Following months of fevered speculation, dashing real life James Bond villain Elon Musk has just unveiled the details of his theoretical Hyperloop transportation system that would be able to transport passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in a half-hour (which is just under 400 miles and nearly six hours by car).
In very lay terms, the project works like this: Aluminum "pods" would speed along at nearly 800 mph inside a steel tube that is raised up on pylons along (in the LA to SF scenario) along the I-5. The tube would maintain a low-pressure environment to reduce drag (rather than a complete vacuum tube as some had speculated and that--by Musk's calculations--would be completely impractical), while the passenger pods be fitted with solar-powered fans on their nose to create a low-friction cushion of air for the pods to ride on top of.
The whole thing would not be entirely dissimilar to the pneumatic tube systems of old. During an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, Musk said the Hyperloop would feature pods traveling with about 5 miles between them that would be able to depart every 30 seconds.
According to Musk, the technology would be best for cities that are less than 900 miles apart and have a large amount of traffic between them. "Around that inflection point," Musk said via a press release "I suspect that supersonic air travel ends up being faster and cheaper." According to Musk's report, the I-5 Hyperloop could be built for only $10 billion, which Musk directly compares to California's San Diego-to-San Francisco high-speed rail that is projected to cost $70 billion.
Musk has stated that he has no current plans to develop the Hyperloop himself in the near future, but rather is putting the concept for others to run with while he concentrates on Tesla, his electric car company, and Space X, his space transport company.