Saturday, July 12, 2014

OTHER OPINION: TUBE TRAVEL “Hyperloop” transport is one hyper cool idea

August 15. 2013 11:25PM
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Just when you start to think maybe, just maybe, we could be losing our edge here in Silicon Valley, Elon Musk pulls an all-nighter and whips back the curtain on Hyperloop — his pipe dream, literally, of a tubular transportation system that would propel air-cushioned passenger pods at 700 miles per hour, making San Francisco to Los Angeles a half-hour hop.

Practical? Oh, who cares. It’s cool. So cool. A flash of brilliance that captures the spirit and the imagination of Silicon Valley. We love it. Even if the first pod never leaves the station. Launch pad. Whatever.

But here’s the thing. It might work.

That’s where the “brilliance” part comes in.

We’ve been waiting for more than a century for the next real transportation breakthrough, on the magnitude of horse and buggy to car and steam train to 747. In Musk’s vision, his Hyperloop would cost a fraction of high-speed rail’s price tag, partly because it could be elevated on pylons above freeway rights of way. Engines similar to the one in Tesla’s Model S could power it, and solar panels on top of the line could more than fuel it.

Of course there’s a huge leap from on-paper brilliance to real-world construction. And while Musk’s Tesla and private space exploration company SpaceX have overcome setbacks, they’re both a tad different from building a first-of-its-kind transit system on 100-foot pylons in the public right of way.

Still, just seeing the plans, the theories behind them, the reasoning and the flights of imagination that pull everything together without resorting to science-fiction fantasy, the willingness to think big — it’s enough to remind us that, in Silicon Valley, we’ve still got it.

Really. We’re not done here. Not by a long shot.

Pittsburgh Post Gazette

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