By Cheechee Lin
Bibop Gresta, COO of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, solemnly condemned the state of today’s commute when he strode on stage for CES® at Anderson.
We all have to deal with bad transportation: those of us navigating Los Angeles spend many hours stuck in what was supposed to be a 20-minute drive to work that drags into hours. In some worst-case-scenarios around the world (I’m looking at you, China), people have been stuck in a bumper-to-bumper scenario for over 24 hours. Wouldn’t it be cool if there were a way to solve this?
Conceptualized by Elon Musk of Tesla Motors and SpaceX fame, Hyperloop is a completely automated technology that promises to revolutionize continental travel. In 2013, Musk published a white paper proposing a mode of travel that could move at speeds of 1,200 km/h. (To put this into perspective, current high speed rails move at a pace of 320 km/h, and planes fly at 965 km/h.) Three years later, this concept is coming to fruition, with plans to begin construction across the globe for Hyperloop in 2016. This could in effect shorten a five- to six-hour commute from Los Angeles to San Francisco to only 35 minutes, using a path constructed along the I-5 freeway.
How is this possible? Inside a tube supported above the ground via pylons, capsules holding around 28 passengers each will depart in small intervals. The air is sucked out from the nose of the capsule and pushed on the back, thus eliminating most resistance inside the tube. The closed-off elevation above the ground makes the system virtually resistant to most weather conditions that plague current transportation systems.
The most interesting part about this proposition is the relatively small budget of this technology when compared to the expenditure for existing modes of transportation: Hyperloop promises to deliver at a budget of $10 billion, whereas a similar development plan for a high-speed railway would cost $68 billion. This price tag of $10 billion means there is no need for subsidies from the state. As Gresta put it, “It’s time to change this paradigm (of spending extravagant amounts on building transport systems) — this money can be better spent in developing our education and other important matters.”
Hyperloop’s ultimate goal is to “bring people closer, faster” through its technologies. What this means for the average consumer is that a person could live in Los Angeles and work in San Francisco — every day. That may sound borderline crazy but it could be done. And the best part is that Hyperloop is promising ticket fares lower than an airline’s. They’re even looking to figure out innovative solutions to getting you from your departure location to the Hyperloop local station via self-driving cars, making the entire experience short and delightful. With 28 passengers per capsule, meaning 67,000 per day, this could amount to 24 million passengers transported via Hyperloop in a year. On a smaller scale, the L.A.-SF line could replace four times the number of flights from LAX to SFO.
How will Hyperloop monetize this? The possibilities are endless:
When you have a passenger’s full attention for 30 minutes, this time is marketing gold and could be used in a variety of ways, from agency research to videos that captivate and delight.
Imagine next-hour delivery, but within cities. Organs and medical supplies, transported in a timely manner. When the distance between two points is effectively shortened by high speed, anything is possible.
Hyperloop promises to make this a regenerative energy technology, incorporating solar power panels on its tubes, combined with wind power and kinetic energy. They even tossed around the possibility of using these lines to deliver water to where it is lacking (cue the California drought). Interestingly enough, Hyperloop believes there will be a surplus of energy (30 percent) produced through this technology.
CES at Anderson is presented by the Easton Technology Management Center and the High Tech Business Association in partnership with the UCLA VC Fund, UCLA Anderson Office of Alumni Relations, UCLA Law School Alumni Network, UCLA Engineering Alumni Association, and UCLA Anderson Marketing & Communications.