So many people have discussed a perspective on why the Hyperloop is overpromising and underdelivering. Because it comes from noted entrepreneur, Elon Musk, many in the mainstream media have not taken much of a critical look at it. One particular thing that I feel hasn’t been investigated in critiques of the Musk Hyperloop is that Musk doesn’t really have much experience when it comes to infrastructure.
Musk’s experiences have been in delivering innovative products and services. In PayPal, he developed a great online financial service. In Tesla Motors and SpaceX, he’s brought innovation to personal and government products, respectively. Yet, his resume, when it comes to infrastructure is a bit thin.
For Musk, efforts at infrastructure is something that has come secondary to the development of his initial innovative product. Musk’s work has, until now, piggybacked off of already developed networks or these companies are just getting into the business of developing infrastructure. For example, Tesla is developing a network of superchargers for it’s electric vehicles for intercity use. Musk was apparently unimpressed by the speed of development of electric vehicle charging stations and has gone on his own to develop this. While, on the SpaceX front, it has developed a product and service which uses the Vandenburg and Canaveral launch sites that NASA and the Military have used for their launches.
When it comes to Musk’s Hyperloop, I fear that his innovative and disruptive character doesn’t overcome his lack of experience in development of infrastructure. While the technical feasibility of his product is something that is not in dispute, all of his products until now have been technically possible and have ended up being engineered and designed well. However, in moving into infrastructure, there are significant differences in feasability, not only the technical feasability but, political will, real estate, and general environment are factors which move to significantly increase costs. The proposal by Musk doesn’t manage to even start to take into account these costs.