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The Boring Company · 836 HN points · 0 HN comments
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Apr 28, 2017 · 836 points, 752 comments · submitted by janvdberg
This looks really cool. However, boring through rock is the most expensive way to connect 2 places. It only makes sense if the land features or purchase value require it.

Fundamentally, this is about short-circuiting the regular road network and establishing a managed packet network that can bypass congestion. Interestingly, that's also the value proposition of public transit, though it also runs into issues of cost, and too low of a population density make it unfeasible.

I still think we haven't fully leveraged the potential of busses. In most cities, they are slow because they combine the disadvantages of road traffic with the disadvantage of time tables. But what if busses operated on their own dedicated network? Bogota deployed a public transit system made with busses but with a UX of a train[1]. This is a genius idea that could work in many US cities, which have a lot more space to spare.

But back to the original idea, I think we might see in the future a "managed" road network, reserved to self-driving cars which are driven by some central management system, optimising routing for the whole network so as to prevent congestion. This won't require tunnels, just gates, dedicated roads and lots of software.


> ...boring through rock is the most expensive way to connect 2 places.

I get the impression Musk looked at that expense, brought in some subject matter experts, probed them on why that was the case, and decided there must be a better way. From what I've read of tunnel boring, I can see that happening. Not uncommon for a tunnel boring machine to be custom-built and then abandoned in place at the end of the project. A more general-purpose or modular machine might be what he's thinking about. Unexpected geologic formations come up frequently, a function of the expense of manually-intensive sampling processes today. A robotic sampling crawler that bores hundreds of samples, and automatically classifies as it goes instead of sending to an off-site lab, building a 3D map as it moves, might be what he's looking into.

There might be red tape issues even if these technical challenges are overcome, though. Even if you propose going so deep you avoid all other underground infrastructure altogether, government bureaucracies' permitting and related processes will put a floor on the cost avoidance Musk seeks.

> boring through rock is the most expensive way to connect 2 places

While this is true, getting very good at boring underground could be helpful for building underground habitats on mars.

...and mining asteroids.
I never thought of that but it actually makes perfect sense for a Musk venture.
> But what if busses operated on their own dedicated network?

But if you're building a dedicated network in a major city, why on earth would you limit it to buses? Even with a dedicated network, I don't believe buses can be as fast, comfortable or quiet as rail.

I spent a lot of time in Melbourne, Australia and the trams there are fantastic. You can barely hear them when they're operating so they do a lot to decrease noise, they have a ton of standing room and are quite long, so they can carry a lot of people and I don't believe a bus can come close to the comfort of rail.

Maybe because it's cheaper? For example, I don't think India can afford to simultaneously build metro systems that cover all cities, and cover a good enough area of each city. Or, if we can afford it, the govt wouldn't consider spending $100 billion+ the best use of the money. Bus is much more doable.
Trams are more expensive than buses. They have removed tram networks on many cities in Europe in favour of cheap diesel buses but slowly now some are getting back.
Only a visitor so don't know the details, but plenty of Brisbane's tunnels seem to be for buses only...
We have tunnels and a couple of seperate motorways designed soecifically for buses. Which is great for getting from southern suburbs to the city. But anything off the main line can take an extra half hour.
Rail fails in a serious earthquake. Large infrastructure can take years to return to operation after disasters.

Even buses are useless during/after disasters in my experience (avoiding legal liability, lack flexibility to mitigate problems, inability to publish changes etc).

Rail fails in a serious earthquake.

Yes, but so do roads. Tunnels especially!

I'm from Bogotá and I can tell you that the bus experience is ugly, it worked for about 10 years but now the buses can't cope with the amount of people Bogotá has.
Yes, it worked for a couple years, but right now it's a chaos. A subway would definitely solve the problem.
I actually think the Viva system in York Region, Ontario, Canada is a great model for this.

Highway 7 started as a car-only multi-lane highway. They took a multi-phase approach to building out a light-rail system. The first phase was adding bus rapid transit, increasing fares, and increasing density of new construction. The second phase was adding dedicated bus lanes and light-rail-ready stations. The final phase will be to add tracks and trains on top of the road.

> However, boring through rock is the most expensive way to connect 2 places.

For now. I think that's the whole point of this company. Reduce cost and risk of drilling just like SpaceX's goal is to reduce cost and risk of space flight.

I wonder why it's so expensive. I agree with musk. It makes sense for humans to have a 3d transport system rather than 2d. The payoff is huge. Moving 200mph through tunnels is the future we should be aiming for.

I also get a feeling he's read "foundation" from Isaac Asimov which talks about this.

I wouldn't want to live on Trantor, though
<Spoiler>I would, as part of the second foundation.</Spoiler>
Probably not even then. Gaia/Sayshell seem way more fun :)
Regarding the boring expense, an NTBM[1] or subterrene[2], is said to be cheaper and faster.

[1] [2]

My impression is the boring feasibility and costs will not be the limiter of a very cool tech like this happening, but a more boring practical cost, probably the "zoning" cost required to get compliance and permission for all that state and federal land needed to build the underground link network.

Considering the name of the company, maybe they have invented a radical new way to reduce boring costs?
Also, if you accept the assumption that energy will get cheaper in the future, some boring project may become financially feasible.
It's quite possible they could reduce the cost if they found a way to pipe the excavated rock into surrounding regions of less dense rock, through pipes drilled at intervals along the tunnel. Meaning the excavated rock never needs to go up to the surface, it can just be digested and fed as a slurry into neighbouring areas.
He has said he thinks he can reduce the costs by a factor of ten, but except for having spare parts on hand to reduce downtime I don't think he has been specific about his ideas. He bought a conventional boring machine recently (I don't know if it has been delivered yet) to get more data.
When I am drilling holes for pipework I use some attachment to the power tool that drills one guide hole in the middle and a big pip-sized disk. The material inside that disk is not ground up to pieces, it comes out of the hole whole.

At the moment boring machines do not work like that, a conveyor belt of small pieces comes out. What if A380 fuselage sized pieces of rock came out instead and were conveyed off to the coast for coastal defence purposes, or even land reclamation? Carrying objects weighing thousands of tonnes to the sea is not simple but the amount of material excavated the hard way - ground to pieces first - would be significantly lower.

Maybe they have a 'coring machine' rather than a 'boring machine'?

I think they experimented with these coring designs at some point.
Cheaper? A nuclear machine that melts rock and probably doesn't exist?

I'm not convinced that the video you linked on sheepletv above the "underground alien bases" one is the most reliable info.

Sure, ridiculing such information is easy, especially when you describe it as you have, emphasizing the easiest targets for ridicule. If your intent was to ridicule the information, I get your comment makes sense. But, IMHO, that's not a very substantive contribution for HN. IMHO, it would have been more worthwhile to highlight the less-easy-to-ridicule aspects of the page, such as the quotes from, and discussion about, the Los Alamos patents for NTBM. Please don't interpret this as an attack on you, I'm just trying to rightly do the information justice, encourage substantive discussion. Also, to point out that if your goal is to discover useful information, then it does not work to discredit the valid content of a comment or page, by measuring all its info by the standard of the easiest to ridicule parts.

Finally, from my point of view, getting your ridicule feedback hurts because my aim is to contribute to substantive discussion here, and I don't want to feel discouraged from posting something substantive because it might also have info that could be cherrypicked for ridicule, then letting me feel like I wasted my effort contributing because the info was later unfairly presented. I don't want to feel like I have to do extra work "defending" the original effort to contribute, against such ridicule. So, please, before you rush to ridicule something, really take a look to see if there is substantive content there, and refrain from misrepresenting it, thanks.

Ah ok though I felt the 'cheaper' bit was somewhat unproven.
The point that tim333 is trying to make is that the source you're citing is wildly unreliable. Take a look at their home page -- just on a first glance, I see:

* Several videos about Pizzagate (and I don't mean critical examinations, either)

* A number of anti-Semitic images ("Jews control the banks", etc)

* A video literally titled "Hitler Survived WWII & Occult Nazi Scientists Developed VRIL Haunebu Foo-Craft (UFO’s) at Secret Antarctic Base-211"

* Another video literally titled "Illuminati Hip Hop Blood Sacrifices Exposed"

* A video about how Christmas is a "Satanic Illuminati Holiday"

* And this video

It's not a great stretch to say that their description of a "nuclear tunnel boring machine" is every bit as absurd and untrue as the other videos they distribute.

