Billionaire inventor and entrepreneur Elon Musk could potentially be building a Hyperloop train between Houston and San Antonio in the next few years. Musk, the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla (two companies with the mission of revolutionizing transportation), has been developing a high-speed railway system in response to the bloated costs and poor capabilities of California's proposed high-speed train project.
The railway could potentially reach speeds of 700 mph, making the trip between Houston and San Antonio 20 minutes long.
Part of the development process has been opening up the development of pod and rail systems to technology developers around the country. Over 2,600 submissions were whittled down to 11 finalists, including MIT (who won Best Overall Design). Each finalist included a proposed route in their design, and two of them proposed a route to/from Houston.
The physics of the Hyperloop concept means that only flat terrain and straight routes would be suitable—making Texas the ideal place to host the first Hyperloop rail system. This isn't science fiction, either; Elon Musk is known for taking high-level concepts and turning them into viable products within a few years. Tesla is a perfect example of his vision (and his desire to make innovation an American value again).
The Basics of the Hyperloop
The basic Hyperloop design is a low-pressure tube that shoots passenger pods across great distances at high speed. Rather than using rails or engine propulsion, the Hyperloop would depend on magnets to keep pods aloft (reducing friction and allowing for safe, speedy travel). An air cushion would keep the ride smooth, similar to a puck on an air hockey table.
One of the greatest draws?
Elon Musk's proposal could allegedly build a Hyperloop for less than $6 billion. For comparison, the less advanced and slower California high-speed rail would cost upwards of $68 billion.
The 11 design finalists will have a chance to test the speed of their proposals on the Hyperloop test track this summer.