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Hyperloop’s latest successful test falls short of goals

J-P Mauro - published on 08/03/17 - updated on 08/03/17

The pod reached speeds of nearly 200 mph, much lower than the theorized 750 mph.

Elon Musk’s dream of cross-country travel by tube reached a milestone this weekend, as the development team tested the transportation pod in a near-vacuum tube. The pod was able to reach a speed of 192 mph, which is less than half the 750-mph speed Musk had envisioned.

This difference in speed has raised the question of Hyperloop’s viability as an improvement on current mass transit methods. Japan’s bullet trains are already capable of reaching 200 mph and the cost to install Hyperloop tubes across a country is much higher.

As The Verge reports, speed is not the only compromise made by developers in attempt to bring Musk’s designs to fruition. The design of the car has also changed drastically, from the size of a bobsled to roughly the size of a bus. Another change was to the projected travel routes; originally intended to be a loop, the routes now seem much more linear.

As for the shape of the craft, it seems natural that developers would want to make it a little bigger than “coffin-sized”:

It’s easy to understand why Hyperloop One made the shift. It would be difficult to load a small three-person craft efficiently, and with all the passengers headed to the same destination, there’s little to be gained by transporting separate crafts. The simple claustrophobia of a coffin-sized shuttle might have been too much for some passengers.

However, the travel routes seem to create a larger deficit in the efficiency of the system:

Musk’s initial spec was self-powering, counting on constant high-speed winds in a single direction through the loop, speeding the craft in the early stages and being driven by the craft later on. That system requires a complex on-boarding / off-boarding system that’s largely missing from Hyperloop One’s plans, which more closely resemble a traditional train.

While the team was not able to achieve the speeds anticipated, they still account the experiment as a success, as it offers a “proof of concept.” The engineers at Hyperloop seem undeterred by the results of this test. One worker claims:

“We’re running the pod faster and faster each day. We’re going longer and longer distances and we’re getting closer to deploying it throughout the world.”
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ScienceTechnology
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