You just did the thing I suggested was insubstantial and said hurts and I didn't like. Please stop. Also it's a logical error to judge a claim by the site it's on, or by the claims surrounding it.

I linked to that page and specified NTBM. You could have substantially commented on the Los Alamos patents and their discussion on that page. But you chose to go off that page and to emphasize easy-to-ridicule parts. Please don't do that, thank you.

> You just did the thing I suggested was insubstantial and said hurts and I didn't like. Please stop. Also it's a logical error to judge a claim by the site it's on, or by the claims surrounding it.

It might be a logical error, but it's not a mistake. If someone tells you lie after lie after lie, and then says something new, whose truth you can't immediately evaluate, the sensible thing to do is to think: this is also probably a lie.

That's called confirmation bias and people do it all the time.

It just didn't work as a strategy if you actually wanted the find the truth. That's one thing this is about here.

The other thing I think you missed was the emotional context of these comments. I'm clearly asking for support and help to make HN welcoming, by not misrepresenting or cherry picking easy-to-ridicule info. It hurts when they do that and I don't like it. Please don't do it, don't ignore the people behind the comments, and don't quote this

> You just did the thing I suggested was insubstantial and said hurts and I didn't like. Please stop.

pretending that you've contradicted this, and made it somehow okay. You haven't and it's not.

The boring could theoretically be done with close to zero energy, and the cost of the tunnel is just to remove the material. Breaking the chemical bonds along the surface of the tunnel is actually a pretty tiny amount of energy, even if it's solid rock.
Ride the relatively new Silver Line in Boston to see what that's like. Hint: It's not good.
While I generally agree with what you're saying about embracing bus rapid transit and the cost effectiveness of that option, it's not 100% just a matter of congestion. Surface rail often reduces the value of the land around it due to noise, poor streetscape, etc. whereas subways typically dramatically increase the value of the land around it and don't disrupt the neighborhood. Same goes for large surface roadways.

Also, buses don't have the same capacity as rail does—it's difficult to string together 10 buses and still accelerate quickly, navigate turns, and deal with grade crossings with street vehicles (although guided buses maybe can get partway there? [1]). You can feel the burn in the Bay Area if you try riding the lines on Geary or Mission during hot hours.

And the speeds at which buses run within dense metros often cannot compete with modern subway trains—BART, which is an old system already, hits 70 mph and can go faster, which would be kinda scary to do on city streets in a bus.


I'm not convinced that buses don't have the capacity trains do, when you consider that headway between trains is at least 90 seconds. If headway between buses is three seconds, in those 90 seconds, 30 buses can pass by. Assuming a bus has roughly the same capacity as a coach in a train, and that the train has 8 coaches, buses have roughly 4x the capacity.

Not to mention that buses can serve many routes that don't have enough capacity to merit a train, bus routes can be reconfigured without it taking years, and a bus system doesn't cost billions upon billions of dollars to build. Heck, even a single line of a metro system can cost a billion dollars to build.

If buses have dedicated panes where they don't have to interact with normal traffic they can easily hit 70mph. Australian highways in certain places have this system.

My favorite is Vancouver skytrain. While building highways they built a train track on pillars. It's fast and usually got me in and out of the city quicker than a car.

I imagine train tracks on pillars cost effective than underground tunnels. For a dense city it makes sense. Not for outskirts.

This is very, very wasteful compared to actual mass transit. A subway network is much more effective at delivering people.

If he's looking for mega-good, Musk would do significantly better to drop a full subway network.

edit: tunnelling is a broadly solved problem. It's difficult, expensive, slow, etc. But there's no engineering reason why a hole in the ground can't happen. Musk might be able to drive some significant improvements there. No idea. But tunneling itself is not a reason to knock an idea beyond the cost and geoengineering involved.

The video shows some sort of shuttle using the track. Those could be small busses or even public transport.

In effect, this is a subway system. It's an underground rail system. The major difference is that you have a mixture of public and private passenger vehicles and smaller vehicles.

But... a subway for cars? This strikes me as significantly less efficient use of resources than everyone switching over to printing out their emails/IMs/photothings and faxing them to each other.

Edit: I mean, sure, great science fiction fun to think about!

yeah, the disparity in cross-sectional air displacement per capita is quite substantial. It is kind of funny to think about as an inefficient train. However, it does not need to replace trains or train commuters in any way. It only needs to contend with normal car travel.

The drag:person inefficiency is a price we still consider worth paying presently, even when it also requires an inefficient decentralized gas-burning energy conversion.

Add in reduced vehicle wear, and of course the time advantage, and with some of the efficiency gains like centralized power/reduced friction/huge electromagnetic actuators/maybe partially evacuated tunnel, it could still conceivably be profitable at a bargain on gas travel.

However, i think the advantages permit it to be sold for more than we are paying for gas travel. People already pay daily just to use a special lane which is nearly the same hassle with only slightly reduced traffic.

But can you get a moving block signalling system such that they can follow each other with minimal separation? Until you can do that, a real train will always win at people/hour due to the fact that you can have more people per consist as ultimately the signalling challenges are comparable and you can therefore have comparable separation.
64 LA subway cars cost $176 million [1]. That seems really high to me, at about $3 million per subway car.

Also people per hour is not really the metric the average person cares about. It's travel time to destination.


> 64 LA subway cars cost $176 million [1]. That seems really high to me, at about $3 million per subway car.

That seems high to me, full-stop. The London Underground S-Stock order came to around £1 million per car (though was a much, much larger order); even smaller orders of Bombardier Movia family trains have come far closer to that than the $3 million per car.

Those subway cars are used at all hours that the system is in operation. If you're trying to compare costs with Boring, note first that a personal car is used much less and second that Boring involves these weird platform things which will also cost money, so the equivalent is more than just the price of the Tesla that sits on the platform.

Also, each LA subway car can fit over 50 people seated and probably three times that standing. $3M divided by the price of the cheapest Tesla is about 85. So the number doesn't seem high at all.

> If you're trying to compare costs with Boring,

Actually I'm not. I just want to point out that public trains cost huge amounts of money for investment, they need special infrastructure which many US cities don't have, and the only way they work feasibly is if the population density is high enough so the taxes will support them.

In other words, there's a huge upfront cost to even considering building a system that most cities/governments will choose roads over rail.

A bus on the other hand is $300,000, holds around 60 passengers, and uses the same infrastructure the city already has, and doesn't incur the need to have right of way fights with land owners.

What would you realistically do given the choice?

A bus without special bus lanes is a pretty bad public transit system, the sort of thing that makes people conclude that this whole public transit idea was a mistake in the first place and we should just invest in better car infrastructure. And getting special bus lanes is pretty politically difficult in its own way (although it's a different sort of fight than right-of-way fights).

If I had the choice of spending $3 million to buy 10 buses, or to do nothing at all, I'd save the $3 million and wait until it's feasible to develop something that the city will keep wanting to fund.

That seems orthogonal to the point 'geofft was making, which seems like if you're going to spend the resources to dig tunnels, it makes more sense to fill them with trains than with personal cars.
With all my sympathy for metro - in many American cities it will never be good enough due to extensive suburbs.

In places where land is cheap, and there are single family houses, cars will be the most efficient way to commute for years to come. We'll switch to self-driving electric cars, but still.

Commuter rail is a thing. DC's metro goes a dozen miles outside the city in all directions and the MARC train goes further.
But ultimately you aren't going to have tunnels dug by the Boring Company out into the extensive suburbs either. The question ultimately becomes whether it makes sense to give up large amounts of space (even if underground) in the centre for parking (for everyone commuting from the suburbs), or give up space further out where land is cheaper and less dense for large car parks at stations. (Obviously there's a cost in changing mode of transport, but that somewhat applies to the pods too.)
> But ultimately you aren't going to have tunnels dug by the Boring Company out into the extensive suburbs either.

The point of the boring company is to make excavation of tunnels an order of magnitude cheaper. [1] And if he succeeds, I suspect demand for the tunnels will push them out to the burbs.


