While science fiction can indeed inspire technology, Futurama is not a show I’ve heard mentioned as inspiration. Yet if you watch the opening credits of every episode, you see pneumatic tubes carrying people throughout New New York. I can’t be sure that this inspired the Hyperloop concept introduced by Elon Musk, but there are some similarities.
Two years after the concept has been introduced, there has been sufficient interest in the possibilities of the Hyperloop that there might be two test tracks running in the next few years. I noted in the blog Musk’s December 2014 announcement that he would be building a test track, and mentioned the efforts of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies to develop a system. On Thursday the company announced new corporate partners and plans to break ground on a California test track sometime next year (H/T Gizmodo). There’s at least one other company exploring this technology, Hyperloop Technologies, and they are keeping their plans a little closer to the proverbial vest.
I think the optimism surrounding this technology should be properly tempered. Technological challenges remain, and the big building projects on the horizons are in order to test the system. It may still take several years for tubes to be literal, rather than figurative, names for rapid transit of cargo and people.