Boring has a $48.7 million mile-long project to build a tunnel with people moving pods around the Las Vegas Convention Center. If this is successful, the tunnel and system will be extended to the Las Vegas Strip.
Boring Company competitors are very old companies that seem unlikely to be able respond to a truly disruptive competitor.
“The four-largest tunnel companies in the U.S. were founded in the 1800s,” Jurvetson said. “Like the automotive and aerospace sectors, they haven’t faced a disruptive new entrant in their management’s collective life-time.”
Boring Company wants to solve traffic with 3D roads must go 3D. Unlike flying cars, tunnels are weatherproof, out of sight and won’t fall on your head. A large network of tunnels many levels deep would help alleviate congestion in any city, no matter how large it grew (just keep adding levels). The key to making this work is increasing tunneling speed and dropping costs by a factor of 10 or more – this is the goal of The Boring Company. Fast to dig, low cost tunnels would also make Hyperloop adoption viable and enable rapid transit across densely populated regions, enabling travel from New York to Washington DC in less than 30 minutes.
Currently, tunnels are really expensive to dig, with some projects costing as much as $1 billion per mile. In order to make a tunnel network feasible, tunneling costs must be reduced by a factor of more than 10.
How are we reducing the cost of tunneling?
First, we reduced the tunnel diameter. The current standard for a one-lane tunnel is approximately 28 feet. By using electric autonomous vehicles with alignment wheels, the diameter can be reduced to less than 14 feet. Reducing the diameter in half reduces tunneling costs by 3-4 times.
Second, they are working to significantly increase the speed of the Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM). TBMs are super slow. A snail is effectively 14 times faster than a soft-soil TBM. Their goal is to defeat the snail in a race.
Ways to increase TBM speed:
Increase TBM power. The machine’s power output can be tripled (while coupled with the appropriate upgrades in cooling systems).
Continuously tunnel. When building a tunnel, current soft-soil machines tunnel for 50% of the time and erect tunnel support structures the other 50%. This is inefficient. Existing technology can be modified to support continuous tunneling activity.
Automate the TBM. While smaller diameter tunneling machines are automated, larger ones currently require multiple human operators. By automating the larger TBMs, both safety and efficiency are increased.
Go electric. Current tunnel operations often include diesel locomotives. These have been replaced by electric locomotives.
Tunneling R&D. In the United States, there is virtually no investment in tunneling Research and Development (and in many other forms of construction). Thus, the construction industry is one of the only sectors in our economy that has not improved its productivity in the last 50 years.
The first three boring machines used by the Boring Company are:
Godot, a conventional tunnel boring machine, used for research purposes.
Line-storm, a highly modified conventional boring machine, a hybrid design, boring 2–3 times faster than pre-2018 boring machines. Line-storm was expected to begin tunneling in the first half of 2019. Line-storm has not been revealed yet.
Prufrock, a “fully-Boring-Company-designed machine”, will be over ten times faster than conventional boring machines.
Perhaps lost in the transport debate is that @boringcompany built a 6000 ft tunnel in LA for ~$10M with V1 (Godot). Next tunnel will be made with V2 (Line-Storm). V3 (Prufrock), aspirationally 10X better, should be operational next year. For reference: https://t.co/LS4EhN57Mw
— E (@elonmusk) December 19, 2018
In typical tunneling projects, excavated dirt is shipped offsite to disposal locations. This process is costly, time-consuming, noisy, and can be environmentally hazardous. The Boring Company has developed technologies to recycle the earth into useful bricks to be used to build structures and into pavers. This is not a new concept, as buildings have been constructed from Earth for thousands of years including, according to recent evidence, the Pyramids. These bricks can potentially be used as a portion of the tunnel lining itself, which is typically built from concrete. Since concrete production accounts for 4.5% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, earth bricks would reduce both environmental impact and tunneling costs.
Loop is targeting 4,000 vehicles/hour at 155mph (250km/h) for each Main Artery Tunnel. If a second tunnel is added below the first, this value doubles.
Boring Project Proposals
Dugout Loop – Los Angeles, CA
The Boring Company is proposing a project in Los Angeles, CA, that would transport baseball fans and concertgoers directly to the Dodger Stadium from the Los Feliz, East Hollywood, or Rampart Village neighborhoods. Status: In environmental review and permitting
The Chicago Express Loop
The Boring Company has been selected by the Chicago Infrastructure Trust (CIT), on behalf of the City of Chicago, to enter into exclusive negotiations to design, build, finance, operate and maintain an O’Hare Express service. The Chicago Express Loop will provide fast and convenient transportation between O’Hare Airport (Terminals 1-3) and Block 37 in downtown Chicago. Status: In contract review, environmental review and permitting
East Coast Loop – Washington D.C. to Baltimore
The Boring Company is proposing a project on the East Coast from downtown DC to Baltimore, beneath New York Avenue and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.
Loop is a high-speed underground public transportation system in which passengers are transported in autonomous electric vehicles (AEVs) traveling at speeds of up to 150 miles per hour.
Status: Tunnel in environmental review and permitting
The proposed tunnels would run in parallel for approximately 35.3 miles beneath the public right-of-way of US 50/New York Avenue Northeast, the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, MD 295 and Russell Street from Washington, DC to Baltimore, Maryland.
Although not currently proposed, Loop enables future expansion opportunities to communities along the proposed tunnel alignment. Potential future expansions are not currently planned, and would require separate environmental review. Refer to the Potential Expansion Map below for the communities Loop could potentially service indicated by the blue spurs, and are included as a concept, not as a finalized proposal or alignment.
Travel time to spots along the way would vary linearly with distance – in other words, a trip from DC to Greenbelt would take approximately 5 minutes and from Laurel to Baltimore would take approximately 9 minutes. With Loop, all trips are express, independent of the number of stops along the alignment.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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