Elon Musk And The Frontier Of Transportation

Elon Musk has situated himself at the intersection of innovation and transportation. The ambitious entrepreneur, who made his fortune as a co-founder of PayPal, isn’t interested in merely improving our modes of transportation – he’s keen to entirely redefine them by doing what others say is not possible.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the two companies he heads: Tesla and SpaceX. Tesla is busy perfecting the all-electric car that everybody else was too busy dismissing as fantasy rather than developing it themselves, and SpaceX is making incredible strides in developing reusable spacecraft as part of their larger goal of making it possible for humans to live on other planets.

The two companies keep him pretty busy – so busy, in fact, that his idea of a hyperloop that would enable transit from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 35 minutes has been open-sourced because he just doesn’t have the time to do it himself.

In other words, Elon Musk isn’t a man who often finds himself in the grip of a Netflix binge. Here’s how he fills those hours without the aid of House of Cards.

Tesla

Tesla is concerned with the design and manufacturing of all-electric vehicles and are even re-invigorating the USA automotive industry to an extent, being the first American automotive company to go public since Ford.

The company was founded in 2003 with the goal of eventually producing an electric car that the average consumer can afford and as of just last month, when the company announced the modestly-priced Model 3, they appear to have reached that goal.

It all began with the Tesla Roadster, an all-electric sportscar with a six-figure price tag. The prohibitive price has limited sales of the roadster but it remains an important part of the Telstra story and – having won many design awards when it was first introduced – did a great deal to raise awareness of the company.

Next came the Model S, a full-size luxury sedan. With sales of over 100,000 units worldwide, it is the best selling Tesla currently on roads and a network of “superchargers” has cropped up to keep that fleet moving. These charging stations are able to bring a Model S up to 80% capacity – a range of 270 kilometres – and they’re free (and musk has promised they always will be) for Model S drivers to make use of.

The Model X is Tesla’s full-size crossover SUV but any excitement surrounding it has been quieted by the announcement of the Model 3, the realized vision of an all-electric car that the average consumer can afford. More than 325,000 consumers have already ponied up a refundable deposit to hold their spot in the queue for when the Model 3 starts rolling off of assembly lines next year so it’s clear that Musk was quite prescient in his estimates of consumer appetite for an all-electric vehicle.

We’re just hoping they come in Blrt green.

SpaceX

Elon Musk’s other foray into transportation is SpaceX, the company he founded in 2002 with the modest goal of making it possible for humans to live on other planets. Their website boldly claims their abilities in a way that is bold and beautiful for it’s straightforward simplicity:

SpaceX designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft.

Oh, is that all?

Even though this credo is straightforward, the processes that they are trying to master are anything but. In the short-term SpaceX is focused on creating reusable rockets that will greatly reduce the cost and significantly increase the efficiency of space travel.

So far their Falcon 9 rockets have done fantastic work for NASA, delivering supplies to the space station but the goal of reusing these rockets continues to be a work in progress. Rockets have been successfully piloted into landings on dry land but the orbit necessary to circle back to the landmass from which the rocket was launched consumes extra fuel that could be conserved if the rocket were able to orbit naturally and descend over the ocean.

All you would need is a barge to land on and a way to land a massive rocket on it even as it pitches about in the open ocean. Easy, right?

We can be glib about this because after several less-than-ideal attempts at achieving this very manoeuvre, SpaceX have finally pulled it off.

On April 8, they successfully touched down a Falcon 9 rocket on the drone barge Of Course I Still Love You (partner to the drone barge Just Read The Instructions) and their ambition is to reuse the rocket within two months.

The hard yards are still ahead of them. The rocket will need to be inspected, repaired and “reloaded”. Not to mention, all of this can only be done after the rocket is brought back from the middle of the ocean.

Still, the bigger goal continues to be: make it possible to establish a human colony on Mars. It didn’t work out for Matt Damon but Musk is confident enough that it will happen within his lifetime that he’s incorporated such a colony into his retirement plan. He once quipped that he would “like to die on Mars, just not on impact.”

Never has boundless ambition been anchored to such practical realism so inextricably.

Hyperloop

The hyperloop started as a project of SpaceX but has grown into a movement of sorts, uniting researchers from universities and private organizations from every corner of the globe.

The project involves the design of a new form of rapid (that is: very rapid) mass transportation that will connect major cities. The proposed initial route would connect San Francisco and Los Angeles, and would reduce travel between the business districts of the two cities by upward of two hours.

How does it work?

As it is currently envisioned, the hyperloop involves moving a passenger capsule through a near-vacuum created inside of an enclosed steel tube. In the absence of significant air resistance this capsule should be able to achieve top speeds that are twice that of a conventional airliner (1,200 km/h on the SF-LA route) and much greener, relying on solar power provided by panels mounted above the tubes.

At this point you might be thinking that the prospect of shooting through the countryside at speeds just shy of Mach One (the speed of sound) in a narrow cylinder without windows or a pilot sounds, well, terrifying – and you would not be alone in this thinking.

One of the chief concerns with the proposed design of the hyperloop is passenger comfort and safety. Any movement of a piece of the tunnel that is more than a few thousandths of a centimetre would represent at the very least a violent bump, if not a catastrophic impact. Building smooth and straight tubes is one thing but keeping them that way – especially in an area famous for tectonic instability, as California is – might prove to be the biggest challenge facing any eventual hyperloop.

Still, it’s an interesting enough concept that a “Hyperloop Movement” has begun in earnest. Researchers around the world are racing to enter Musk’s challenge to produce a fully-functional half-scale pod while others are forging their own paths. Ideas range from a lower-speed suburban circuit all the way to a series of connected hyperloops criss-crossing the European continent. Visions are myriad but the impressive ambition is very much uniform.

The speculation is that Musk will eventually choose one of the startups that are cropping up around the movement and lend his stamp of approval (which we assume is made of gold, or some new composite material developed at SpaceX) but for the moment he appears happy to ride the bench and see what the world’s best minds do with the idea.

That Elon Musk ambition

We certainly admire the ambition of Musk and his teams of brilliant minds at Tesla and SpaceX – likewise, the many teams actively working to produce the world’s first hyperloop. We at Blrt love it when great minds get together – in fact, it’s what we’re all about.

Whether you’re developing a hyperloop pod or working on some other ambitious project, Blrt can help you get your team on the same page. Elon Musk started an entire movement when he released his white paper on his vision of a hyperloop – what will you inspire?

About Blrt

Blrt helps you get your point across quickly by allowing you to talk, point and draw over images, documents and websites. The resulting video-like recording is called a Blrt.

Your Blrts require much less bandwidth than video and can be shared with anyone on mobile or desktop. This makes Blrt ideal for both collaboration and the creation and sharing of dynamic content, as public Blrts can be embedded into any webpage.

Once recorded, Blrts are stored in the cloud and are exchanged with others in a conversation-like fashion. A record is kept of the exchange, and new parties and media can be added at any time.

Blrt shifts time and place, allowing users in a conversation to participate in their own time. In an era where activity-based working and distributed teams are commonplace, Blrt is revolutionising the way people interact to get things done.

Get everyone on the same page

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