Yesterday, I started hearing about some billionaire with a hair-brained but revolutionary idea for a new form of transport. This isn’t just any random billionaire, mind you – this is Elon Musk, the co-founder of both PayPal and Tesla Motors, as well as the founder of SpaceX. So you see, he has a pretty good track record for pushing through large-scale projects. So what was this big idea of his? He calls it Hyperloop. It is a tube-based transportation system in which pods zip around in a low-pressure environment (to minimize air friction). His proposal is for using it inside congested cities and between cities less that 1000 miles apart.
Now, if you’ve read Zero Calvin then you are probably noticing some similarities to my concept of the ODIN system. However, there are some key differences. For one, his vision is quite limited in scope compared to mine (but a more realistic first step in gaining public acceptance non-the-less). Also, Hyperloop will be a raised system, while ODIN is below ground within cities but above ground for larger trunk lines between cities. Also, Musk hasn’t released much info on his concept of the actual tube system itself, but it appears on first blush to be a very linear point-to-point system. Still, this is massively exciting news and another important step in shaping our world into that of Zero Calvin’s.
OK, here is the even more interesting bit of news – Mr. Musk isn’t the only one thinking about tube transport. In fact, there is a company/organization called ET3 (et3.com) that is pursuing the creation of an evacuated tube transport system that is so scarily like the ODIN system that I would be tempted to hit them up for royalties if they hadn’t already been formed some six years prior to the writing of Zero Calvin (unbeknownst to me). At any rate, the similarities are amazing. I urge you to check out their site and nose around. They speak of a tube system that is set up like a computer network and controlled in much the same way. The pictures of their “capsules” are very similar to my description of the “packets”. I believe they even mention using an electric coil system similar to a rail gun to accelerate and decelerate the capsules, which I also hinted at in Zero Calvin when I wrote “His packet dropped into the ODIN system. He saw rings around him, coils. Faster and faster he went. The rings turned to blurs.” In fact, take a gander at this video and let your jaw drop as you see the “six-shooter” arrangement that I describe in Zero Calvin as the capsule/packets are being loaded into the tube. Unfortunately, I did not see them using my nesting idea yet. Perhaps someone there missed that chapter?
The truly awe-inspiring idea of the ET3 project is the scope: global! Forget easing the California congestion or “slightly” faster trips between cities. These folks see us not only whizzing from coast to coast, but also right over the Bearing Strait and into Asia and Europe. If we could ever pull it off, this would stomp air travel into the dirt. OK, that’s an exaggeration, but it would be a fantastic compliment to air travel.
Of course, just like Google Glass (Display Lenses), this idea is being met with equal parts interest and revulsion. And that’s fine. Cavemen didn’t chisel a wheel one morning and a Ferrari the next. The important thing is that we are all talking about it. No, strike that. The important thing is that people like Elon Musk are talking about it. Because people like Musk have the vision, money, and drive to shape our world. Here is me with my fingers crossed.