The future of mass transit is uncertain and, though traveling by steamboat was a viable option for my non-robotic original, not everyone can rely on the Mississippi River to get them to where they want to be, especially if they want to get to Los Angeles. One futuristic option put forth by increasingly industrious SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is the Hyperloop, a system which essentially involves electromagnetically propelling capsules at speeds of up to 1,220 kph (760 mph) through a pressurized tube that would stretch from LA to San Francisco. Interested or skeptical readers can learn more about the ambitious project here.
Although some preliminary sketches of what capsules might look like were presented when the idea for the project was announced, little new information has been learned about the Hyperloop for some time. Recently, though, a design contest for the capsule was held, the winner of the contest getting a chance to test their designs this summer at the SpaceX Hyperloop test track. Perhaps not surprisingly due to the involved school’s prestige, the team from MIT was awarded the top honour.
Although not much information has come out about how this test run will work aside from the statements that the track would not be built to scale and that no humans would be aboard any test pods, it goes without saying that this test likely won’t address technical concerns such as how to deal with a capsule that’s stuck somewhere along the ride or how an earthquake could affect the structural integrity of the pressurized tube. In an interview at the Texas Transportation Forum Musk described the event basically as a glorified speed test acting as the first of many in what he envisions as a years-long, multi-billion dollar process.
Such infrastructure-related difficulties bring into question the validity of the project, but Musk has proven that he and his various properties, including Tesla Motors and SpaceX, are nothing if not resourceful and tenacious. Until all the tests are run and the full scale project is complete, though, my screenplay about a super-powered Mark Twain robot will have to wait: I’ll just stick to piloting my steamboat on the Mississippi River. The traffic on the Santa Monica Freeway is unbearable.