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The next big innovation in the transportation world is just around the corner, or though it seems. The Hyperloop, as described by Elon Musk, is a means of transportation that can take people across the country in a matter of minutes, completely changing everyday life. The idea behind the Hyperloop is creating an environment where a vehicle can move with little to no air resistance or friction, allowing for near supersonic travel. While this may seem very farfetched many individuals believe that it can be done. While there are many technological, political, and financial obstacles to maneuver, I believe that the Hyperloop is science future rather than science fiction.
In the article written by James Vhalos, he talks to one of the leading figures in the race for the hyper loop, Dirk Ahlborn, who is the CEO of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT). Ahlborn shares his passion for the project along with the growing interest for it all around the globe. HTT attracts many different people with a vast variety of professions to come work for the project. Even more impressively, all of these people are coming to work for no payment at all, the only reason they work is the hope that the company enters a publically traded market and they have some stock in it. There is not a single paid employee on Ahlborn’s staff.The only motivation to work on the project for these extremely bright individuals is the passion to do what has never been done. A great team has been assembled, but there are a plethora of boundaries that must be broken.
The first dilemma that must be faced is financial. When Musk first introduced the Hyperloop he gave a 6-billion-dollar construction estimate and many experts in the field said that that number is not even close to what the actual costs are. Not to mention that the estimate made by musk was just for one track from LA to San Francisco, imagine how much it would cost to build one of these tracks to other nations or around the world. Many of the problems that go hand in hand with the financial issues are technological in nature.
With such a new and radical idea, there is going to be a lot of uncertainty in creation and development. For example, it has been determined by engineers that current models are not feasible. Some of NASA’s finest engineers analyzed the architecture of the Hyperloop and they determined that the current measurements are not capable of traveling at the speeds suggested. They suggest that the tube will need to be much larger than the capsule.
The model that Musk presented had a tunnel that has a diameter wide enough to fit the capsule with very little wiggle room, but according to NASA scientists a realistic model will have to be much larger, which will increase the price. Another costly technological issue are the materials and structures used in construction. The main theory behind how engineers will make the capsule move lies in a special kind of motor called linear induction motors. These motors create a magnetic space between the pylon and the capsule. This technology is already being used in vehicles such as rollercoasters and subways systems, but the current technology does not lend itself to the speeds that the Hyperloop is supposed to travel. While the scientists do not want to invent applicable technology as they go, they will most likely have to. Having to fabricate everything from scratch will make the endeavor more and more costly.
Just to add onto the mountain that Hyperloopfaithful already have to overcome, there are political and geographical issues. If the likes of Musk and Ahlborn would like to build and develop the Hyperloop in the US, there are plenty of rules and regulations that must be followed to a tee. Getting people on board with an operation as large as the Hyperloop is difficult, especially political figures. Getting permission from federal and state government could take a long time and be extremely costly. One way that visionaries have thought to get around these limitations is to take the operations overseas. There are places around the world that have more lenient laws and allow for people to proceed with operations that may not have passed the laws and regulations in the US. Ahlborn would also have to find a place that had enough land to build this giant project on that would fit within the budget. One location that they have found is Dubai, a place that is growing rapidly, but still has a lot of cheap land. The laws in Dubai are less strenuous than the US because instead of a checks and balances system Dubai’s emir is the only person who decides what goes or doesn’t. By moving the site to somewhere that is more open and willing to fund and provide land takes costs away from liabilities and more towards fueling the dream.
While all of the evidence presented might notion that the Hyperloop project may never see the light of day, but there are so many brilliant minds working together to make this project happen. I do believe that what sounds like something out of The Jetsons is highly attainable in the future, but much technological advancement is needed in order to drive down the price of the future of transportation.
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