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South African entrepreneur Elon Musk recently outlined plans for a revolutionary new public transit system. The co-founder of PayPal, SpaceX and Tesla Motors dubs this newest venture Hyperloop, a next-gen high speed train designed to rocket passengers to destinations nearly 900 miles away in half an hour — including Los Angeles to San Francisco in half an hour.
It does so by propelling aluminum pods down a pair of steel tubes at 800 miles an hour using external linear electric motors positioned every 70 miles to maintain their speed. To compensate for the inevitable air friction that occurs at such speeds, the tubes would use standard compressors to ensure a low-pressure environment while an electric compressor at the nose of each pod offloads pressure toward the back.
As shuttling non-astronauts down a tube at near sonic speeds could raise an eyebrow with regards to safety, the Hyperloop would space each pod five miles apart to allow for collision-free emergency braking, meaning a total tube capacity of 70 pods at a time.
While the proposed $6 billion project is far from being adopted at present, Musk is apparently cooking up plans for an even better design and plans for a fully functional prototype for demonstrations purposes. For those who think they have helpful suggestions, he has also offered up his plans as an open design.