On August 12, 2013, many individuals around the world paused to watch Elon Musk, chief executive of Tesla Motors and SpaceX and co-founder of PayPal, unveil his vision for Hyperloop – the elevated low pressure tube transportation system designed to move passengers and automobiles in capsules from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 35 minutes described in his blog post. While there is considerable ongoing and polarized debate around the feasibility of his “fifth mode of transportation”, Mr. Musk brings a high deal of credibility as a serial entrepreneur who has found great success challenging business sectors he considers “inefficient or uninspiring”.
But what is most striking about the announcement is his decision to “open source” the Hyperloop design. As Mr. Musk states on the final page of his Hyperloop Alpha design document, “The intent of this document has been to create a new open source form of transportation that could revolutionize travel. The authors welcome feedback and will incorporate it into future revisions of the Hyperloop project, following other open source models such as Linux.” In other “transportation theme” words, it is a rather like the Wright Brothers publishing their plane designs before their first Kitty Hawk flight or Henry Ford publishing his manufacturing and design documents, and business plans, before the first Model T rolled off the factory floor. While time with tell whether Mr. Musk’s “fifth mode of transportation” gets traction, his open source approach to its design truly makes the Hyperloop hyper important – Tak for Alt, Elon.