Elon Musk Discusses Hyperloop at MIT

 MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics Department's 2014 Centennial Celebration
MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics Department’s 2014 Centennial Celebration

The MIT AeroAstro Centennial Symposium was where Elon Musk answered a question on the Hyperloop. The question was prompted by Elliot Owen, who built a working model of the hyperloop tube and pods (that can be seen below). The question can be seen in the link below, at the 01:02:00 mark:

http://webcast.amps.ms.mit.edu/fall2014/AeroAstro/index-Fri-PM.html

Here are some key points answered by Elon;

  • He was asked by on whether temperature of the Hyperloop tube would be too high. Elon responded that the diameter of the hyperloop tube would be twice the diameter of the hyperloop pod, to allow air to flow around the pod. You dont want a tight fit.
  • Inner part of the hyperloop tube must be smooth. So you might even have to run a grinder in the inside of the tube to smooth it out.
  • The air-ski’s are spring when the pod is moving through the tube.
  • Expansion of the tube, due to thermal differences, must happen at the terminals. Each pylon must also be allowed to stretch, and you can’t hard constrain it at the pylons.

So much more in the interview and questions, so just watch the whole interview. Below are Elliot Owen’s working model of the hyperloop & presentation.

Controlling the Colorado Hyperloop Environment

Color drawing of Front Range Hyperloop
Color drawing of Front Range Hyperloop
Front Range Hyperloop

The title of this post is Controlling the Colorado Hyperloop Environment.

Yes, controlling is a strong word. Does it mean physically or politically?

Also, environment means many different things. Is that social, or weather related?For a large transportation project that stretches miles over the horizon, the role of the environment (weather and politically) is critical to system stability.

Lets focus on Mother Nature. The hyperloop will be covered in a weather/waterproof cement like tube. These will be the main controlling factor to the environment inside the tubes. Other innovative systems are also trying to control the environment. Take for example a article on NextCity.org about MIT’s CityFarm.

Indoor farming sounds, at first blush, like a second-rate fallback option; perhaps it’s necessary, but it means forgoing the natural abundance of the elements outdoors. When Harper describes it, though, those elements sound more like uncooperative troublemakers. Reviewing the advantages he enjoys compared with his hypothetical counterpart out in the fields, Harper says, “The reason he uses chemicals, pesticides and genetic modification is that he can’t control anything. It’s windy, there’s not enough minerals. He tries to take that plant and any way he can make that plant a super plant to survive in an adverse world.” By contrast, “I’m trying to create a perfect world. So the plant can do what it’s good at, which is grow.”

“Indoors you can control everything. Outdoors you can control nothing. What’s better? Duh.” 

So a closed environment is good idea especially if you are trying to do certain, specific things.

Now lets talk about the political and city environment. When the hyperloop is built it will lead to a shift in citizens expectations. Controlling such an environment will not be easy, nor should it be controlled. Another NextCity.org article had some good thoughts on how the change in the potical environment of cities due to a Hyperloop:

2. Urban life is bending toward on-demand. Hyperloop, as Musk sees it, will be made up of pods, or capsules, capable of holding up to 28 passengers each. There will be no need to wait — the vision is for pods to leave every two minutes on average, and every 30 seconds during rush hour. 

That echoes what we’ve seen with services like Uber or Airbnb, when resources are broken up into discrete bits, whether they’re unused cars or excess rooms, and distributed when and where consumers want them. No more of the “pulsed situation” that we see at airports, Musk writes, where scheduling generates lines. The Hyperloop will, with its regularity, seem like a steady flow. One possibility is that, in turn, it spurs even more on-demand transportation options. If you spend just 30 minutes getting from San Francisco to Los Angeles, you’re unlikely to want to spend another half-hour on a taxi line once you get there.

3. Tapping existing infrastructure makes the impossible possible. It’s not the pods that cost real money, Musk argues. Nor is it the motors to power them. It’s the tubes themselves. In the case of California, though, it’s possible to build the path on pylons above ground, which means “you can almost entirely avoid the need to buy land by following alongside the mostly very straight California Interstate 5 highway, with only minor deviations when the highway makes a sharp turn.”

The use of public resources can drive down costs, something Google has found as it has sought to build out Internet access with its Fiber project. Where it’s necessary to build on private land, Musk writes, the advantage of building above ground is that Hyperloop would inconvenience landowners no more than having a telephone pole on their property.

4. Affordability is the key to sustainability. Musk made his first real fortune on PayPal, a peer-to-peer banking system that made it possible for even the smallest of businesses to collect and distribute funds — and which powered the explosive growth of eBay. Now with his Tesla Motors, Musk says that his ultimate goal includes producing “affordably priced family cars” to “help expedite the move from a mine-and-burn hydrocarbon economy towards a solar electric economy.” It’s clear that Musk’s ambition is for Hyperloop to be an leap ahead, environmentally, as compared to existing modes of transportation. For that to happen, he’ll need to pull cars off the road and planes out of the air, which means keeping ticket prices low.

