Startup News & Analysis

Elon Musk pivots Hyperloop project towards public transport, effectively creating … a train

Dominic Powell /

Close your eyes for a minute and imagine a mass transport system for the general public, where numerous people can sit and stand in one vehicle.

If it doesn’t sound particularly revolutionary, it’s because it has existed since the 1820s and is called a ‘bus’. So what about if you take those mass transport systems and put them underground and on rails with stations all around a city, surely that’s revolutionary?

Well, no. That’s a train.

But, coincidentally, it’s also pretty close to what millionaire entrepreneur moonshot man Elon Musk says he wants to build.

In a series of tweets at the end of last week (have we mentioned Elon Musk loves Twitter?) the SpaceX/Tesla/Boring Company founder outlined a pivot of sorts for how his futuristic Hyperloop transport system will function. The underground travel system, which building approval is currently being sought for, will now prioritise pedestrians and cyclists over cars.

“Will still transport cars, but only after all personalized mass transit needs are met. It’s a matter of courtesy & fairness. If someone can’t afford a car, they should go first,” Musk said.

This is a departure from the norm for the anti-public transport Musk, who notoriously said public transport “sucks”, was a “pain in the ass”, and “everyone doesn’t like it”. Some have speculated that the sudden switch in tone, alongside more consideration for disadvantaged city-dwellers, may be a move to try and win over city officials.

“Boring Co urban loop system would have 1000’s of small stations the size of a single parking space that take you very close to your destination & blend seamlessly into the fabric of a city, rather than a small number of big stations like a subway,” he said on Twitter.

Okay, so it’s not quite a train. It will have lots of little above-ground stations, a bit like a bus. Is it a bus-train? Or maybe a tram?

Here’s a video of the bus-train-tram in action.

Musk did respond to the bus-driven criticism, telling one Twitter user: “I guess you could say it’s a 150 mph, underground, autonomous, electric bus that automatically switches between tunnels and lifts. So, yes, a bus”.

In other Musk-related news, the ambitious entrepreneur has also said his space startup SpaceX will be sending its first space vehicle to Mars in 2019, reports CNBC, with the goal of establishing the first point of call for a human population on Mars.

“We are building the first Mars, or interplanetary ship, and I think we’ll be able to [do] short trips, flights by first half of next year. Although sometimes, my timelines are a little, you know…” he said.

“I think once we build it we’ll have a point of proof, something that other companies and countries can go and do. They certainly don’t think it’s possible, but if we do they’ll up their game.”

NOW READ: Elon Musk’s social media lesson: Don’t be afraid to offer help

Dominic Powell

Dominic Powell is the lead reporter at StartupSmart.

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  • techangelist

    Seems like you take the bus and train for granted as though they were always part of the ether of life. They were not. They were thought up. They were built atop ideas that already existed … and tweaked. Just like the hyperloop will be.