America’s federal government is taking Elon Musk’s hyperloop idea seriously: Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx said Friday the US government should “lean in” to Musk’s proposed idea for a futuristic tube-based method of transportation and said the US government will consider providing funding for hyperloop research.
As currently proposed, the hyperloop uses a partially pressurized tube to propel “pods” or passenger cars on a bed of air at speeds of up to 760 mph. At that speed, you could get from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 35 minutes.
Image: Jason Koebler
Musk originally proposed the idea back in August of 2013, and he open-sourced the white paper in which he proposed it. Currently, there are two commercial companies trying to build a hyperloop, and Musk’s SpaceX is building a one-mile test track at its Hawthorne, California headquarters. I’m at Texas A&M University at the first big hyperloop conference, a pod design competition between more than 100 university teams to earn the right to test their pods at the SpaceX test track.
“Let me be honest. When I first heard about the hyperloop, I was less than enthusiastic,” Foxx told the hundreds in attendance. “I had a lot of reservations when it was first unveiled, and I reflexively thought this proposal was impractical because it faced seemingly insurmountable barriers, including the fact that we don’t have a Federal Hyperloop Administration.”
“We have a responsibility not to just continue the conventional forms of transportation,” Foxx added. “We have the responsibility to continue nudging the future along and stretching along with the innovators and people who think we can do better.”
Foxx said that the DOT will consider providing grants to researchers who want to research the hyperloop using its University Transportation Center Program, which provides funding for projects such as self driving cars and other transportation research.
“The UTC program is a potential avenue,” he said. “We should not, and will not take a reflexive ‘no’ position.”
The fact that the country’s most important voice on transportation issues even showed up to the conference speaks volumes to the fact that the US is indeed taking Musk’s idea seriously, but Foxx said the DOT has lots of other things on its plates.
“We need to get our arms around driverless cars and connected cars,” he said. But “the hyperloop is one of many conversations that’s being had about the integration of technology and transportation—I think we should lean into it.”