5. Open source is the way ahead. Hyperloop is an “open source transportation concept,” Musk says, “similar to Linux,” wherein the plans are released absent the copyright we might expect to see. Musk has invited feedback, saying “iteration of the design by various individuals and groups can help bring Hyperloop from an idea to a reality.” In particular, he says, he could use help designing the control mechanism for pods and the stations themselves.

In their new book, The Metropolitan Revolution, the Brookings Institution’s Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley describe federal and state governments as “a collection of hardened silos” where transportation departments design transportation-centric solutions. Cities, meanwhile, are “organic communities” where shared responsibilities can come from anywhere. It helps if plans and ideas, then, aren’t held in a proprietary grasp. It’s an openness to openness that is, in fact, key to the seriousness with which commentators have treated Musk’s role as a transportation entrepreneur. After all, he’s just a man with an idea.

So it seems like city farms and hyperloops have more in common to each other than just “controlled” environments.

Colorado’s Aging Population, Transportation and Hyperloops

Colorado’s population is 6th in the nation for growth. But the growth of 65 and older Coloradans is far more dramatic.

“We’ve been talking with our local governments,” said senior planner Brad Calvert. “People are struggling with the immensity of the issue, how broad and deep the challenges are. The topic is so big, they don’t know where to start. ”

Between 2000 and 2010, for the first time in state history, the 65-plus population grew at a faster rate than the state population: 32 percent compared with 17 percent.

Nationally, about 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65 every day until 2030. In Colorado, long home to a young population, the impact will be dramatic.

States like Hawaii and Minnesota have already created strategic plans for the aging population, but Colorado has not.

“There’s not been a long-term strategic plan on how we’re going to meet the needs that are already coming up with this aging population,” said Rich Mauro, senior policy and legislative analyst at DRCOG. “It’s not something we can put off any longer.”

Read more: Colorado’s cities and counties prepare for the “Silver Tsunami” – The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_25450206/cities-and-counties-prepare-colorados-silver-tsunami#ixzz2xRhHxvcv

Thus, more people will be using all kinds of transportation for the foreseeable future. In order to accommodate this trend, we must reimagine transportation for all kinds of population, but especially for the aging.

Initiatives like MIT’s AgeLab is doing exactly that. They take a systems perspective to make sure all groups are accounted for in predicting the future. The AgeLab found that  the vehicle and the driver must be enabled for a future of increasing immobility as drivers get older.  So in the video below they focus on infrastructure being the the most important and challenging thing to change for aging drivers.

How could the Hyperloop fit into this infrastructure? Autonomous cars will fill the gaps for aging people to commute to hyperloop hubs. But as mentioned in the video, people learning, adapting and trusting the new tech will be a major challenge.

Behaviour of people has the be the center piece for a hyperloop, not just the Colorado Hyperloop.  Luckily, Colorado is “home to one of the smartest, most productive and healthiest workforces in the nation, we have a strong economy with room for professional growth and our economic and business opportunities are diverse in industry and size.

 

Paring Back the Hype in Hyperloop, 3D Printing, R and D

A month ago there was alot of buzz about a 3D printing company that made models based off of Musk’s drawings. Articles had titles like: “3D Printing Startup Builds Hyperloop Model in 24 Hours”This was a bit misleading. If only they had actually made a working model of the hyperloop, then that would have advanced knowledge.

But still, it proved a very important thing, that new technology is so new that often we have dreams and ideas of how it can be used, but that are very different from how they might be used.

I actually thought they had printed a pod car or maybe printed a small track with pod.

The whole exercise of the hyperloop makes clear that 3D Printing technology will be used in they construction. I always imagined 3d printed pylons or arches for the loop.

I can imagine whoever prints a working model of the hyperloop, will have a significant edge of on others in building the actual loop.

Actually, many organizations have put the technical specs of the hyperloop into computer modeling and aerodynamic software. That often eliminates actually building it…like organizations such as this one: http://www.technologyreview.com/view/518076/experts-raise-doubts-over-elon-musks-hyperloop-dream/ Still, “one big problem is getting enough capital together to demonstrate and build untested technology.”

Alas, I reached out on twitter to a technology, sustainability, goverment and transportation expert:

@BlakeA23 Any example of successful tech leap in trans similar in magnitude to hyperloop? DK. Evolution more than revolution, usually.
— Michael Cunningham (@PolicyThatWorks) September 30, 2013

@PolicyThatWorks Probably correct… I wonder if a test hyperloop will be in a developing countries first. Cheaper and more goverment help.
— Blake Anneberg (@BlakeA23) September 30, 2013

So it will be interesting how this could effect Hyperloop technology in Colorado.