the pylons themselves can be easily repositioned if they start to get close to their tolerances in a local area.

      By the way, how much material would such a full sized tube use up, and whats the current national production of said materials?

      The complete Alpha-design hyperloop from LA to SF would use about 1 million tons of steel, or about 0.02% of the world's current annual steelmaking output. For scale, this is about 10x more steel than the Birds Nest stadium in Beijing, or about 100 Eiffel Towers' worth.

  • California is a strange place to start the hyperloop project. There are two mountain ranges between LA and San Francisco, and the dominant cost of the high-speed rail project is bridges and tunnels to cross the mountain ranges. Hyperloop is designed to go over twice as fast as high-speed rail, which means the curves have to be much more gradual, meaning longer and more expensive tunnels and bridges.

    Musk should really think about starting the project in a flatter area, perhaps between Chicago and Dallas, whe

    • by bws111 ( 1216812 )

      The entirety of hyperloop is built on pylons of varying heights. In effect the whole thing is one big bridge. This is one of its major selling points, and why CA is chosen.

      • Three-meter-high pylons are cheap. But when you're climbing a thousand-meter mountain range, either your pylons have to be hundreds of meters high (and thus VERY expensive), or else you need to navigate curves at lower speed.

        • by bws111 ( 1216812 )

          Oddly enough, the people at SpaceX managed to think of that! Their calculations show they need 14768 6-meter pylons, 2175 15-meter pylons, and 966 30-meter pylons, for a total cost of $2.5B. There is nothing even close to 'hundreds of meters high'.

        • CA's central valley is flat and boring. The only reason the current HSR proposal goes all the way into SF is politics. The SF locals had to be paid off.

          Sensible plans would put the northern terminal at the southern end off Caltrain or in Sacramento, linking with the AmTrack commuter line. Gets you away from the seriously expensive real estate and many of the real industrial grade crazies.

          Similar solutions exist in the south. I'm less familiar, not having ridden them.

          • I should note: Once SF has finished spending it's budget to _not_ upgrade the CalTrain right of way, HSR will stop at the southern terminal anyhow. They will bitch and moan and demand the feds give them more money to continue not upgrading the right of way.

    • I have a sneaking suspicion that there's some really, really smart people who have considered the day 1 "why this won't work" aspects of the project like terrain.

      My guess is that pretty much anywhere has geographical hurdles to cross for that kind of distance. From what I have read the land rights issues are much, much more difficult to overcome so a place that is effectively nothingness between two points makes it much more attractive.

      • There's no reason to believe that those day 1 concerns aren't valid. Some people who have a lot of money are willing to do things inefficiently for their personal convince... like put projects close to their house at thrice the cost.

  • They were in the hyperloop industry before it was cool, or even a thing.

    Pro-tip: You might want to let someone prototype and test the concept and see if it actually works before getting carried away about building the infrastructure for the hyperloop economy. Speculation is great until you fuck up and get it wrong and are left with a lot of pissed off investors and a hyperloop seat cushion factory that no one wants.

We can found no scientific discipline, nor a healthy profession on the technical mistakes of the Department of Defense and IBM. -- Edsger Dijkstra

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