But if you can make tunnel digging orders of magnitude cheaper, why not just run subways to the suburbs?
In Elon's world, nobody wants to walk or ride a bike that last mile from suburban subway station to their suburban house.

Nor, presumably, transfer from an autonomous taxi or bus to a subway train at that station.

Maybe he's right? Think of this as a subway for cars!

This is still completely ridiculous and wasteful.
It's still incredibly wasteful compared to a real subway. The amount of people a real mass transit system can move is orders of magnitude above tons if individual little cars:

..not to mention all the energy required to move each of those vehicles compared to a train that can move hundreds of more people in a similar space.

Americans need to get over all their train/bus hate. Other countries love mass transit. Many Americans try to shoot down any attempt to even put in a small system (small systems can grown) and kill off attempts to grow existing systems (see the Seattle Green Line).

Self driving cars can work great in Europe, where there is tons of transport and you just need to solve the last leg (or where self-driving trucks are rented just to move large items). In America we have massive gridlock due to a lack of rails and that needs to be fixed before self driving tech will fix anything.

One weakness of all public transportation is the lack of personal space. Maybe if someone would have solved that either by more space or some deep psychological insights, it would become more popular among Americans?
I find that I have plenty of personal space on mass transit as long as there's enough transit. If I'm taking the 2/3 subway (in New York) or the 27-Bryant bus (in SF) at 9 AM on a weekday, it's totally fine. If I'm taking Caltrain southbound at 9 AM on a weekday or the 4/5 towards the Upper West Side at 5:30 PM, it's miserable.

That is to say, there's a known solution already: funding.

For me the main disadvantage is that it takes an hour, comes once an hour, has inaccurate timetables, costs 13$, and stops running at midnight. Hence why I drive from mountain view to San Francisco rather than bother with Caltrain.
It's too bad Caltrain electrification is getting screwed over... But it's even worse that BART was blocked from just going down the peninsula, to the point that we literally went the other way around the bay to get it down to San Jose. Criminally dumb.
Having the fine people of the peninsula share the cost of transportation with the hoi poloi of the East Bay is unamerican, hence they opted out of it.

Same for the North Bay (original plans had the BART go almost all the way from Petaluma to Gilroy).

I disagree. Europe has many countries with at least the same wish for personal space as the US, and public transport works just fine. I'd suspect a big reason is the car-centric culture, which also gives rise to the image of public transport being only for those who can't afford a car. It's a cultural problem that'll be hard to straighten.
Try any "excellent" public transportation system during commute hours. The lack of personal space isn't misperception. Systems are explicitly planned to have standees, and lots of them, in close quarters. We've gotten acclimated to something much more comfortable, and we get to vote.

It's not clear how public transit advocates will convince us to vote to downgrade our lives. Maybe the bicyclists and pedestrians in cities will be able to block suburban drivers from entering.

I will gladly vote for trains because it takes people off the roads and reduces traffic which makes it easier for me to drive to and from work.
OK, but that's like saying "nobody goes to Times Square anymore. It's too crowded".

If there was more public transportation, the problems you bring up about personal space would go away.

The problem stated here isn't "public transit has insufficient ridership," it's "some people don't want to use public transit."

When the problem you're trying to solve is "some people aren't in Times Square right now," you might need to engage with the fact that it's crowded.

More public transportation, sure, and I'll vote for it every time.

Less car infrastructure, and there is no pressure for public transportation to be comfortable or effective because the only way to opt out of it is to move away.

> Europe has many countries with at least the same wish for personal space as the US

Maybe this is me being ethnocentric, but it seems the American way of embracing diversity (through political correctness, affirmative action, etc) has come at the cost of craving for isolation and independence from each other.

You think people in Iowa are driving because of the huge amounts of minorities?
I don't think those policies have anything to do with how close people want to stand to each other in a subway. Americans simply like space and tend to have a lot of it.
That's hilarious. Affirmative action created a car culture, not the fact that cars came around when America infrastructure was bring created or that people live far away from where they work. I get it though, you personally crave not being around minorities.
The loudest voices I hear against big city life and cultural diversity come from those who have little experience with either. They don't need to try Green Eggs and Ham to know they don't like it.
Doing some googling I found this as one of the links:

It's a shame. Public transportation would be so awesome if it weren't for the bad press.

Is it really wasteful? It seems like it is an ever moving system. In terms of people capacity it seems it would carry more by being always flowing vs a stopping starting transit system.
The amount of people that can fit in 1 car is roughly maxes out at 4-7 people, depending on the car. There needs to be enough spacing between each car so that in the case of a failure, cars have space to brake to a stop without catapulting the people in it, or causing them to become overly nauseous. So there's going to be a decent amounnt of spacing between each car.

The number of people that can fit on 1 bus can hit in the ballpark of 50 people, so we're getting a roughly 10x capacity boost here. You lose the "ever-moving system" benefit doing this, but I highly doubt some stopping and starting would lead to an order of magnitude slower speed.

Now, the number of people that can fit on 1 SF BART train is in the realm of 10 cars * 200 = 2000 people per train. The spacing is not going to be on the order of 100x longer than in the individual car case, and the starting-stopping speed is going to be not a bit slower than the bus case.

I'll let you work out the math on that, but it's not even orders of magnitude close. Don't need to be a "visionary" to see that.

A well managed train system can manage 1 car per line per 5 minutes. 2000 * 60 / 5 = 24,000 people per hour. Highways can handle 2,000 - 2200 vehicles per lane or so at the low end 1/12 but that's very much an edge case. Most lines are closer to one train every 20 minutes and you can average 3 people per car which makes them equivalent.

The real issue is not highways, but what happens when people try and get off or onto them. It's possible but rare to do this well.

It's less of an edge case than you may think, given solo ridership numbers here in the USA. 75% commute alone.

The average over the full US is kind of meaningless as most areas don't have traffic problems. It's only large city's that actually matter in this assessment.

On page 4, 2006: 80% used a carpool or single occupancy car. 2013: 76% used a carpool or single occupancy car which is counter to their narrative. Further, metro areas are rather large, I commute less than 3 miles on secondary roads in the DC metro area from just outside the beltway to just inside of it and encounter approximately zero traffic.

Do you mean a shitty managed train system, right? In London at peak time there is one train every two minutes, in Moscow one per minute. One train every 5 minutes is the off peak frequency in London when you are actually complaining that you are waiting too long.
At the peak times for the most used stations there is a car that frequently sure, but if use look at the overall system they don't send anywhere close to 60 * 24 = 1440 trains past every station in each direction per day. Further trains going to different stations often share the same track because you need more throughput in the city center than at the furthest stations. But, just because the edge stations get less use does not mean the track is cheaper to construct.
The max throughout is the number that we should care about - they provide fewer cars per minute not because they're physically incapable of doing it, just because there isn't demand. And it would be the same in a car-centric situation as well - lower throughput in off hours.
Having the ability to send 1 billion people from A to B is useless unless there is actual demand to send 1 billion people from A to B. Similarly, not all stations get anywhere close to the same demand, but you need to build a large network or the peak demand is less. Thus, measuring the network is what's important not the 'best case' subset of a few most heavily used stations.

Further, roads and bridges do get used from 2-4 AM when subway systems are generally not operating, so it's the use over the full day that's important not just peak usage.

According to the DOT, a train is only about 33% more energy efficient then driving.[1]

In addition a subway or bus system has to run on a schedule even when the train is mostly empty. The train and bus is always starting and stopping and causing all it's passengers increased delay to serve the needs of the few entering or leaving.

Public transport is the token ring networking of transportation. It's just inherently less efficient compared to a P2P routing system that only operates when there is a need and with the minimum number of stops (which is exactly 1).


On the other hand, the train runs on a schedule which can give you a pretty accurate idea of when you should leave and when you will arrive at your destination. The car might be faster sometimes, but sometimes it is slower and you can't always predict which it's going to be.
First of all, the most recent data in the document you linked to shows Amtrak at 1,629 BTU/passenger-mile vs 3,877 BTU/passenger-mile for cars -- a 58% reduction in energy consumption, or alternately 2.4x better energy efficiency for trains over driving.

