by Rod D. Martin
January 20, 2016
The Hyperloop just took another big step toward reality.
Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) announced plans late last year to construct a 5-mile test trackin Quay Valley, California. Techcrunch reported this week that the company is about to break ground on the initial framework for what HTT CEO Dirk Ahlborn hopes will transform the U.S. transportation infrastructure.
“After over two and a half years of research and development our team has reached another important milestone. This will be the world’s first passenger-ready Hyperloop system,” Ahlborn said in a statement. “Everyone traveling on California’s I-5 in 2016 will be able to see our activities from the freeway.”
Hyperloop promises to reduce travel time between San Francisco to Los Angeles to right at 30 minutes each way.
First proposed by Elon Musk in 2013, the Hyperloop is an advanced vacuum tube intended for just-under-Mach-One intercity transport, dramatically faster than the speediest airliners with no need to climb or descend to 30,000 feet, and with terminals in city centers like railroads of old. Musk has said that he was inspired by the extreme cost of California’s high speed rail project, which is projected to cost at least ten times as much for a fourth of the speed at best.
Quay Valley, halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, is right in the center of Musk’s original vision, which Ahlborn hopes to fulfill. The test track will be able to whiz Quay’s denizens around the length of town in just 80 seconds.
According to The Verge:
In building its test track, Hyperloop Transportation will test the soil around Quay Valley to determine the best locations for the pylons to support the tube. Once that’s finished, the company will map the terrain with drones to mark the corridor, pylon positions, and station location. The mapping is needed to calculate both the horizontal and vertical alignments required as part of the building permit.
HTT is one of two startups seeking to make Musk’s vision a reality (Musk placed his idea in the public domain). Similarly named Hyperloop Technologies, led by former Cisco President Rob Lloyd and boasting heavyweights including David Sacks, Jim Messina and Peter Diamandis announced plans last month to begin testing on an open-air track in Nevada later this month, with plans to reach 700 mph by the end of 2016.
According to TechCrunch, Ahlborn assembled a team of volunteer engineers and scientists shortly after Musk put forth the idea, offering equity in the company in lieu of cash for those willing to work on the project for at least 10 hours each week. He quickly attracted almost 500 volunteers from NASA, Boeing, SpaceX, Tesla and other prestigious outfits.
“We think of this as more than a company, it’s a movement,” Ahlborn told TechCrunch over the phone from JumpStartFund headquarters, a crowdsource funding platform he also runs out of L.A.
It’s hard to disagree. The Hyperloop could completely transform America and the world, significantly reducing air traffic between major cities, radically improving travel times for both people and freight, and redefining what it means to be a “bedroom town.” A trip from Atlanta to Miami would take just an hour, tying together the southeast as never before. Halfway in between, a city like Jacksonville — with low taxes, great infrastructure and tons of land — could be a bedroom town for both.
Indeed, Hyperloop technology could change the face of the world as much or more than cars and interstates once did. And this week, it became just a little more real.