Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, Tesla and PayPal, has hinted that his next project could be building a vertical takeoff electric plane.
Making a surprise appearance at the Hyperloop pod competition, a contest to design a futuristic, high-speed, people-moving pod between Los Angeles and San Francisco, Musk was asked what his next project might be.
“I have been thinking about the vertical takeoff and landing electric jet a bit more. I think I have something that might close,” Musk said slowly. “I’m quite tempted to do something about it.”
The crowd responded enthusiastically; Musk is one of Silicon Valley’s most revered engineers. He has mentioned his plane idea before, in an interview in October 2015: “I do like the idea of an electric aircraft company. I think one could do a pretty cool supersonic, vertical takeoff and landing electric jet. That would be really fun … I have a design in mind for that.”
Musk said that the usual response to his ideas is that they are crazy. “One of my best friends compiled a long video of rockets crashing and made me watch the whole thing. Another was involved in a rocket startup – they said it was terrible idea. But I kind of thought that we had a really tiny chance of succeeding anyway, maybe 10%, so if people said it would probably fail I would agree with them.
“And it was fairly close – we barely made it with the fourth launch of SpaceX. But seeing physical hardware is believing – that’s what convinces people.”
Musk told the audience at Texas AM University that he’d been impressed with students’ designs for the Hyperloop pod, the passenger vehicle that would be designed to travel inside Hyperloop’s conceptual high-speed transport system that would use high pressure.
“I’m starting to think this is really going to happen, and it’s clear that the public and the world want something new,” he said. “You guys are going to bring it to them.”
Musk is an engineer, investor and multiple executive, currently CEO and CTO of the space travel firm SpaceX, CEO of the premium electric car firm Tesla, co-chair of the nonprofit artificial intelligence research organisation OpenAI, and chair of energy firm Solar City.