But it's also important to note that the numbers for Amtrak are averaged across the entire system -- and most Amtrak routes outside the Northeast Corridor operate way below capacity, despite it being very inefficient to do so. If you look at rail systems where this is not the case, like in Switzerland (716 BTU/passenger-mile) or Japan (534 BTU/passenger-mile), you end up with 5.4x and 7.3x improvements energy efficiency over driving, respectively.


This is something I've never understood — why can't those trains operate with fewer coaches, perhaps all the way down to one, in rural areas, or at off-peak times (for metros)?
It's not a wasteful when US has huge land and those fuel vehicles need to travel a long distance may encounter car accidents e.g. fatigue, winter, floods, would be benefits from reduce air pollution in the these concept tunnel, in contrast, the size of Singapore is a lot smaller.

The tunnels could use solar energy which is not wasteful.

Uh... if the solar energy could be better used elsewhere, you're still wasting energy. We're not post-scarcity yet.

Actually it's the land use on roads and parking which is most wasteful. Maybe we could solve half the problem with this, even if it is boring.

>It's still incredibly wasteful compared to a real subway.

Because real subways have miserable sardine-can standing room conditions during commute times. Public transit is dead in the water in the US because its advocates use terms like "incredibly wasteful" to describe making systems anywhere near as comfortable as private cars.

For most people, the most comfortable chair they own is their driver seat. For many, the commute is the only time they get to be alone, meditative, and in complete control of their environment (cube farm or open office at work, children at home, etc).

When the CIA forces people to spend hours with their arms fully extended over their heads while bombarding them with 100db noise, there's a Senate inquiry. When BART does it, it's a regular Tuesday at 9am. (Yes, this is an extreme comparison, real stress positions are much worse, but your average Midwestern suburbanite used to his Toyota Camry is in for a real shock).

If you want Americans to get over their train/bus hate, then don't advocate such drastic reductions in the quality of our lives or the livability of our cities. Your average SUV-driving Wisconsin soccer mom has been to Manhattan as a tourist and decided that her one accidental peak-hours train ride was enough for one lifetime.

That, or densify the environment. We might put up with transit if the rides were shorter.

(I am a daily BART rider, and public transit dependence is the #1 reason I want to GTFO of the Bay Area).

If subways are already as tight as sardine cans, how would giving everybody in that train a full car full of room even be the slightest bit possible? There just isn't enough physical room in the tunnels for that.
Running at the proposed 100+ mph should provide the necessary throughput (and actually require seating - have fun with those gs while standing).
The problem is that there are diminishing throughput returns to velocity. You need massive amounts of duplicated track for that to be feasible...on and off ramps for every entrance and exit. On and off ramp lengths grow exponentially relative to target velocity. That might be fine for long distance travel, where on and off ramps can be concentrated in few locations...urban travel not so much.
> On and off ramp lengths grow exponentially relative to target velocity

Centripetal acceleration on a curve with radius r is (v^2/r) so it seems that it grows quadratically, not exponentially.

Exponential growth would mean that the v appears in an exponent in the formula.

Saying we shouldn't be wasting a ton of resources on private cars is a "drastic reduction in the quality of our lives"?

Quite frankly, I would much prefer to not have the costs and issues of owning a private vehicle.

I personally find trains to be dramatically more comfortable than cars. Feel free to disagree, but a) not having to pay attention, b) not facing any congestion, c) not dealing with the motion sickness and dizziness that comes with doing anything in a car, d) not being stuck in a cramped cage, e) not worrying about getting into an accident, throwing away a boatload of money and potentially hurting randoms strangers or myself for reasons that may be entirely out of my control—all of these things make trains WAY WAY WAY more comfortable to me than cars ever can be.

Have you ridden on systems that are better than our crappy one before? Riding in cities like Singapore and Hong Kong is a wonderful experience.

The real problem is that we have nowhere near to as much capacity as we need, and nowhere near to as much coverage either. And that's 100% a result of political incompetence and a lack of funding for something that almost certainly would improve the livability and productivity of this city.

Coupled with how filthy San Francisco is and how pitifully little we do to address affordability and the resulting, predictable homelessness and mental illness crisis we see here, you get an uncomfortable transit experience.

Our lack of a robust, functional public transit network is a big reason I want to GTFO of the Bay Area.

Yeah, compare the BART to the subway in Stockholm and it's night and day. Nice public transport is absolutely possible. I remember the first time I lived in the Bay Area they were building BART and I had these expectations... And then years later when I rode it for the first time, I wondered why public transport this close to the center of the tech universe was so shitty. I mean, the trains in Europe have wifi and are clean and beautiful and comfortable and quiet. They're also secure, mostly because of how they handle as a society the kinds of people that make public transit a bad experience. It is astonishing to me that we don't have and can't have nice things in the United States.
> tunnelling is a broadly solved problem

As rockets were before Space X?

It costs a billion dollars per mile to dig a subway tunnel. If the costs could be brought down, it would change a lot about the way we build mass transit systems.

If Elon can develop an massively more efficient boring system that the rest of the USA can use; fine, he can have his personal car-way network under his house while I ride around on the highly gridded subway network in Seattle or Austin or Boise. I won't grudge him that.

Also, fwiw, I think cut and cover is a much better approach, despite the street level disruption. Ce la vie.

The question is if he can drop those costs substantially. I certainly wish him the absolute best in doing so. But, if he's going to propose building transportation systems with huge operational costs (SOV tunnels), they had better be efficient in the cost per rider mile and competitive with other technologies.

What? Are you serious??? If it's true then in US you are getting ripped off big time. The whole crossrail project is 73 miles with 14 miles of tunnels and 40 station and it has a cost of 15B£ (19B$ with today exchange rate). I cannot find the total cost of the tunnels, but apparently for 1.25B£ you can have 18km of tunnels: That is 1.6B$ for 11 miles. Basically an order of magnitude less than your figure of 1B$ per mile. If really Musk wants to improve by an order of magnitude over that figure then he is late, the crossrail tunnel have been completed 2 years ago.
Those Crossrail numbers give $0.2B/mile, including a lot of miles of track that aren't tunnels. After digging a bit I found this, which is a good summary:

It seems that $1B/__km__ (not mile, you're right) is sadly par for the course in the US, and Crossrail passes that threshold too. Projects elsewhere are below that threshold though.

No the total number include the tunnels, the tracks outside and 40 (FORTY) underground stations. The specific figure of 1.25B£ is taken from the official documents for 18km of tunnels alone. So do you think that an unknown blog that throws some figures without any reference must be more accurate than the official figures, reported in public documents accessible to everyone, that explicitly says that 18km of tunnels ALONE have been built for 1.25B£. Next are you going to post a link from some chem-trails website?
No need to get stroppy, calm down.
Except the monoculture here doesn't account for just how terrible buses and trains are.

Mass transit is fundamentally superior and realistically inferior. The second any rational actor has the economic advantage necessary to not ride in a box packed with people of questionable hygiene they'll chose option #2 no matter the negative externalities.

I love this place but people aren't packets in your stream, they actively decide against your well designed "optimal" systems and opt for less efficient "luxurious" options as soon as they possibly can.

> The second any rational actor has the economic advantage necessary to not ride in a box packed with people of questionable hygiene they'll chose option #2 no matter the negative externalities.

:: raises hand :: I can easily afford to drive and park. I bus to work instead. No time difference. A number of people are like me.

(the fact that buses allow people who aren't very well house trained on board is a matter that needs to be addressed, no question about it)

I mean, where I lived I _tried_ to use public transit. But with a 50/50 chance of getting passed by the single bus running that route, it just wasn't making sense anymore. And that route ran every 60 minutes .. and also didn't run on Sunday's.
It's not even hygiene. When you ride a train, you cede control of your life to it: you have to plan things by schedule, if it's delayed you are delayed, and you don't even have the luxury of silence. people don't usually vote to let other people have immediate control of their lives like that.

There seems to be this weird thing where people are embracing things that strip autonomy from them.

Have you ever ridden on a really good train system?

I get the train to work each day and 99% of the time I get to sit down with space to comfortably work on my laptop and I get through a bunch of stuff each way. When I think of the alternative - spending 20% less time but dealing with the risk and frustration of driving and getting nothing done in return - driving myself seems positively toxic.

