Science & Tech

Elon Musk's 'revolutionary' 2014 transport plan is dead in the water

Elon Musk's 'revolutionary' 2014 transport plan is dead in the water

The Hyperloop was touted as the future of transport

Hyperloop One, the futuristic transport concept which was long pushed by Elon Musk, has officially been shut down.

The company has laid off employees, is looking to sell its test track and remaining machinery and is closing its offices, according to Bloomberg.

After it hired more than 200 people in 2022, remaining workers were told they’ll lose their jobs on 31 December.

Hyperloop One’s intellectual property – the rights to its logos, slogans and branding – will be handed over to Dubai-based logistics giant DP World.

It’s been a long road to get to this point for the Hyperloop project. In 2013, the billionaire estimated that a pod would be able to get passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in just 35 minutes.

The system uses magnetic levitation to allow near-silent travel at nearly twice the speed of a commercial jet flight and four times faster than a high-speed train.

Musk said aerodynamic aluminium capsules filled with passengers or cargo could be propelled through a nearly airless tube at speeds of up to 760mph.

The tubes would either be raised on pylons or sunk beneath the earth, and could be built either within or between cities.

Musk called it a “fifth mode of transportation” and argued it could help change the way we live, work, trade, and travel.

The startup raised about $450m in funding, building a test track near Las Vegas for testing.

The idea was that eventually the concept would end traffic once and for all. Richard Branson, the billionaire founder of Virgin, also invested in the company for a while.

In 2020, it conducted its first — and only — test with human passengers. The pod only reached a top speed of 100mph, far short of the original promise of seven times that amount.

Critics have said that while a hyperloop may be technically possible, it is ultimately financially impossible to make for a mass market.

In 2017, Hyperloop’s top executives said they expected to see “working hyperloops around the world... by 2020”. That deadline was later pushed to 2021.

So far, there are still no hyperloops anywhere in the world – sounds like one hell of a pipe dream.

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