It may sound fun to float on magnets, travelling at 750 mph, but at the same time, when you consider the physics of it all, it’s a catastrophe.
So, here are three different ways you could die in a hyperloop, and how likely are these outcomes to happen?
1) Being sucked into the void
If you have watched a movie about space, you have probably seen quite a few times a spacefarer getting sucked into the void and die. That usually happens if the spaceship’s airlock opens or it gets punctured, so that results into the space traveller getting sucked into the void forever.
Well that exact same thing could happen while you’re in a hyperloop. A hyperloop has nearly no air left in it so it’s basically a tube that came from outer space to the Earth.
Hyperloop pod is a lot like spaceship which means that a passenger inside is in a pressurized vehicle being surrounded by vacuum. And, if anything were to puncture that pod, you’d get sucked out very quickly.
If the hyperloop wasn’t moving when this would happen, because of the lack of oxygen, you would just hit the ground and suffocate. If you are in luck, you could get saved from the immediate death within six minutes to increase your chances of survival.
However, if the hyperloop was punctures while it was moving, for example 1,200 km per hour, you’d hit the ground at a speed of about 300 meters per second which makes it three football fields per second. Because of that velocity, you’d end up resembling a Jackson Pollock painting.
Tim Vleeshouwer, the head of a full-scale hyperloop development at the Deft University of Netherlands, claimed that those scenarios are highly unlikely, at least when it comes to those hyperloops they are developing.
“The walls of the passenger module will be approximately 10 centimeters [four inches] thick. That’s thicker than an airplane,” he explained.
Then, the question is asked – what if a crack or a hole happened?
Then he explained once more: ”Then the whole tube can be depressurized instantly to release the vacuum and restore normal atmospheric pressure.”
So, actually, you wouldn’t suffocate but be prepared for a lot of wind.
2) A pileup accident
This would happen if a pod ahead of you would hit breaks for some reason and decided to stop. Wouldn’t that be quite a fender bender?
Considering that the Delft team’s plan is to have pods filled with 50 people, departing every 30 seconds – which is two pods per minute – this risk is rather realistic. The accident would be fatal for all 100 passengers involved.
Vleeshouwer says that his team has pretty good brakes. He said that if the pod were to fail, the brakes would stop the pod behind in 20-25 seconds. He calls it a“brick wall” scenario.
That means, if someone is 30 seconds behind another pod in front of them, and it takes 25 seconds for it to stop, that only leaves 5 seconds for the first pod to send ‘’FAILURE” message to a server, and then to the other person and the rest of the network.
This definitely wouldn’t be a good feeling. It has to slow down from 300 mps to 0 in that time frame. All the smartphones, cellphones, cups of coffee would just end up slamming into the front wall of the pod. If one’s pod were to stop, then all the other pods behind it would have to stop which would lead to a chain reaction of emergency braking. Doesn’t sound like fun time at all.
3) An act of terror
This seems to be the perfect hyperloop catastrophe: a destroyed section of track and a hyperloop approaching at terrifying speed.
Well, this scenario has already been done in Mission:Impossible and James Bond movies, but it brings a lot of attention to people who have never heard about hyperloops.
The vision of Delft’s team for Europe is that one half of it will be underground and the other ground above which would leave it exposed to terrorism.
And, sadly, there isn’t a way to protect it.
However, Vleeshouwer says: “[The tubes] will be placed on pillars five to six meters above the ground. So it’s not very easily reachable.”
They also plan to run the hyperloop tracks alongside already existing traffic infrastructure, think of high-speed rail lines or highways. So, they will be easier to keep an eye on because they will be more visible.
However if a section of the track is destroyed on purpose then it would surely be fatal for one unlucky pod and 50 other passengers – not that it makes it any better.
And, the rest of the pods would stop moving in order to reduce more accidents.
Although, is this possible outcome that different than the risk you’d be taking while riding an old train?
So, the question is: Should you ride the hyperloop?
If those three risks make you a bit nauseous, you don’t have to worry, the pods will have their own restrooms.
But, when you think about it, humans are traditionally generally very distrusting when it comes to new transportation systems.
Vleeshouwer mentioned how at first, people were scared of trains 200 years ago. It was because of the belief that human head would explode if you’d travel faster than 30 kmph.
People also used to think that cows would end up producing sour milk near train lines because of the noise. Similar fears occurred about airplanes as well 100 years ago as well.
“People were like, ‘Why do we want to travel faster, why do we want to travel further? And I think that’s the same with the hyperloop. [But] it provides so many opportunities, and it would be a pity if we didn’t research the possibilities,’’ says Vleeshouwer.