It started out like science fiction. In 2012, billionaire and serial entrepreneur Elon Musk first shared his vision for a so-called “Hyperloop” that would work similarly to pneumatic tubes at a drive-through bank — only the Hyperloop would throttle passengers from one U.S. coast to another in just a matter of minutes.
“… this is not particularly realistic,” said one Hyperloop critic to the Huffington Post after Musk’s 2012 announcement.
But these plans that once sounded like something out of a futuristic film or book are far more realistic than anyone thought.
Musk tweeted in July that the government has verbally approved plans for a Hyperloop between New York City and Washington DC. What does this mean for business travel? Perhaps more than you think.
What Exactly is the Hyperloop?
The Hyperloop would be a high-speed transportation system featuring pods that travel at more than 700 miles an hour. The pods would travel through “vacuum environment” tubes using what’s known as magnetic levitation. Each pod would carry between 28 and 40 passengers, and those passengers could cover the distance between our nation’s largest city and our nation’s capital in just 29 minutes.
Not only is Musk pursuing plans to build a Hyperloop between NYC and DC, but he’s also actively encouraging other companies to do the same in other locations. Musk has open-sourced, or made available to the public, the technology that serves as the foundation for the Hyperloop.
This open-sourcing has sparked the creation of new companies that are hoping to secure a place in the transportation industry’s future.
One company, Hyperloop One, is already planning 11 routes in regions nationwide. Those 11 routes would mean Hyperloop travel between:
- Boston and Providence
- Miami and Orlando
- Los Angeles and San Diego
- Cheyenne and Houston
The Cheyenne to Houston route covers 1,152 miles. In a car, the journey would take you 17 hours. In a Hyperloop, it would last less than 2 hours.
Musk tweeted that he had earned verbal approval, which isn’t the same as written approval. And the Hyperloop isn’t likely to open for business anywhere before the end of the decade. But it takes time for industry-changing innovation to fully take shape — and Musk should know as much from his previous endeavors.
A History of Disruptive Invention
Does the idea of the Hyperloop still sound impossible? If so, no one could blame you. But remember that Elon Musk has served as a founder or co-founder of several companies, each of which has proposed doing something outrageous.
He co-founded PayPal in 1998 at a time when consumers were still reluctant to use credit cards for online purchases. He co-founded Tesla in 2003 at a time when the dominance of gas-combustion automobiles appeared unshakable. And while space tourism hasn’t become a reality just yet, Musk’s SpaceX (founded in 2002) continues to complete successful tests that draw the company closer and closer to privatized space adventures and exploration.
Given his track record, Musk isn’t one to be doubted.
What Does This Mean for Business Travel?
The Hyperloop doesn’t pose any immediate implications for business travel. But it very well may in the future.
Imagine being able to send your team members up and down the Eastern Seaboard or Pacific Coast for face-to-face meetings in the time it now takes just to drive from your office to the airport.
Imagine a Hyperloop that travels under the Atlantic Ocean and unlocks easy access to European markets.
Imagine the added productivity that would emerge if business travel times were slashed to a fraction of their current length.
Uber may have seemed like a novelty when it first started serving travelers in 2009. Just 7 years later, it was the vendor most expensed by business travelers. Perhaps the Hyperloop will be the next big disruptor in business travel.
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