'Hyperloop,' Elon Musk's radical, speedy transportation system

SpaceX's Elon Musk wants to take astronauts to the International Space Station. He wants to take humanity to Mars. You'd think he would forget all about Earth by now, but here's one for us terrestrials: Musk calls it the Hyperloop, and it's a system that never crashes, ignores the weather and is twice as fast as your average plane.

Musk considers the Hyperloop to be the fifth mode of transportation, following "planes, trains, automobiles and boats," and it would take commuters "from downtown LA to downtown San Francisco in under 30 minutes." Right now that trip takes six hours by car, nearly twice that by train as there's no direct connection and just over an hour by air. A flight, of course, means a time buffer on either end as you work through an airport, so it'd be more than an hour, even.

Sounds pretty great, right? Maybe even a little too great. Yet, talking to PandoDaily's Sarah Lacy, Musk said of the Hyperloop: "Yes, this is possible, absolutely."

He elaborates:

This system I have in mind, how would you like something that can never crash, is immune to weather, it goes 3 or 4 times faster than the bullet train… it goes an average speed of twice what an aircraft would do. You would go from downtown LA to downtown San Francisco in under 30 minutes. It would cost you much less than an air ticket than any other mode of transport. I think we could actually make it self-powering if you put solar panels on it, you generate more power than you would consume in the system. There's a way to store the power so it would run 24/7 without using batteries. Yes, this is possible, absolutely.

What the Hyperloop would actually look like — even in basic terms — is still up in the air, though Musk stated that he may make the details known to "anyone who can make a credible case that they can do it." Musk also cites Aeromovel as a similar transportation network, meaning that the Hyperloop could take advantage of a similar pneumatic transportation guideway.

The mystery surrounding the Hyperloop is also leaving some wondering if what Musk is proposing isn't unlike the tube transportation networks seen in science fiction, such as in The Jetsons and Futurama. In an article on Could This Happen, writer Joelle Renstrom has a pretty thorough breakdown analyzing the feasibility of such systems. It's well worth a read (spotted on Quora).