Technology Explained

4 Ways the Hyperloop Will Improve Life for You and Me

Matthew Hughes 12-07-2016

The Hyperloop is a really, really good idea. The technology itself — which is based on sending passengers in pods coursing through vacuum tubes at improbably fast speeds How Elon Musk's Hyperloop Could Change Mass Transit Elon Musk's hyperloop is a totally new kind of transit. Here's what we know so far. Read More  — is, without a doubt, going to radically change the world Top 10 Emerging Technologies That Are Changing The World From agriculture to medicine to energy, advancements are being made every day. Learn a little bit about these 10 emerging technologies that could directly affect your life within the next few years. Read More .


But more than that, it’s going to change our society for the better. Here’s why.

1. It Will Solve the Housing Crisis

Over the past twenty years, the cost of housing in metropolitan locations, like London and San Francisco, has soared. This has been due to a number of factors — demand, speculation, even money laundering — but the consequence has been pretty uniform.

The poorest have been displaced from these cities, as it has become no longer tenable to live in them on a working-class, or even middle-class, wage.

The Hyperloop won’t fix this. It won’t make cities like London or San Francisco any less attractive to live in. It won’t stop people looking at housing as an investment rather than a place to live. And no, the Hyperloop won’t convince governments to move money into affordable housing or much-needed rent controls.



But it will make it possible to commute from ever-distant towns and cities. It will make it possible to travel cheaply from Edinburgh to London in just thirty minutes. Edinburgh, in addition to being lovely, has a significantly lower cost of living than London and plentiful housing stock.

Similarly, it will make it possible to travel between San Francisco and Los Angeles in thirty minutes, where housing is around 66% cheaper.

Both London and San Francisco — and cities like them, including Geneva, Paris, and Vancouver — have seen a tragic social cleansing due to gentrification. The Hyperloop won’t fix this, but it will allow ordinary people to continue taking advantage of work and schooling opportunities without paying an arm and a leg for housing.

2. It’s Cheaper Than the Alternatives

When Elon Musk first released his plans for the Hyperloop in 2013, he also used the opportunity to bash California’s $70 billion plan for a high-speed rail line as being too slow, too expensive, and too impractical.


Those criticisms could apply to all of rail travel in general.


Creating new rail lines is both extremely expensive and hugely disruptive. The U.K. is currently working on a new high-speed rail line called HS2, which will stretch from London to Manchester (a four-hour trip by car). Construction is estimated to be completed in 2033, and the final cost is estimated to be over $106 billion.

Upgrading existing lines is also expensive. The U.K.’s rail network still depends on antiquated stock and old Pacer trains, which were supposed to have been retired in the 1990s.


The Hyperloop doesn’t have any of these problems. It can exist on stilts way above existing roadway infrastructure or farmland, reducing the costs and time required to build. Elon Musk himself believes that a line running from San Francisco to Los Angeles will only cost between $6 billion and $16 billion (although this has been disputed).

3. It’s the Safest Form of Transportation

The United States is huge. A consequence of this means if you want to get anywhere fast, you have to fly. Thankfully, flying is one of the safest modes of transportation we currently have. When a plane crashes, it’s a major news story: that’s how rare plane crashes are.

But the Hyperloop will be even safer. First of all, because the “pods” — which will contain individuals and cargo — will be fully driverless, there’s no chance of human error causing an accident. There will be zero chance of an intoxicated driver causing a collision or a tired driver falling asleep at the wheel.

Elon Musk himself said that it is “intrinsically safer than airplanes, trains, or automobiles”. In the original plan for the system, he said:


“The system is immune to wind, ice, fog, and rain. The propulsion system is integrated into the tube and can only accelerate the capsule to speeds that are safe in each section. With human control error and unpredictable weather removed from the system, very few safety concerns remain.”

Musk also believes that the finished product will eventually have safety mechanisms that will mitigate against the biggest threat, depressurization of a Hyperloop tube:

“In the unlikely event of a large scale capsule depressurization, other capsules in the tube would automatically begin emergency braking whilst the Hyperloop tube would undergo rapid re-pressurization along its entire length.