Reports I read on this a month or more ago suggested that yes, part of his goal is to improve the speed/cost of building tunnels, so that it's feasible to go build a whole bunch of them quickly.

(That being said, building a bunch of tunnels in the bosom of San Andreas strikes me as hubris... But having lived in LA and its traffic for many years, I'm willing to be convinced. :-) )

Hilariously so even. This is basically a subway system, except you have to provide your own seats. All this is succeeding in doing is making Musk look hilariously out of touch.
Getting to provide your own seats might just be what convinces drivers to use a subway system.
Isn't Musk's track record simply to shoot for the moon (or heck, Mars), then temper things down?

He misses all his deadlines for precisely this reason.

Right now, it's just a video mocked together over two days. It's just a very, very broad "idea".

Things will change over time. Why knock something so early in the development phase?

He may well be out of touch, but at least Musk's suggesting a real solution to current transit problems, even if it's impractical. On the other hand, whenever I read stuff by politicians and engineers with real knowledge and influence in this field, I'm astonished by the total lack of vision.

Even in London, where you have a major, successful transport engineering project (Crossrail) completing, and an entire city dependency on, and supportive of, public transport, you only hear the most anemic plans for future expansion.

For example, TFL is pushing a "New Tube For London" plan that consists of little more than trivial improvements. Some new trains, platform edge doors, etc., scheduled to be delivered in 2050 or so. But absolutely nothing with real ambition, like entirely new lines, that would actually solve London's insane congestion problems.

What? TfL has no ambitions? The crossrail is the biggest construction project in the whole Europe, and it is still not finished and they are already planning for the crossrail 2 that will be started in the next 3-4 years. These are huge projects, much more important than Musk proposal that in London would have been simply ridiculous given that the crossrail alone will move 200 million people per year. If they went for the proposal discussed here instead London congestion would have exploded given the abismally low capacity of this boring company project.
Opening new lines, like building new roads, might hurt everything due to induced demand.

You can reduce demand by not needing everyone to go the same place every day. Why does everyone have to work in London and why don't they already live where they work?

Induced demand means people are now able to practically get places when they couldn't before. It doesn't mean "hurt everything."
And more people moving more places means more growth, probably. If everyone stayed at home not much would get done.
> He may well be out of touch, but at least Musk's suggesting a real solution to current transit problems, even if it's impractical.

He's proposing the transportation equivalent of a personal computer with perfect security, completely crash free, 1000x faster than current PCs that cost lesss tha. We have today. It's not impractical, it's laughable.

> On the other hand, whenever I read stuff by politicians and engineers with real knowledge and influence in this field, I'm astonished by the total lack of vision.

If you want to see total vision, come to a Transportation Research Board annual meeting. Or an APTA annual meeting. Visions are out there. The political support is not.

Visions have to be shared with the public, make people excited about them, to get politicians to support them
paralysis via NIMBY is the key problem in the US. many urbanists would be happy to grid every city with subways. we talk about it, wistfully.

but we don't have the political leverage today, and the little we have is with the Democrats, not the Republicans.

"real solution" =! "it's impractical"

Decide which one is it.

The problem is not that they cannot imagine the concept of adding new lines, it's just that the costs, both monetarily and politically for doing so, are enormous in the Western world. The eminent domain, permitting, and labor issues around these things paralyzes the development of cities, especially in the United States.

If you want to see ambition in infrastructure, check out China. Being a technocracy bent on having world-class infrastructure, combined with the ability to remove people from their homes for the greater good with little repercussion, they've built some of the most thorough infrastructural improvements ever seen on the planet. For instance, the first line of the Shanghai Metro was opened in 1993; today, it is the longest metro in the world, with 14 lines. And this rapid growth can be seen not just in the megacities like Shanghai, but in countless smaller ones throughout the country—not to mention their incredible construction of their thorough long distance high speed rail network. And on top of that, since their system is so modern, the trains are a hell of a lot safer and more reliable than any piece of infrastructure in the USA.

I think they've made mistakes with how car-oriented the streetscapes are, the generic architectural styles throughout that country, overbuilding before demand arises, and a lack of mixed-use neighborhood zoning, amongst other things; but when it comes to imagining an integrated, efficient commuter rail network, they've killed it.

> the ability to remove people from their homes for the greater good with little repercussion

I think you underestimate how poorly compensated the relocated people are. Unless it's an outcome of "Weird China" reporting, which is very possible, I've seen plenty of reports of people being forced out of their houses in exchange for flats with smaller floor space and property in an inferior location.

I'm not saying what Chinese infrastructure officials isn't impressive. I'm just saying it has massive costs for the people being displaced.

I think you are in violent agreement with the parent post: "ability to remove people ... with little repercussion" literally means: they (authorities) can order people move, and it costs them (authorities) little or nothing at all.

It costs the moved people a great deal, but the government doesn't care.

Exactly, thanks for clarifying :)
Hah! Thanks for pointing that out. I didn't catch it.
>But there's no engineering reason why a hole in the ground can't happen.

Well, unless you count damage to whatever happens to be in the way of the tunnel and buildings on top of tunnel. This might be more of a problem in Europe than in the U.S. though.

Look at the Seattle viaduct replacement problem. Bertha came to a standstill for years due to engineers not taking care of a well pipe they thought they removed.
I think the video was just to look flashy and show off the Model 3 design. I imagine most of the tunnel boring will be for mass transit.
> tunnelling is a broadly solved problem. It's difficult, expensive, slow

And now Musk is trying to solve for those three factors

>Musk would do significantly better to drop a full subway network.

In the same way a road offers private and public transportation, a tunnel can do both. Why can't the car be a bus, say?

Because cars, which are relatively wasteful spacewise, create negative externalities on the public transportation by causing congestion, which resultantly makes public transportation less efficient.
Not an issue in automated underground systems really.
Yes it is. Cars don't even begin to match the capacity of trains. Look at London or Singapore where trains arrive less than a minute apart at peak hour. Many of London's trains are autonomous and all of Singapore trains are fully autonomous. There is no way individual cars could even come close to matching that kind of people-moving ability.
Because that’s hugely inefficient compared to a subway network.

I live in Paris, France. 100% of its inhabitants have at least one of the 300+ subway stations under 1 km (0.6 miles) of their home. The subway system transports 5M people every single day. That’s twice the city population. That’s also 1.9B per year. During the peak hours you can have up to one train every 90 seconds for a capacity of 700 people each.

Paris isn't on top of the San Andreas faultline!
Elon already responded to this concern:
> Because that’s hugely inefficient compared to a subway network. I live in Paris, France. 100% of its inhabitants have at least one of the 300+ subway stations under 1 km (0.6 miles) of their home.

That's actually pretty awesome, but you may have noticed that Americans don't really care about efficiency.

Once the tunnel is built, you can put anything you want into it. But I suspect we would still choose cars over trains.

People in general don't care about efficiency, and it's not even irrational. Transportation planning tends to treat people as little AI zergs that are going to take the most collectively efficient route to their individual destination. It's best to have a system that's as agnostic to how people want to get where they're going as possible, but I have no idea whether tesla's idea is good.
> But there's no engineering reason why a hole in the ground can't happen.

Depending on the specific location, there may very well be. Underground tunnels are vulnerable to earthquake-inflicted damage, for instance, and you would want to avoid repair as much as possible.

Similarly, there may be environmental or conservatory reasons not to build tunnels, or reasons related to cost, or obstacles not yet encountered (that last one is less likely though).

Just look at the Big Dig. One small mistake (using the wrong glue or fasteners) can put the safety of the entire safety into question.
Yes, see Pinheiros subway station accident as a good example:

But those exist for above ground systems too, right? Earthquakes damage roads, bridges. Road and rail impact the environment as well.
The Seattle viaduct is a good example of transportation infrastructure that is very vulnerable to quakes. They're replacing it with a tunnel, so I assume they have worked out how much damage an earthquake will do. At least the tunnel can't fall on anyone, unlike the viaduct which would pancake and render the waterfront inaccessible.
broadly, a generic hole is doable, it's been done many places.

just like software is doable. :)

sometimes you can't do it. but generally... you can. :)

This is Elon's response to a Twitter users similar comment about earthquakes. I don't know enough about physics to say if he's just throwing things out there or if he already did some research.

