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First Hyperloop Tunnel by Elon Musk Is Gone Now A Parking Lot

It’s easy to forget that, just a few months ago, Elon Musk was best known as the man who once purchased a car company and wants to impose serfdom on Mars because his controversial decisions have dominated the news cycle for the past week or two.

There is a project that, although having been established for half a decade at this time, has only occasionally made news where those two long-standing interests meet. Musk’s “hyperloop” project has been a constant sideshow for SpaceX ever since he floated the idea of building a massive tunnel under Los Angeles on Twitter in 2016 to avoid traffic. It has grown from a single tunnel built for Musk’s own personal commute to a potential Mars mining venture to an actual existing travel system for at least one city.

The first prototype, a section of tunnel that was about a mile long and located along Jack Northrop Avenue in Hawthorne, California, is now gone, and it will shortly be replaced with a number of parking places for SpaceX personnel.

According to Erik Wright, the owner of one of the businesses engaged in the launch of the hyperloop project, “We had a bittersweet moment knowing this was going to be taken down.” “Such as at a funeral.”

 

The destruction of the prototype tunnel, where engineering students from all around the world tested their skills in yearly pod racing contests, isn’t the only indication that SpaceX’s plans for the hyperloop are on hold. For people like Wright, for whom the project undoubtedly held sentimental importance, the fall may be disheartening, but it is hardly surprising; after all, Musk’s claims for the hyperloop never quite lived up to the hype.

In practice, the hyperloop turned out to be…well, a lot closer to what you’d imagine when you heard the words “like a system of underground tunnels, except smaller and therefore more dangerous.” The hyperloop was originally pitched as a vast 3D network of underground tunnels, free from things like traffic and speed limits, through which travelers of the future could be taken along at 200 kilometers per hour (143 miles per hour) to the destination of their choice.

When the hyperloop was finally installed in Las Vegas in July 2021, the maglev shuttles, which had been zipping commuters around at triple-figure speeds, were replaced by a fleet of Tesla cars driven by human drivers and limited to a leisurely 64 km/h (40 mph)—assuming you didn’t encounter a traffic jam along the way.

In essence, it turned out to be a Tesla-exclusive underground version of Uber or Lyft, with the exception that it could only handle roughly 800 passengers per hour and was restricted to a few specific locations rather than taking you everywhere you wanted to go. For the city of Las Vegas, which had given Musk’s business $52.5 million on the promise of an affordable, futuristic transportation system that could move up to 4,400 people per hour, it must have been rather embarrassing.

The failure of several other hyperloop proposals after Musk’s elaborate presentation in 2017 may not come as a surprise. But according to urban planner Christof Spieler, a vice president of Huitt-Zollars and lecturer at Rice University in Houston, Texas, “one of Musk’s great brilliances is that he’s incredibly good at the drama of introducing an idea and making that idea appear earth-shattering and wonderful.”

 

He remarked, “He introduced this technology that was meant to be pods moving at really rapid speeds in vacuum tunnels.” “Nobody would have been excited if he had released a film saying, ‘Imagine a future when there is a tunnel for taxi cabs.'”

The removal of this project’s first iteration, however, and its unwittingly symbolic replacement with a parking lot for conventional, above-ground cars, suggests that the Musk hyperloop has been put on hold permanently, at least for the time being. Just let’s hope Musk has something to do now that the distraction is over.

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