By Kyle Oppenhuizen

 

Need to meet a client in Iowa City, say, now? Future technology may allow you to do that in less than 10 minutes.

 

Or what if you'd like to go lobby on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., this afternoon? In a short hour and 15 minutes, you could be knocking on the door to Sen. Chuck Grassley's office, using this same technology.

 

Inventor and entrepreneur Elon Musk, best known for starting SpaceX, Tesla Motors and PayPal, has introduced a design for a new transportation system, USA Todayand multiple media outlets have reported. "The Hyperloop" would be a system of people-sized pods moved over a network of air-free tubes, similar to the pneumatic tubes seen at the drive-up windows at banks.

 

The steel tube would, in theory, be able to shoot aluminum passenger pods, each containing up to 28 people, at speeds of up to 800 miles per hour, the Silicon Valley Business Journal reported. Musk said it would cost between $6 billion and $10 billion to build a Hyperloop line from San Francisco to Los Angeles, which would be about one-tenth of the cost of a proposed high-speed rail system in the state and would carry passengers four times faster.

 

Sounds amazing, right? Well, before you start dreaming of an afternoon rendezvous at Chicago's Wrigley Field that would still allow you to get home in time for dinner, note that the project could take seven to 10 years just to get to the first trial.

 

There are some details to work out, the USA Today article said. A straight pneumatic approach would likely be problematic because of friction. Another approach, which would involve using a vacuum in the tube and then using an electromagnetic suspension, would be hard to maintain, as one small crack could stop the whole system.

 

Musk also wrote in his blog that "The Hyperloop (or something similar) is, in my opinion, the right solution for the specific case of high-traffic city-pairs that are less than about 1,500 km or 900 miles apart." He went on to write that around that point, air travel probably ends up being faster and cheaper.