Mmm, so I spoke too soon on that front. In my defense, I've said this a lot to people who are advocates of Hyperloop construction (vacuum tubes are far too easily ruptured to be used in conjunction with transportation), but Musk is correct.

Are subways targets for terrorism the same way that airports are?

All public transportation is.

  If he's looking for mega-good, Musk would do significantly 
  better to drop a full subway network.
Like Hyperloop?
I bet this tunnel boring idea was inspired by the lack of an economical path for hyperloop to get to downtown LA. The hyperloop concept took a lot of heat for that.
This is to subways like hyperloop is to high-speed rail. A stupid overelaboration of an existing, proven idea.
Hyperloop is a 'stupid overelaboration of an existing, proven idea'? I was not aware we had so many proven 600mph high speed rails.
The high speed is the "overelaboration". High-speed rails in many countries can reach 200mph. A 600mph train may be 3x as fast, but the marginal utility is pretty low to me compared to increased cost and reduced capacity.
We don't have any proven Hyperloops at any speed.
They exist. The problem is getting approval to build them anywhere near residential areas is problematic.

That's 600km/h. For 600mph you'd need Hyperloop to prove they can do that speed first.

So...they don't exist. The fastest ones are actually 40% slower.
Show me a working 600mph tube train and then you'll have a case of a superior technology. Until then it's just an idea on a napkin.

China is building new, high-speed maglev trains and there's many lines already open for business.

Maybe one day Hyperloop will get built and will be open for passenger travel. When that day comes it's possible that surface rail may have already achieved the same speed because third or fourth generation maglev trains are in service.

Anything is possible, but you were making the claim they they exist, which they definitely do not. They might theoretically someday exist, but so might Hyperloop.
The idea of a 600mph train running in evacuated tunnels is about as old as the idea of trains itself:

China is looking at building something like that:

Note that it's an above-ground system because the costs of building underground are utterly ridiculous for long distances.

Hyperloop was a completely infeasible design that Musk quite openly had no intention of building. It mainly seemed to exist as a tactic to attack actual planned public transport expansion in the Bay Area, which Musk compared it unfavourably to based on figures that didn't add up.
Cars and mass transit both have major problems. Cars aren't scalable, and mass transit is often slow when you have to wait for trains/buses to come. (It's worse when you have to change buses or trains.)

The video looks more like a high-speed form of personal rapid transit [1], which is a sort of hybrid system that tries to achieve the best of both. It's like a bus or train system, except the vehicles are smaller and don't operate on a timetable. Instead, they pick you up when and where you want and they take you where you want to go.


edit: tunnelling is a broadly solved problem. It's difficult, expensive, slow, etc

Well, which is it? Solved, or difficult/expensive/slow?

It's all four, They aren't mutually exclusive.
> If he's looking for mega-good, Musk would do significantly better to drop a full subway network.

Agree, except that while many ridiculously wealthy people would be willing to help pay for private access to some tunnels — _perhaps_ subsidizing a system that is later available to others — many fewer wealthy people would help pay for a subway.

What? You could put trains on those tracks.

I think it's neat. I like London, but it'd be sweet to have my car while I was there.

Yeah, like you can't use the car transport floats without a car? Why?
> If he's looking for mega-good

I doubt it. I think he's looking for the same thing as everybody else: mega profits.

why not both?
Yes Musk only works for the $$$
As a counter-point: do some research into Seattle's absolute disaster with tunnelling the last few years. Yes, there are some details of the situation that are specific to Seattle, but it just goes to show that even nowadays, tunnelling isn't as easy as we think it is.
You're asking the wrong question. There are over a hundred million Americans who commute long distances in their car. Mostly because they live/work in areas that aren't dense enough to have good last-mile public transit, and they don't want to deal with transfers. You can lecture them all you want, but ultimately, these people aren't going to downgrade their lifestyle just to fit your ideas of engineering efficiency.

The real question is: is this new solution more efficient than the current alternative of driving on the highway?

> Mostly because they live/work in areas that aren't dense enough to have good last-mile public transit, and they don't want to deal with transfers.

Well, suburbanization was a totally dumbass move. Maybe instead of building tunnels, we could be rebuilding cities. We could be designing them to be attractive enough that people would want to live there.

When a city in America is destroyed by a nuclear explosion, Americans will re-learn why suburbia was so popular. Hopefully this won't happen for a long time and we will have a good stretch of city living. I love cities, but having millions of people concentrated enough to be killed by a single device; this is very different world than the one humans evolved in.
Sure, maybe that was part of it. Interstates were, for sure. But then, the Soviets were building huge warheads, which could take out metro regions.
Are you serious?
That's such a terrible reason not to live in a city. I don't see how it is significantly more likely for only a single incident like that to happen. If we really have a catasophre or act of war it will likely effect larger regions than just a single city.
You'd have to get the government to stop building roads...

which of course is seems crazy to most people. But the consequences are all around us.

Yeah. Going from rail to roads was another dumbass move.
> : is this new solution more efficient than the current alternative of driving on the highway?


Because - the exurbs and beyond simply don't have the density numbers to make this kind of investment pencil out without something like a 1000x class drop in costs, which would be wildly optimistic for physical equipment cost savings. Some suburbs might be able to handle it; Bellevue in the Puget Sound comes to mind immediately, but it's only a suburb in the context of Seattle; it'd be a major city in its own right in most of the US.

Further, you're not even getting to the fun part of driving a car - the wind, the sights, the open road. You've got a dang tunnel there. I'd get mildly claustrophobic and probably nauseous: subways already do that to me a little bit.

It's probably much more effective public policy at the federal level to focus on densifying American cities and reversing sprawl: this generates a nice sequence of network effects related to funding and infrastructural improvements. Among those would, eventually, be the demand for nice buses and nice trains with a regular security presence.

>Further, you're not even getting to the fun part of driving a car - the wind, the sights, the open road. You've got a dang tunnel there. I'd get mildly claustrophobic and probably nauseous: subways already do that to me a little bit.

I sure do love the wind, the sights, the open road of stop and go traffic every day.

Avoiding driving for ours in congestion would sound like an upgrade to me...
if you'd create 124mph transportation from 20-60 miles outside and through the city into the city, you wouldn't need to drive into the city. Most commuter trains average less than 50 so it's worth trying to drive. The average speed of the NYC subway is less than 35 mph. Light Rail?

Low-speed maglev:

What about waiting time between transfers? You need a certain population density to have almost continuous trains. In Bay Area, you have to wait an hour between Caltrains unless it is rush hour. Caltrains could go 500mph, I would still drive to avoid the wait between trains.
Demand for Caltrain is standing room only during rush hour, with 33% of traffic living in Palo Alto and working in SF.

Caltrain has two primary constraints, neither population-linked: diesel trains accelerate badly, and freight track scheduling.

Diesel trains are theoretically being swapped for electric, which will permit the trains to stop and start more efficiently. They predict one additional train during peak rush hour per day for this improvement, iirc.

Freight traffic consumes a fixed amount of rail time, focused primarily on the "one hour between" segments of the schedule. Increasing frequency can only occur within existing scheduled route times, and cannot disrupt that freight traffic.

If places aren't dense enough to support mass transit, they are certainly not dense enough to financially support car-trains tunnels. The depicted tunnels have the same costs as building subways, and I imagine similar maintenance costs. On the other hand, they can only serve a fraction of the riders a traditional subway can, which means the cost per rider is huge. Not to mention it still requires owning a car, so the traditional capital and insurance savings from mass transit don't apply.

But to answer your question: maybe, but it doesn't matter. American cities are already bankrupting themselves in road maintenance. Adding a series of super car tunnels for an efficiency benefit? Out of the question.

This solves the last Mile problem
So do big parking garages at suburban train stations.
So does having train stations every few corners. The reason we don't have that now is cost, which is the same reason we won't have car-train tunnels.

Obviously having a network of underground express tunnels for cars would be amazing. It's just economic nonsense when municipal governments are racking up huge debts in normal, above ground road maintenance. If it's not publically subsidized, drivers will be exposed to the true cost, which will be enormous. That high cost cannot be supported will prevent mass adoption.

