We have a lot of questions for Elon Musk about the ‘verbal government approval’ for an NYC-DC hyperloop

First question: Say what?

Elon Musk is a busy guy! He’s trying to start an electric car movement, colonize Mars and get the government to regulate artificial intelligence. And now he’s trying to build an underground hyperloop connecting New York City with Washington, D.C.

In a tweet on Thursday, Musk said he’d received “verbal government approval” for this so-called underground hyperloop, and boy do we have a lot of questions.

Start with this: What is an underground hyperloop? Good question! And one we can sort of answer.

There are few details beyond his tweets, but Musk has been working on an underground tunnel system for cars, with his The Boring Company, a new company staffed by interns and part-time workers as of April.

The broader hyperloop idea goes back to August 2013, when Musk wrote up a blueprint for a transportation system that would use technology such as propulsion and magnetic levitation to shoot humans from one city to another very quickly. (This is way oversimplifying it but it’s the gist.)

That initial idea, which has birthed non-Musk companies, including Hyperloop One, was focused on an above-ground system. That is, a train.

So from these two things we can surmise that an underground hyperloop is essentially a very fast subway system.

Musk later cleared up his tweet and said he actually hasn’t gotten formal approval, but that he thinks that will happen pretty quickly.

Following Musk’s tweets, the White House — the same one Musk broke with when he resigned from President Trump’s business advisory councils after Trump said the U.S. would bail out of the Paris climate accord — then said it had actually talked to Musk about the idea, but didn’t add much beyond that.

“We have had promising conversations to date, are committed to transformative infrastructure projects, and believe our greatest solutions have often come from the ingenuity and drive of the private sector,” a White House spokesperson said in a statement.

But we still have a lot of questions! Like:

  • What does “verbal government approval” even mean?
  • Has Musk started discussions with local regulators?

A project like this would require formal approval, at a minimum, from every local government in every geography it touches. Yet Eric Phillips, the press secretary for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, says the mayor’s office heard about Musk’s plan on Twitter, just like the rest of us.

More questions:

  • Who at the White House did Elon Musk talk to?
  • What did they tell him, and when?
  • Who will pay for this underground tunnel? Is he getting taxpayer funding?
  • Other than speed, what is the difference between an underground hyperloop and a subway? (Does it have air conditioning?)
  • At short distances, can the hyperloop system actually reach its theoretical maximum speed of 700 mph?
  • If it doesn’t, is it worth it?
  • Wait, is Elon Musk still actively having conversations with Trump?
  • Will the underground hyperloop have a quiet car?
  • How about a bar car?
  • How does Amtrak, which operates an above-ground train that connects New York and Washington, feel about this?
  • Will “Underground Hyperloop Corridor” replace “Acela Corridor” as a shorthand for “out-of-touch wealthy people who set the national government and media agendas, even though they feel guilty about that”?

We’ve reached out to Musk and his Boring Company for answers.


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