I don't have a fear of flying, but I do have a fear of waiting.
I hate airports, not because of the germs and the crowded concourses. I don't even mind the terrible Wi-Fi. I like to think I've become a bit of proficiency expert, which should be the case given how long I've been writing and testing gadgets. When I travel on business, it's a grin-and-bear-it moment for me because of how long it takes to fly even across one state to Chicago. You wait in one line, then another, then another. That's before you even board a plane or, shudder to think, an Amtrak.
The worst part is the lost productivity. They tell you over a loudspeaker not to work. They tell you during the plane ride when you can connect. How is that helpful?
That's why I'm so keen to try the Hyperloop One. My colleague Kevin Ryan wrote a wonderful summary about how all of the technology works and the test they conducted. In Las Vegas, the startup shot a tube across the desert at high-speed (the final version will go 760 miles-per-hour). Eventually, we might be able to make a trip from LA to San Francisco in about 35 minutes. While the test involved traveling at 300MPH for five seconds, it was a brilliant proof of concept.
The train runs through a vacuum tube, almost like a turbo-charged engine. (In case you haven't heard the analogy, a turbo is basically a way of compressing air in an engine faster.) A ticket might cost around $20, which is peanuts compared to any flight. There's no real prediction about when this project will be finished (some say 2018), but the company announced a new round of funding to the tune of $80M.
I almost had a chance to visit the launch site earlier this year. Ironically, I was traveling on business to Las Vegas and they were hoping to pile a bunch of journalists into a van and show us some of the tubes. There was a rain delay followed by a promise that they'd invite us back. How awesome to witness history, right?
Here's the problem. I would have looked into the possibility of visiting this week, but I know that flying from Minneapolis to Las Vegas is going to take all day. There's just no way around it. It's a good one hour drive to the airport, and they always tell you to come with two hours to spare. I can't quite work in the car (yet) and the security apparatus in most airports means you'll get maybe 30 minutes to crack open a laptop. Then, it's four hours down to Vegas. When you arrive, you're not nearly done traveling. You still have to de-board, get your bags, and find a taxi or rent a car.
Apart from all of the amazing tech and the fact that the idea originated with Elon Musk, I'm mostly interested in the time savings. Maybe we'll still need to check our bags and pass through the TSA, but I'm guessing if you miss one train you could just wait 30 minutes and hop on another. If they ever build a route between Minneapolis and Las Vegas, maybe the entire process would take two hours. Since it's so fast (the total time of travel, not just the train) I wouldn't need an overnight bag. I'm also hoping travelers can work en route as you can on a normal train.
How will it change business travel? My prediction is that we will start connecting more, seeing more, discussing more, experiencing more, and innovating more. I'd decide on a whim to drive to a Hyperloop station, meet with a few startups in Vegas, and be home in time for dinner. Crisscrossing Hyperloop trains zipping all over the country will create more synergy. We'll become more productive because we won't be stuck in a system that essentially became the norm about 50 years ago. Someday, we might even figure out how to make the whole process less stressful.
Not that I care about the stress. I just want to be able to use a laptop en route.