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Elon Musk Unveils Loop/Hyperloop: The Future of Public Transportation?

In early March this year, Elon Musk announcement that his latest venture - The Boring Company will change the trajectory of its proposed future-of-travel concepts 'Loop' and 'Hyperloop' to prioritize pedestrians and cyclists over vehicles. In light of the many harmful effects car traffic has on urban air quality, many countries are taking a stand to reduce dependency on cars as the main means of transportation. This new fossil-fuel-free technology could represent the future of urban transportation.

Author: Siphilele Magagula

Images: Courtesy of The Boring Company via Engadget


More and more countries are spearheading campaigns to rid their cities of vehicles through policies, design elements and tech design developments such as apps. Some cities, like Paris are even going further and offering citizens monetary incentives to encourage the use of public transportation as opposed to personal cars to reduce car emissions into the atmosphere.

It seems European cities, such as Paris are leading in reducing car dependency, presumably due to the fact that their cities were designed and built before the invention of cars. Leading U.S cities, however were designed to cater for vehicles, which makes the shift to carless a challenge. The Boring Company’s proposal to implement smart tunnels and hyperloops that prioritize cyclists and pedestrians over cars might be a welcome solution to reducing car dependency in such cities, which in turn contributes to improved air quality.

The Boring Company Shifts Focus From Cars to People

Elon Musk’s latest startup - The Boring Company plans to create a high speed underground transportation system called ‘Loop’. The company’s initial concept for the Loop involved transporting vehicles on high speed mobile platforms. Prototype video renderings show Teslas being lowered into tunnels on mobile platforms and taking off on a single rail at high speed. At the time this video was created the company was working on assessing possible challenges with this concept, as well as finding ways to lower the overall costs of implementing said concept. Reports state that the startup is already starting to dig a hole in the parking lot of Musk’s SpaceX/Tesla Los Angeles office. Footage below shows the company’s original Loop concept design.

Video courtesy of The Boring Company

In their mission to transform the future transport system, the company has opted to shift their focus from cars to people - the latest version of Loop prioritizes ferrying pedestrians and cyclists. They are not, however eliminating cars from the project’s spectrum as Musk stated that “[They] will still transport cars, but only after all personalized mass transit needs are met. It’s a matter of courtesy & fairness. If someone can’t afford a car, they should go first” in a recent tweet update on the project. The new concept integrates a hyperloop, which is a similar transportation system that also includes a pump system to reduce pressure inside tunnels in order for the pods carrying people to travel at even faster speeds. The newly released concept video of the system shows pods (the company refers to them as 'sleds') that resemble subway cars carrying groups of people. The sleds would load and unload people at street level, descend into underground tunnels and be propelled at high speeds.

The sleds are projected to be used in urban areas underneath cities, whereas the pedestrian/cyclist hyperloop pod system would be used for long distance travel, like in their possible hyperloop station in Washington which has been greenlit. The company has reportedly received its first excavation permit in Washington D.C.

Video courtesy of The Boring Company

How Different Are These Hyperloops and Tunnels From Existing Subways & Trains?

The announcement by Elon Musk spurred a difference of opinions amongst the general public, with people wondering how different this proposed “future of transportation” concept was from their daily mode of long distance travel. One Electrek reader pointed argued this notion, pointing out that “The transport units (pods) are MUCH smaller, making them way more flexible. Routing would be way more efficient, connecting times would be decreased significantly.” Commenting on the feasibility of this system, another reader explained that “Adding depth (pods come up/down to upper mini stations vs large stations) and time (on demand/supply vs fixed schedule) dimensions to equation may result in bottleneck situations and needs some smart coding/algorithms.” These are issues The Boring Company is presumably aware of and has possibly already working on.

Musk explained that the 'urban loop' would have thousands of small stations the size of a parking space to enable the sleds to transport passengers closer to their destinations and “blend seamlessly into the fabric of a city, rather than a small number of big stations like a subway.”

As the concept is still young and needs to be refined it is too soon to rule it out, it is putting pedestrians and environmental health first and therefore already starting off on the right foot. We will be reporting the progress.

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