Canada: the perfect Hyperloop candidate

Elon Musk is nuts. His day is clearly much longer than for the majority of us. He’s not only making fun of established giant automakers, but also landing rockets (most of the time), and soon will show us how our next ride to Mars will be. In his spare time he likes to dig into artificial intelligence, and while most of us think about our work day, the grocery shopping list or what to get for the next birthday while commuting to our workplaces, he entertains himself on how to change transportation forever with ideas such as the Hyperloop.

You might have heard about the Hyperloop, an idea he proposed back in 2013. He put it out there, but since he’s kind of busy right now in other stuff, he decided to encourage others to jump in and try to make that happen. This past weekend, SpaceX (his rocket company), hosted a design pod competition in Texas. Over 120 student teams from all over the world competed for the best Hyperloop pod design – with the MIT coming as the winner. Two different independent companies were created about a year ago to develop the project, and SpaceX is also building a test track with AECOM (a very capable partner!).

Folks, this is getting real!

There’s been much talk about whether the Hyperloop is real, a silly idea from a billionaire, or actually something that could change the world. But, assuming these teams and companies can deliver… How might the Hyperloop change the way we live in modern societies? Are there profound changes to the way we interact with one another? I strongly believe that if the Hyperloop becomes a reality, a number of things will change dramatically forever, such as:

  1. Our geographical daily imprint – working in one city and living 500-600km away in another, with different time-zones, or completely different weather and landscapes
  2. How we plan for our vacation, where we could ‘tour’ North America in two or three weeks, with daily stops in different cities while moving from one to the next with our private ‘pod’
  3. How it might dramatically change relatively isolated areas or countries such as country islands – think of a 30 minute trip from Miami to La Havana on ‘floating’ Hyperloop tracks

Although I’m sure you can imagine many more examples of how it might change our lives forever, before any of that happens the Hyperloop must become a reality. That’s where Canada comes in.

The 3 different companies building test tracks are US-based companies operating in the US. There is no other country involved in these projects, and it puzzles me to not hear that Canada is either interested or actively pursuing this. The same way Canada pioneered aviation decades ago, we should be pioneering this new mode of transportation.

The Elephant in the Room

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Canada has a number of unique characteristics that makes it the ideal candidate to develop the Hyperloop and make it the main transport system:

  1.  We have a long established skilled workforce and a large number of suppliers in the rail industry. Bombardier is the household name, but there are many more such as SNC Lavalin with a long history executing rail projects
  2. Canada being the 2nd largest country on Earth makes it perfect to develop a fast inter-city transport system. Our population is distributed mostly within 100km of the US/Canada border, mainly within urban centers. Connecting them via a 1,200kmh Hyperloop is the ideal solution to connect this large country. Imagine traveling from Vancouver to Toronto in about 3 hours, while today it takes about 5 hours of flight time alone!
  3. Our single Trans-Canada highway is outdated and there is virtually no practical commercial railway system to cross the country, leaving airways as the only viable solution. A second transport option would increase the economic development of many underserved urban areas
  4. The Hyperloop, expected to have a much reduced carbon footprint, aligns perfectly with the newly formed Liberal Government’s goals and promises. Why spend billions in new roads and thus increase pollution when you could invest in a clean transport system?
  5. Canada being a Resource-based economy, it relies on the transport of the raw materials to ports, over 5 million TEUs from Vancouver (over 50%), Montreal, Prince Ruper and Halifax), for export overseas. Today, CN – Canadian National Railway, is the company in charge of this transport via rail, while numerous truck companies do the rest via the antiquated highway system. The Hyperloop could boost the transport of goods across the country in a dramatic way in a time when Canada needs it the most
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Proposed Canadian Hyperloop Network by year 2025, connecting main urban hubs across the country. Note that maximum travel time between two nearest cities is less than 60 min. Source: David Oliver

I believe Canada has a historic opportunity in front of it to lead the world in a game-changing technology. If the Canadian Government is capable bringing the required resources, political will and regulatory willingness to work together to make this happen I truly believe there is a high chance we can transform this country into a leading economy in the 21st Century.

Until next time. Best,

David Oliver