Imagine travelling from Vancouver to Toronto in three hours, from Toronto to Montreal in 30 minutes, or from Montreal to Miami in less than two hours—without incurring the hassle or carbon footprint of air travel.
What you’re imagining is something close to the hyperloop technology that Tesla Motors founder Elon Musk envisioned in 2013, and is now under development by at least two competing Los Angeles-area companies.
“The construct of Hyperloop is like a transportation backbone that will do the same thing for the transportation and the movement of physical things that the Internet has done for the digital world,” Hyperloop Technologies CEO Rob Lloyd told CBC.
The design of a hyperloop system features an 11-foot (3.5-metre)-diameter tube, now under test development by Hyperloop Technologies and its cross-town rival, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies.
“We remove the air pressure from that tube equivalent to being 160,000 feet (48,800 metres) above the Earth’s surface,” Lloyd explained. “We create a pod which could carry either passengers or freight, and then we levitate that pod inside a track in the tube. We use an electric motor to propel it along. The result of that is you can go really fast.”
At Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, a team of more than 500 experts volunteer their time in exchange for stock options. The company hopes to begin hauling freight by 2020. Los Angeles architect Craig Hodgetts sees environmental benefits in a technology that could change the way people commute and communicate.
“It’s the person-to-person that I think is going to be the most important, because you can imagine, we’re losing face-to-face contact with our business associates and even our friends,” he said. “Maybe rather than having them meet on Skype for a business meeting, we have a business centre at the terminal, and people zapping from the other city for a face-to-face thing, then going back home and have dinner.”