In August of 2013, Elon Musk casually released a 58-page proposal online with the unassuming title “Hyperloop Alpha.” Building on an idea the Tesla and SpaceX founder had hinted at in public a few times, the paper laid out his vision for a sleek, near-supersonic train in a giant pneumatic tube that would whisk passengers between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Musk’s inspiration had come when he found himself stuck in L.A. traffic, an hour late for an appointment, and from his disdain for the planned California High Speed Rail project, which had descended into a morass of schedule delays, cost hikes, funding shortfalls, and political overpromising. The idea had a number of irresistible features. Beyond turning the San Francisco–L.A. journey into a 35-minute jaunt, it promised to be clean (100 percent self-sufficient, using solar-panel arrays on the tube), cheap (6 percent as expensive as California High Speed Rail), and glamorously futuristic (floating on what Musk called “air bearings”). It was possible, reading the paper, to picture oneself elegantly cocooned in a steel pod and gliding along the Pacific Coast in what was less a new kind of train than a 21st-century escape capsule freeing us from the archaic shackles… Read full this story
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