Why does everyone lack imagination on this topic?

Problem: if you drive to the subway, then take the subway, then you have two problems: where do you park your car, and how do you get to your destination once you get off the subway if it's not walking distance?

Currently - people just drive. And the surface streets get progressively more crowded. We could drill more regular roadways - but it's notable that one reason we don't is controlling emissions and safety is difficult with human drivers.

So, taking that back to the video: replace the subway with general purpose transport stations that provide a mix of subway-like transport of passengers, or entire vehicles, powered electrically.

No vehicle emissions (huge problem with tunnels) and no endpoint transport issues - the subway becomes an extension of the road network, and if it's cheap enough to do, hopefully a very scalable one.

> Why does everyone lack imagination on this topic?

You are right, I imagine that we should just have teleporting gates!

> if you drive to the subway

How about not driving to the subway? how about having local buses or that can take you there?

> where do you park your car

Car parks next to the station?

> how do you get to your destination once you get off the subway if it's not walking distance?

Buses or trams.

> Currently - people just drive.

Not everywhere, look at London for example.

> We could drill more regular roadways

No we can't, tunnels are expensive and bring a whole new set of problems like how do you handle an accident, how do you get to the surface etc.

> subway-like transport of passengers, or entire vehicles

That is horribly inefficient in terms of space and weight, average car weight is ~2 tons.

> powered electrically

Having it electrically powered does not mean that it's clean energy.

I understand those benefits, and think they are marvelous, but also very expensive.

American cities are already spending more than they can afford on road maintenance. Are these underground trains going to be cheaper than above ground roads? Public money for this doesn't seem all that likely.

Here in Tokyo, the Yamanote above ground train serves a million riders daily. Costs a couple dollars to go 10km. The boring concept looks much more expensive than that, as it is underground, but those costs are spread out over many fewer people. Private money seems hard, too.

The two problems you discuss are both easier to solve than LONG DISTANCE BORED TUNNELS.

Solution for problem 1: Park and Ride. Giant multi story parking lots. Cheaper to build even underground than the tunnel Solution for problem 2: Local transit like Tram, bus, or bikeshare.

I think a far better solution to #2 is taxis or other on-demand transportation that can take you directly from subway stops to your destination. Trams and buses have the same last-mile problem as subways, but to a lesser extent, and often require passengers to wait longer for the next tram/bus. Bicycles have practicality limitations such as luggage storage, cold weather, and physical ability.
> We could drill more regular roadways - but it's notable that one reason we don't is controlling emissions and safety is difficult with human drivers.

Also cost. Drilling car tunnels is more expensive per passenger served than a mass transit system

> if it's cheap enough to do, hopefully a very scalable one

That's a big unproven if, and a hope that's almost out of a science fiction novel. If Musk has ideas about how to solve those problems, let's hear them.

We already understand that tunnels with electric cars would be great. Everything we do has a cost and if we're going to work together on something as a society, let's do something that benefits more of us than luxury car owners

I feel like everything Elon Musk undertakes with his companies is just one huge Mars Beta Test.

  - SpaceX:
      Obvious, got to get to space somehow  
  - Tesla:
      Build cars/machines to run on something
      that is guaranteed to exist on Mars (the sun) vs. Oil  
  - Gigafactory:
      How to build batteries 101  
  - Solar roof:
      While Earths environment may not be as
      harsh as Mars you still learn something, and improve
      solar panel production in the process  
  - Boring:
      May not make too much sense on Earth with  
      existing infrastructure, but undereart..undermars?
      transportation is protected from the environment/sand
I also don't know about the mineral composition of Mars and what boring does to the usability of those, but this may be a 2 birds one stone: Bore underground network and get required materials to build out mars base.

How to go to Mars and stay there:

  1. Figure out what you need
  2. Build it
  3. ???
  4. Mars
Where 3. is use it, refine it, perfect it, like landing a rocket on a automated barge in the middle of the sea.

Or he just hates LA traffic.

This crazy theory has to die, it just doesn't make any sense. I've seen this several times on reddit and hn usually with a bunch of upvotes and perhaps the most perplexing thing is how so many presumably smart people don't see how obviously little sense it makes.

Musks starts a healthcare company? Mars-related of course, he wants to solve the cosmic radiation problem on route to Mars. Buys Netflix? Heh, that's pretty obvious, people on Mars will need some entertainment!

It isn't a theory at all. It is what drives him.

It's a joke :p
Because in some respects it's not a theory, it's his own explanation for why he does certain things. The extrapolation to how it applies to new ventures is theory, but it doesn't obviously make little sense. It doesn't even need to be realistic, all that has to be true for the theory to be true is that Musk believes it, as it's an explanation of his behavior.
Musk has never used Mars as an explanation for any of his non-SpaceX ventures. His own explanations for why he got involved with Tesla, started The Boring Company, or invented the Hyperloop have nothing to do with Mars or space.
> Or he just hates LA traffic.

Nope that's the main one. You obviously haven't lived in LA :)

This is the only possible answer. LA traffic sucks.
I assume this is part of his motivation. The cost of LA's perpetual traffic clusterfuck must be immense. The car tunnels in the video were silly, but being able to build subway tunnels faster and for cheap would be a huge boon for everyone. I'm sure he's fully cognizant of the utility of tunnel boring technology on Mars though. There's no way he hasn't thought about it.
By the time a significant tunnel boring project gets planned, approved and built, cars will be self driving and the Uber model of rides on demand will be extremely prevalent. Traffic will be massively reduced and existing roads will be much more efficiently used.

I agree with the theory that Musk is aiming these boring machines at Mars. That makes more sense than using them to attack the traffic problem when that problem is already being solved by one of his other companies.

I doubt very much that even self driving cars will solve LA's traffic problem by themselves. The sheer volume of people is so large, that mass transit will probably still be needed.
You may be partly right.

But self-driving cars will enable a sort of ad-hoc, on demand carpooling style 'mass' transit: something like ten-passenger vans that deliver commuters from similar downtown areas to similar home neighborhoods. If only ten percent of commuters switched to that method, taking ten cars off the road and replacing it with one van, the volume of traffic drops immediately to 91% of what it was. That alone, plus significantly smarter, denser, more efficient, networked AI driving, will hugely reduce gridlock.

And at some point as more jobs get automated, and the jobs that remain human-accessible become more knowledge-based and less presence- and specific time-based, we'll move away from the huge spikes in traffic at 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., spreading traffic volumes more evenly out across the day.

We'll have to look seriously at living underground on mars. It won't protect us from solar rays on the surface. One of the cheaper ways to protect yourself is to put a layer of rock inbetween you and the sun.
Underground living on Mercury is much more interesting than Mars. (There's a band close to the poles and a few meters down that has very stable and comfortable temperatures.
Perhaps if you're building a cellar. If you want to make a 10-story building - even in a virgin terrain, it's a complicated operation.

Not to mention that you need to make the materials such that they resist a huge side pressure, water leaks and so on.

Psychological costs are also costs.

Wide-open spaces, even enclosed ones, can reduce the psychological burden of confinement quite a bit -- there's a variety of Russian strategic-missile submarine with a swimming pool, for example. This subject also comes up frequently in SF (science fiction, not San Francisco, which has the opposite problem); there was some discussion of it on the "Atomic Rocket" worldbuilding guide, IIRC.
I… I think the picture of that "pool" in your head is slightly wrong [1].

Tangential: the source [2] is pretty interesting.



Why build layers at all? Urban concentrations too high?
Water leaks are not going to be a problem on mars. Significantly lower gravity 3.711 m/s vs 9.8m/s also drastically lowers pressure from burrowing.
Is it possible to make a huge nuclear explosion/reaction that produces the same atmosphere we have on earth?
Wrong grammar. I was actually asking a question.
There are ways to teraform the planet, but they are well beyond our capabilities.
how to become ant people
Human evolution would surely change direction after a few millenia of living underground in lower gravity
Is the main radiation danger the Sun or the background "cosmic" radiation?

I've been assuming the latter, but I realize now that I don't actually know.