Once all capsules behind the stranded capsule had been safely brought to rest, capsules would drive themselves to safety using small onboard electric motors to power deployed wheels. All capsules would be equipped with a reserve air supply great enough to ensure the safety of all passengers for a worst case scenario event.”

4. It Will Be Affordable to the Masses

Because the Hyperloop will be so incredibly efficient — both in terms of the energy consumed and in terms of the potential passenger throughput — it will also be the cheapest consumer mode of transportation ever.

Elon Musk claims that a ticket from San Francisco to Los Angeles would cost just $20. Meanwhile, at the time of writing, the cheapest last-minute direct plane ticket Skyscanner Use Skyscanner To Get The Best Deals On Flights Skyscanner is an iOS application designed to help you maximize your savings so you can have as much money as possible to spend while on your vacation. If you only have a certain amount of... Read More could find for me is $160.


That flight would also take roughly three times the proposed Hyperloop speed. This doesn’t take into account the time spent at the airport, waiting in long TSA lines and dealing with potential delays. Nor does it take into account the time required to commute to-and-from the airport.

This speed is hugely important. It essentially democratizes supersonic transportation, which has previously been the preserve of the ultra-rich. Before the Concorde was retired in 2003, a round-trip ticket across the Atlantic would have cost roughtly $16,000.

That’s equivalent to the cost of a new car or a community college degree. It was, obviously, completely unaffordable for most ordinary people. But the Hyperloop will finally make it possible for the same ordinary people to travel at supersonic speeds.

It’s Science Fact, Not Science Fiction

Earlier this year, a former colleague of mine boarded a bus in Las Vegas and headed deep into the sweltering Nevada desert. He was on his way to see the flagship test of Hyperloop One’s propulsion system. When we met up weeks later in Amsterdam for The Next Web 2016, I asked him what it was like.

“Watching history in the making”, he said.

There’s something inherently futuristic about the Hyperloop. Even its name sounds ahead of our time. You could be forgiven for thinking that it’s something someone stole from science fiction and ran with, but it isn’t. It’s truly happening.

The Hyperloop is real and people are spending a lot of time and money in bringing it to life. This technology, which seems “too good to be true” in many ways, is going to change the world — and it’s going to happen in our lifetimes.

What do you think of the Hyperloop? Are you excited for its potential or is it an overhyped piece of technology that will never live up to its claims? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

Related topics: Futurology, Technology, Transportation.

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  1. Doc
    July 12, 2016 at 9:55 pm

    This won't alleviate housing prices, it will just add the other endpoint of the hyperloop to the housing pool, creating a crowded housing market there as well. It's a stopgap, not a solution, unless there is a way to add multiple on/off points on every hyperloop, creating a "suburb" at each stop point.
    Also, at $20 one way, it's not a commuter would cost $200 to take the hyperloop to and from work for one week, every week. You'd have to be making beaucoup $$$ in order for that to be affordable.

    • Anonymous
      July 13, 2016 at 2:25 pm

      "unless there is a way to add multiple on/off points on every hyperloop"
      Which would defeat the purpose of the Hyperloop, i.e. super fast transportation. Too much time would be spent on accelerating/decelerating between stops.

      • Anonymous
        July 13, 2016 at 4:52 pm

        Exactly my point. You'd need hundreds of hyperloops, one for every point-to-point route you'd want, in order to make this into a commuter-friendly setup.

        • Anonymous
          July 13, 2016 at 6:21 pm

          So there goes the myth of "inexpensive to construct and non-disruptive"

    • Kevin
      July 13, 2016 at 10:09 pm

      The idea is to create 'sidings' at every stop along the loop, that way at various times there will be one 'train' leaving for the farthest distance away at short intervals, ending with the closest last. This way a 'train' could be in a siding, freeing up the main tube, allowing other 'trains' to shoot past while it either changes tubes (to change direction) or re-joins the tube to carry on it's journey to it's final end point.

    • Matthew Hughes
      July 27, 2016 at 3:33 pm

      "The Hyperloop won’t fix this. It won’t make cities like London or San Francisco any less attractive to live in. It won’t stop people looking at housing as an investment rather than a place to live. And no, the Hyperloop won’t convince governments to move money into affordable housing or much-needed rent controls."

