Elon Musk: The Future of Transportation
by Derek Li
By now, we probably all know how extraordinary of a person Elon Musk is. In less than two decades, Musk has completely transformed the aeronautics/space and automobile industries. SpaceX has allowed for vastly cheaper spacecraft and satellite launches, which is opening a door of new possibilities in regards to space exploration (which can be shown by Musk’s plan to bring people to Mars by 2024). Tesla Motors has mass produced relatively affordable electric cars that are hassle-free, sleek, and modern. The success of Tesla has not gone unnoticed by existing car company giants, as many have joined the race to make the best electric cars possible. Yet, for Musk, his current success is not enough. He has plans to completely reshape transportation.
One of Musk’s massive infrastructure projects that is currently taking shape is the underground road and highway system in the Los Angeles area. The city is notorious for its abysmal and never-ending traffic that costs many commuters hours of their precious time every day. Wanting to find a long-term solution to Los Angeles’ chronic traffic issues, Musk proposed an ambitious system of underground roadways. Cars would be able go underground through large elevators and then be transported on trolleys that can reach up to 150 mph. When he first presented the idea around a year ago, many people thought the plan was crazy and unrealistic. However, Musk shrugged off the critics and proceeded to create “The Boring Company”. This company is in charge of all the planning and construction involved with the underground tunnel system. Last August, the city of Hawthorne (in the Southwest portion of Los Angeles county) approved Musk’s proposal for an experimental tunnel under the SpaceX headquarters (located in the city). As of October, the company has already made significant progress in the construction of the tunnel and plans to complete it in just a few months.
Then, there is the Hyperloop, the concept of an ultra-high-speed train first proposed by Musk in 2012. If successful, the Hyperloop has the potential to completely reshape long-distance travel. According to Digital Trends, “a one way trip between San Francisco and Los Angeles on the Hyperloop is projected to take about 35 minutes.” The Hyperloop design consists of a pod (a compartment that can fit humans or cargo) that would run in a low pressure tube. The tubes will be made out of steel and stand on an elevated platform above the ground. Each pod would have railings at the bottom with small holes that allow it to hover above air that’s being pumped into those holes. All these advanced technologies would allow the Hyperloop to travel at up to 760 mph. Until 2013, SpaceX (which is in charge for the development of Hyperloop) worked on developing the technology in order to create stable models. Then, in August of that year, Elon Musk announced that he would be open-sourcing the Hyperloop project, meaning that others are welcome to contribute money to help build future infrastructure. On January 27, 2017, the first successful test run of Hyperloop was completed. With recent developments and a successful test run, the implementation of Hyperloop as a viable method of transportation looks like a real possibility.
Elon Musk has proven time and time again that he has the ability to transform abstract and challenging ideas into a reality. Having already reshaped the model for space and car travel, he refuses to stop there. Instead, Musk is now aiming to fundamentally revolutionize short and long distance transportation. His two current major projects, the underground tunnels and the Hyperloop, shows that his ambitious vision has only started to materialize. It is almost frightening to imagine how much he is capable of accomplishing in his lifetime. For Elon Musk, the sky is truly the limit.
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- Davies, Alex. "Elon Musk Layers on the Crazy With His Plan for Traffic-Killing Tunnels". Wired. April 28, 2017.
- Nicol, Will. "As Hyperloop progress glides forward, here’s what you need to know". Digital Trends. March 31, 2017.
- Perritano, John. "How the Hyperloop Works". How Stuff Works.
- Statt, Nick. "Elon Musk shares first photo of Boring Company’s underground LA tunnel". The Verge. October 29, 2017.
- Thomson, Iain. "Elon Musk to release open source Hyperloop plans in August". The Register. July 16, 2013.