Few ideas have accelerated from conception to hype to full-blown reality as quickly as Elon Musk’s Hyperloop — a futuristic urban transit system. Appropriate enough name, considering that the technology is designed to propel riders rapidly to 700 mph.
A cadre of onlookers, both from the press and the business world, watched in awe at the successful demonstration held on May 11, 2016. Although the demo only took five seconds from start to finish, the technological consequences will likely reverberate throughout time. That day potentially marks the day that the problems of vehicle pollution, commutes and accidents could diminish far below their current levels. Said North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee attending the event: “It’s great to see North Las Vegas at the cutting edge of technology,”
Not ones to miss out on the gravitas, the demonstration planners purposefully held the event just a few days after the 147th anniversary of the driving of the golden spike that connected the nation’s first transcontinental railroad.
History in the Making on the Apex Site
The successful test took place in North Las Vegas’ burgeoning Apex Industrial Park site. Currently being developed for tenants that include electric vehicle manufacturer Faraday Future, Apex has been home to many groundbreakings both literal and metaphorical in the past few months.
Most recently, 500 invitees bore witness to the first successful public demonstration of what Hyperloop One technologies is capable of. The prototype unit consisted of a massive steel tube with a sled mounted on a track in the middle. In between the sled and the track were powerful magnets, capable of levitating the apparatus and creating a cushion of air.
As the technicians activated the demonstration unit from their control center, a 10-second countdown alarm sounded. When it reached one, the sled was instantly propelled by strong magnetic and decompressive forces, sending it rocketing from zero to 100 miles per hour in a mere 1.1 seconds.
This unit was designed to “splash down” into a sand-filled deceleration pit at the end of its approximately 100-meter journey. However, the test track itself extended much farther, stretching around three kilometers into the Nevada desert. When fully realized, the actual Hyperloop will go even greater distances, carrying people and cargo at speeds of 700 mph.
To accelerate growth on the project, creator Elon Musk made much of the experimental technology available publicly via open-source documents. Project heads include Executive Chairman Shervin Pishevar, CEO Rob Lloyd and Chief Technology Office Brogan BamBrogan of Musk’s other famed project, SpaceX. The next phase of development includes a closed-loop test track capable of testing the technology’s use with cargo loads or extended duration journeys.
And while the loop may look like it is spinning in circles even when functioning properly, it will be propelling mankind into a more sustainable and pleasant future for all.