Speculation on the Hyperloop
There has been a bit of buzz in the last couple of weeks about a conceptual new type of transport that Elon Musk has developed called the 'Hyperloop'. While he hasn't shared specific details, he has mentioned the concept in a few recent interviews e.g. here and here.
I find this exciting because I've been thinking about new types of high speed transport for a while now. I don't think we've solved the 'moving people around' problem as well as we may have predicted 50 years ago (alas still no Star Trek transporters). My best guess about what this Hyperloop might be, is an implementation of a vacuum train. The basic idea being that that you construct a tube, suck out all of the air so there is very little friction/drag, and then whisk people around in very high-speed capsules (just like the jetsons). Think NY to LA in 45 minutes. It's not a new idea - Robert Goddard first proposed a similar concept in 1910, but it wasn't economically feasible. Perhaps Elon's spin on it makes use of more recent technology advances and cost savings.
This is all speculation of course, but it would be incredibly exciting to see something like this developed. In fact, commercialization efforts are already under way with ET3 selling licenses to a patentent Evacuated Tube Transport system. More than 60 have been sold including 12 to China. Someone with the credibility and resources of Elon Musk jumping into the fray would greatly help the cause.
I've even fantasized about trying to do something like this myself, but where would one even start? I was brainstorming with a friend in LA recently about a market entry strategy for something like this and he proposed an interesting idea: the first deployment could be a high speed train between LA and Las Vegas, funded by one of the large Casinos (hello Steve Wynn) to bring gamblers in for a quick day trip. Alternatively, if US regulations make building it here too difficult the same concept could apply (albeit undersea) linking the casinos in Macau to Hong Kong.
Since California is already considering spending up to $98B to build a (relatively slow) high-speed rail between San Francisco and LA, the time is certainly right to consider alternatives that may end up being cheaper as well as advancing technology that will be of significant benefit to society.