The head of the UCLA-based design program developing Elon Musk’s Hyperloop high-speed transport concept has described the project as “insane” and “pure science fiction,” but only in the most positive sense of the terms. In speaking with the Daily Breeze, Professor Craig Hodgetts was also very quick to add that the physics of the project were sound. Radical the concept most certainly is though, and while there are many logistical, engineering and legislative hurdles yet to overcome, the 25 graduate students enrolled in the program are currently working towards building a full-scale prototype of one of the system’s transport pods.
One of the biggest challenges the team are facing is passenger pick up and drop off. With the enormous speeds along the route — the Hyperloop will transport passengers at around 760 mph — seamlessly integrating new passengers into the tube and not creating a dangerous bottleneck at their destination will require some careful engineering. Similarly, the terminals for the Hyperloop system will need to be readily accessible and preferably centrally located. Then passengers won’t have to take a purpose-defeating 45 minutes to an hour to travel between the station and their home or final destination, as is usually the case with a conventional airport. Hodgetts notes, “This is an entirely new, systemic approach to the idea of inter-urban transportation. So it’s not going to play by the rules.”
Another design issue under consideration is the effects of the enormous speed on the human body. If the forces exerted just make passengers want to throw up, well, no one’s going to want to turn up to a business meeting with vomit on their jacket, so they’ll just take their transport dollar elsewhere! The team are looking at low-pressure interiors to combat the effects of approaching the speed of sound and Hodgetts is looking to the styling of the Lamborghini Miura for the design inspiration. He describes the car’s interior thus: “It was the most incredible capsule I had ever got into. That’s the kind of experience I’m talking about.”
Meanwhile, interestingly, the majority of the students in the program are Chinese. They report great interest in the project in their home country, which would benefit from ultra high-speed intercity travel. Danfeng Chen, who hails from Beijing stated, “I think it could be more popular in China than here. We have a large amount of travelers from one city to another.” If California ultimately doesn’t take to the project, it could well gain traction elsewhere.
Images by Tesla Motors