Update: Inventor Musk shares plans for high-speed 'Hyperloop' travel (PDF)

Hyperloop

Courtesy Tesla Motors

An image from the proposed Hyperloop California transit system.

Elon Musk

Andres Aguila/KPCC

Elon Musk, SpaceX founder, gives his commencement speech to the Caltech graudating class during the 118th annual commencement ceremony on June 15, 2012. Musk was expected on Monday to announce designs for a new travel system called the "Hyperloop."


When billionaire inventor Elon Musk speaks, people listen.

His electric car company, Tesla, is a Wall Street darling. Even though he owns a space company, Hawthorne-based SpaceX, he's not afraid to insert himself into more earthly matters, recently offering to put up his own money to speed up construction on the 405 Freeway.

Now he’s promoting something out of "Star Trek:" A so-called Hyperloop that would whisk travelers from L.A. to San Francisco in 30 minutes. See the detailed plans below.

'Hyperloop' travel unveiled

The "Hyperloop" system would use a large tube. Inside, capsules would float on air, traveling at over 700 miles per hour. The air would be sucked by a powerful fan at the front and expelled at the rear.

Musk's plan said the car-sized capsules would deliver a passenger in downtown Los Angeles to San Francisco within 30 minutes.

Musk has said he's too busy to oversee the Hyperloop. Instead, he hopes others will take it on.

It may sound far-fetched. But Musk has earned his reputation as an inventor, co-founding online payment firm PayPal, electric luxury carmaker Tesla Motors and rocket-building company SpaceX.

Musk said the design will be open source, meaning anyone can use it and improve it.

But while Musk talks up the Hyperloop, he’s also bashing California’s plans to build a high-speed rail line, which he calls both the slowest and most expensive bullet train in the world.

“I don’t think we should do the high speed rail thing, because it seems like it will be north of $100 billion," Musk said Monday. "That just doesn’t seem wise for a state that was facing bankruptcy not that long ago.”

High-speed rail officials strike back

The bullet train is now estimated to cost $68 billion. But no matter...Musk says if it’s built it will be less desirable than flying. It will be California’s Amtrak.

“To liken it to Amtrak is wrong because it is a brand new, dedicated, state of-the-art system,” said Andy Kunz, president of the U.S. High Speed Rail Association.

RELATED: Elon Musk says 'Hyperloop' could be built for one-tenth the cost of Calif. high-speed rail project

His job is to advocate for fast trains, a job made more challenging when someone like Elon Musk is on the other side with fantastic plans, even if they are vague.

Kunz says even if Musk could build his hyperloop – a big if – he’s not accounting for less sexy things like permits and environmental reviews.

“He’s a smart guy and all, but I don't think he really knows that much about high-speed rail to say the things that he says,” said Kunz.

In a statement, California High-Speed Rail Authority Chairman Dan Richard was only slightly more receptive to Musk's plans:

"If and when Mr. Musk pursues his hyperloop technology, we'll be happy to share our experience about what it really takes to build a project in California, across seismic zones, minimizing impacts on farms, businesses and communities and protecting sensitive environmental areas and species.”


What do you think of Elon Musk's idea? Farfetched? Brilliantly visionary? Let us know in the comments or on our Facebook page.

You can also listen to Take Two's interview with a physicist on whether the Hyperloop is actually possible.

View the full proposal below or at his blog:

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