Hyperloop wants to change the world. Not everyone’s convinced

“Hyperloop is novel and interesting, and at the same time a very old idea,” Molly Wright Steenson, a Carnegie Mellon University professor who studies technology, communications and design, told CNN Business. “We still face a lot of the problems we faced in 19th century. We’re trying to get people very quickly across time and space, and we still have to contend with traffic.”

Pneumatic tubes were popularized in the 1800s, scholars say, as an alternative to ground transportation. Capsules containing letters were pushed and sucked through tubes at speeds of about 20 or 30 mph, generally in tunnels under big cities. Telegraphs were much faster than pneumatic tubes, but the final steps of their deliveries were inefficient and expensive, as telegraphs needed to be hand delivered from telegraph offices to their final destinations.