Startup renaissance man Elon Musk has spent the past year or so not-so-subtly dropping hints about yet another ambitious transport project of his, and it seems he’s getting ready to describe it in more detail. Amid plenty of speculation, Musk revealed in a tweet earlier today that he plans to publish his tentative designs for the Hyperloop system by August 12.
But let’s back up for a minute first — what is he even talking about? Musk first started talking up the Hyperloop project at a PandoDaily event held almost one year ago to the day, where he elaborated on the vision of a “fifth mode” of personal transport inspired by California’s troubled bullet system that will “never crash, is immune to weather,” and can travel “twice as fast as what an average aircraft can do.”
Until the 12th rolls around, we’re left with a somewhat vague (if totally awesome-sounding) description of how the Hyperloop system will work — Musk has referred to it at AllThingsD’s D11 conference as a sort of “cross between a Concorde and a railgun and an air hockey table”. That snippet has prompted more than a few pundits to ruminate on how the system will actually work, with the favored interpretation being that Hyperloop will consist of vacuum sealed tubes (to negate the impact of wind resistance) through which magnetically-propelled capsules are hurled at high speeds. If we’re being honest that’s hardly a new concept — it’s been fodder for science fiction since for over half a century and at least one U.S. company is already working on something similar — but we’ll soon see how (or if) Musk’s vision diverges from the pages of an Asimov story.
On some level, one has to wonder just how much energy Musk be able to devote to all of his pet projects, but he seems open to the notion of letting others run with his Hyperloop vision.
He noted at last year’s Pando event that he was considering making the concept available to anyone who could feasibly make it happen, and he tweeted again earlier today to confirm that he will “publish Hyperloop as open source” since he’s “averse to the notion of patenting things unless they’re downright critical to a company’s survival.”