Elon Musk: Hyperloop Would Transport People Across Country at 4,000 Miles Per Hour

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Elon Musk wants us to ride the rails of the hyperloop. OnInnovation [CC by 2.0]/Flickr

If Elon Musk gets his way, you could someday soon be able to travel from New York City to Los Angeles in half an hour. Forty-five minutes, tops.

Impossible, you say? Not to the co-founder of PayPal and the brains (not to mention the wallet) behind Tesla Motors and SpaceX. He wants to see a new kind of transportation system called the Hyperloop that would connect distant cities and allow people to travel between them at a rocking 4,000 miles per hour.

Musk has mentioned the Hyperloop in the past, but until recently it all seemed theoretical. That all changed on July 15 when the serial technology entrepreneur tweeted "Will publish Hyperloop alpha design by Aug 12. Critical feedback for improvements would be much appreciated."

No one outside of Musk's inner circle knows exactly what the Hyperloop will look like or how it will work, but in the past he has described it as a "cross between a Concorde and a railgun and an air hockey table," according to TechCrunch. He called it the "fifth mode" of transportation that would join planes, trains, automobiles and boats.

Wired dug a little deeper and spoke to some undisclosed sources, who describe the Hyperloop as a massive, super-powered vacuum tube – similar to the pneumatic tubes that banks use at their drive-through windows – that would shoot train cars along at thousands of miles per hour with no resistance, no friction and no possibility of collision. Building the system would theoretically cost a fraction of current high-speed rails while offering consumers the opportunity to cross the country for as little as $100.

Musk isn't alone in his vision. A company called ET3 is already working on a similar project that could one day connect Los Angeles and San Francisco. They say they plan to run a prototype system on a three-mile test track before the end of this year, according to Yahoo News.

Musk hasn't tweeted anything since his cryptic announcement on Monday, and he doesn't appear to be talking to the media quite yet. But we'll all be eager to get more information as Aug. 12 approaches.