How Will the Hyperloop Change Travel?

Hyperloop travel capsules.

Hyperloop passenger transport capsule conceptual design sketch. (Image: via SpaceX)

In August of 2013, Elon Musk published a white paper detailing a new type of transportation — the Hyperloop, a high-speed rail designed for high-traffic cities paired less than 900 miles apart. Musk made the research public so others could turn his idea into a reality. A Los Angeles-based startup — Hyperloop One — is working on building the world’s first system.

What is a Hyperloop, and, once complete, how will it change travel as we know it?

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What is the Hyperloop?

Unlike an overland train, the Hyperloop will utilize enclosed tubes that maintain a low-pressure, near-vacuum environment. Passengers will ride in pressurized capsules that travel at up to 621.371 miles per hour. The tubes reduce drag and friction, allowing the capsules to reach incredible speeds. Since it’s fully enclosed, there’s no threat of travel getting canceled due to snow, rain, or other severe weather.

Ideally, a complete system — regardless of location — will be weatherproof, resistant to earthquakes, and capable of traveling massive distances in minutes instead of hours. With the first 10-kilometer stretch set to open in the United Arab Emirates by 2020, how will this new technology change travel in the next decade and beyond?

Hyperloop passenger capsule version cutaway with passengers onboard.
Hyperloop passenger capsule version cutaway with passengers onboard. (Image: via SpaceX)

Changing travel

Hyperloop One doesn’t want to make travel that will compete with airlines — it wants to eliminate the concept altogether. The goal is to be more accessible and efficient than airlines. By putting Hyperloop stations in the middle of cities, there’s no need for long commutes or spending tons of money on long-term parking.

Checked luggage will also be a thing of the past, as will the extra fees that come with bringing more than a carry-on bag. The passenger capsules will be designed to be both comfortable and spacious — enough to keep your luggage with you, regardless of how much you bring along.

Mobile ticket purchasing and check-in will eliminate the need for lines, streamlining the boarding process. You won’t have to worry about showing up hours early to get your pass and make it through security.

Unlike airplanes, getting into Hyperloop capsules will be affordable. You won’t have to worry about spending hundreds on a ticket. The company has yet to release information about ticket pricing for the upcoming track. However, the original white paper suggested a price point of US$20 for a one-way ticket.

These systems won’t eliminate our need for airlines. For example, they’ll still be necessary for overseas trips and extended adventures. Nevertheless, Hyperloops are set to change the face of transportation.

Hyperloop passenger transport capsule conceptual design rendering.
Hyperloop passenger transport capsule conceptual design rendering. (Image: via SpaceX)

Looking toward the future

With the first system set to open in the UAE, the race is on for the U.S. to catch up. There are nine states currently exploring programs, from Nevada, which houses the company’s test site, to Washington, Pennsylvania, and more. Even the Great Lakes region is getting in on the fun, with a plan to create a multi-state Hyperloop that will connect Chicago, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh — all in less than an hour.

This technology is poised to change the way we travel — at least between major cities. It won’t replace airports and airlines, at least not for a while. However, it could change the way we move between metropolises. Instead of spending hours in the car and stuck in traffic, you can hop inside a capsule, sit with your fellow travelers and keep your luggage in sight, and read or watch a movie instead of worrying about other people.

The Hyperloop is coming — it’s just a matter of time before a program opens in the United States. Where do you think the first will appear? Perhaps California or New York?

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