      I think I was quite careful to say that it won't alleviate housing prices. My argument was that it would make it possible to commute from cheaper areas, with the example I gave was someone commuting into London from Edinburgh.

      • Moe
        October 12, 2016 at 2:46 pm

        Thanks for bringing it to our attention about this new technology! Henry Ford once said that " If he would have asked people what kind of car they wanted, they would have said faster horses" So let the critics say whatever they want but fictions are becoming realities people and we need to accept it.

  2. Anonymous
    July 12, 2016 at 9:24 pm

    First subways/undergrounds were of the pneumatic tube design. That did not last past the demonstration stage, being replaced by rails.

    "It Will Solve the Housing Crisis"
    Haven't you heard? The suburbs are dying. People are moving back into the city which causes the gentrification.

    "Creating new rail lines is both extremely expensive and hugely disruptive. "
    And Hyperloop will appear fully built and financed by magic?! Both railways and Hyperloop need rights of way which are not cheap to obtain. Hyperloop tubes have to built to much higher tolerances than railways and that ain't cheap. Building a tube, whether above ground or below, is always more expensive and disruptive han just laying rails.

    "It’s the Safest Form of Transportation"
    Since there are no Hyperloop tubes in commercial use as yet, the above statement is only a supposition and wishful thinking.

    " because the “pods”.........................will be fully driverless, there’s no chance of human error causing an accident."
    There will also be no humans making decisions necessary to avoid accidents. Computers perform only the tasks they have been programmed with. NO computer can be programmed with ALL the possible eventualities it will face. Humans can make intuitive decisions based on incomplete data, computers/AI cannot. It will be a very long time before AI approaches the decision making capabilities of a human.

    "The system is immune to wind, ice, fog, and rain."
    True. But since Elon Musk wants to build a Hyperloop from Los Angeles to San Francisco, will he magically make the pods and tubes immune form earthquakes? If an earthquakes misalignes a tube by even a fraction of an inch, at 800 mph dead passengers will not even leave wet spots to be wiped up.

    "It Will Be Affordable to the Masses"
    You ARE joking, aren't you? Hyperloop will as affordable to the masses as the the Concorde was. The company(ies) that build the Hyperloop will want to recover their expenses, and ASAP. $20 a head just ain't gonna cut it!

    "This doesn’t take into account the time spent at the airport, waiting in long TSA lines and dealing with potential delays."
    TSA will be more necessary for Hyperloop travel that it is for the air travel. Can you imagine what would happen if even a small amount of C4 or RDX went of at 800 mph?

    "It’s Science Fact, Not Science Fiction"
    The technology may be science but a commercially viable Hyperloop, with all the attendant problems worked out, is still not even science fiction but fantasy. It is one thing to build a few hundred feet of test track, it quite another to build 400-500 miles of a safe, reliable transportation line.

    • Matthew Hughes
      July 27, 2016 at 3:31 pm

      You've gotta love that trademark fcd76218 cynicism, don't you? ;)

      • Anonymous
        July 27, 2016 at 9:52 pm

        Somebody has to ride herd on the rose-colored glasses wearing Pollyannas. :-) If it wasn't for the cynics, there would be no safety regulations.

        Wasn't there a disastrous fire in Chunnel couple of years ago?
        I seem to remember a similar fire in one of the under-Alp tunnels.
        Tesla electric cars were acclaimed as THE FUTURE as well as being the Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread. All the Pollyannas jumped on the band wagon. They couldn't wait to get their hands on one. Then the Autopilot problem reared its ugly head. The Pollyannas were deserting Tesla as if it was the Titanic, led by stock analysts from the biggest brokerage houses.

  3. Saul John Herrera
    July 12, 2016 at 7:23 pm

    Hyperloop, in 50 to 100 years will bring down the cost of air travel!! It might also put Amtrak out of business and make Elon Musk a legend.

    • Matthew Hughes
      July 27, 2016 at 3:31 pm

      I think Elon Musk is already a legend. ;)