Doesn't matter too much for the rocks: if a few metre of rock won't absorb the radiation, neither will your body.
That doesn't make too much sense to me, since your body could be harmed by absorbing only a fraction of the energy of a large radiation dose.
Valid point. Though I think given the spectra involved, it probably doesn't apply.
Both are significant dangers, but radiation from the sun can be shielded fairly easily. Not so high energy cosmic rays.
You can for example put an entire planet between you and the sun radiation by going out at night.
I'm pretty sure Elon Musk is preserving our species by laying the foundations for us to leave and survive beyond this planet. He's the ultimate prepper.

I'm totally down with that, by the way: I believe there's a nonzero risk that our resource consumption trajectory, population growth and environmental carelessness will combine within centuries (if not sooner) to make this planet incapable of supporting us.

If plan A is "fix human behaviour", then we need a plan B. Plan B must be get another planet.

"All of this was for nothing. Unless we go to the stars." - Sinclair.

> While Earths environment may not be as harsh as Mars you still learn something

Apparently the problem of martian storms is not that rocks are flying around[1] but just plain ol' dust[2] reducing the efficiency to very low levels, both by deposit and by floating in the air.



I've always enjoyed this theory. Just one guy figuring out how to take over a planet; no big deal.
Obligatory Pinky and the Brain reference.

The thing to do is to check for what is potentially inconsistent with your hypothesis. For example, what about the neural link company?
Why bring a bottle of earth with us everywhere we go? Why not adapt ourselves to the environments rather than the environments to us?
That is totally how you are going to fly his rockets :-) So much easier if you just put on a helmet and now you can use your thoughts to control the switches and inputs.
As a pilot I find this idea disconcerting because my thoughts are so imprecise compared to my actions. However, I suppose it would be like learning to ride a bike; you'd get used to what it feels like for your brain to guide the rocket much like a bicycle rider shifts their weight. But really, couldn't a computer do this better?
I'd hate to see what letting my mind drift does to a flying ship.
See this article:

Consider a man/machine interface where the man controls the intent and the machine controls the precision.


      Build cars/machines to run on something
      that is guaranteed to exist on Mars (the sun) vs. Oil  
You can run internal combustion engines on Mars, provided you supply your own oxygen. This is discussed at length in The Case for Mars. It's likely that the first indigenous Mars-built Utility Vehicles will be fueled with Methane/O2 or Methanol/O2. It will be far easier to establish the tooling for internal combustion on Mars than it would be to establish Li-ion battery production.
Musk could probably afford to take a helicopter from his home to work everyday if he wanted. It'd be a little ridiculous but feasible. At any rate he could probably rent landing time at one of the skyscrapers on Wilshire if his home doesn't have a helicopter pad. I think he flies from Torrance to San Carlos a lot already.

Still fascinating to see all of this stuff take shape. It's definitely like living in the future. You would think there wouldn't be money in it... but there is!

This project and the Hiperloop to me seems really alike, testing the capabilities of non-rocket launchers.

Kinda like in Verne's "From Earth to the Moon", both try to move and accelerate objects, maybe enough to launch something into orbit?

Or maybe im reading to much scifi :)

PS: sorry for the broken english, not my native language.

That's a really interesting perspective. I've never made those connections with Elon's work.

You can throw OpenAI in the mix also. If there are strong advancements in AI then it could possibly be used to automate the facilities if there are not enough workers or as a possible fallback option, among other scenarios.

There will be lots of positive uses for AI, both on Mars and on Earth, but Musk's main stated motivation for both Open AI and Neuralink is that he's deeply worried about AI being an existential risk to humanity, and he's trying to take steps to mitigate that risk.
He has stated unambiguously that he wants to die on Mars and not on impact. All of his investments lead to Mars.
This was exactly my thought as I watched the video.
Hyperloop is a mass driver too
This is exactly my thoughts
By the time we've learned how to live on a planet as inhospitable as Mars, maybe we'll know how to make a home on Earth.
By the time we've learned how to live on a planet as inhospitable as Mars, maybe we'll have figured out how to deal with LA traffic.
Self driving cars should fix things. At least a hive mind autonomously driving traffic should, in theory, reduce misery.
That kind of attitude gets you nowhere very quickly. Why do _anything_ better?
What makes you feel moving to Mars will solve issues inherent in humanity?
We know how to live on another planet like Mars. The issue is getting there, and getting there at scale.
I didn't downvote you, but I am genuinely curious where you got the idea that we know how to live on Mars already?
In theory, you just go there, plop down a habitat, and live in it.

In practice, it might be a little tougher than it sounds. :-)

Solar radiation? Probably why burrowing would be the way to go.
At least the low gravity makes a space elevator tenable with current materials -- that'd be a big aid. Getting to and from parking orbit from Earth is such a pain!
Living there at scale is an issue too; the experiments ran here for a year in the desert require lots of training, careful planning and in general lots of time and resources. If we want to go to mars and stay there indefinitely we'll need bigger communities, which means manufacturing in mars, making the transition more seamless for a wider range of people, and in general just making more from less.

PS: Don't think this comment is down vote worthy, just healthy discussion imo.

I thought we already knew how to make a home on Earth. What is this in reference to?

That our current methods are unsustainable? There are plenty of ideas for solutions.

That the current state of human cooperation is below the necessary threshold to achieve a self-sustaining society on Mars? Maybe, but I'm optimistic that we'll find the inspirational leaders that are required.

> I thought we already knew how to make a home on Earth.

It seems to me that this really isn't the case. Our attempt to make a home here is causing a mass extinction, extremely fast change in atmospheric makeup (compared to historical models), depletion of fresh water reserves (in some areas anyways), increased frequency of bad weather, earthquakes, etc. Under a 'business as usual' model I have trouble seeing our current ecosystem supporting us for long (e.g. another 100 years).

There are a billion or so people living sustainably, and probably 1% of those are doing it at a Western standard of living. We just haven't figured out how to democratize access to the culture of how to do that broadly in all climates.
I think the key difference in Elon's approach is that he snatches the most viable pie out of the sky and figures out how to make it happen today.

In my opinion that's part of "knowing how" - knowing how to make something actually happen outside of theories. Hopefully we'll get there soon.

Why the hell would you be optimistic about that.
Would pessimism help?
I had a bramble of related ideas in mind, and instead of putting in effort to untangle them I lazily let them came out as a pithy aphorism. But:

- Even if all of Musk's enterprises were aimed at colonizing Mars (like gp suggested), they can be quite useful here.

- Turning Mars into a self-sufficient habitat is both an absurdly long-term (and laudable) goal and no guarantee of survival. We have to worry about the problems of surviving on Earth today and, in the very long run, how to live in many other places.

(upvoted your comment, because I agree with it)

Since this is a thread about Elon Musk, transportation infrastructure, public transportation, and urban design, and because HN has a sort of affinity for the Robert Moses story (The Power Broker was one of 'aaronsw's favorite books), this seems like a particularly on-point Twitter thread to read after the video:

You might not agree with all/any of it but I think it's hard to say this isn't thought-provoking.

I suppose you could call it thought provoking, but the primary takeaway from that thread for me was to reaffirm why I don't follow many people on Twitter, and why I've grown very reluctant to patiently listen to privileged white people talk to me about the historical and contemporary oppression that people of my ancestry face in this country.

The whole thing comes off so self aggrandizing and baselessly accusatory.

In particular, I enjoyed this person's tweet[0] when challenged for some evidence of Musk's racism. Apparently, the rock solid evidence doesn't even have to do with tunnel boring, infrastructure, or urban planning, but instead with Musk not following any/enough women on Twitter. Truly revelatory stuff right here.


I found the thread interesting and informative up until she drew her conclusion:

Elon Musk doesn't strike me as an innovator when he talks about building tunnels and subways. He strikes me as Robert Moses. Who are these tunnels going to serve? The Latino communities in LA? Or are we just running them straight to the rich neighborhoods?

It's hard for me to believe someone doesn't have an axe to grind when they make statements like this. On what basis does this person claim that Elon Musk bears resemblance to Robert Moses?

This is my problem with many politics-in-tech discussions. People who take politics seriously say, "technology always has political implications." True enough; we do indeed seem to forget that. They stir some history into their argument. Even better. But once they have to perform analysis, free of the rigorous standards of thought you have in e.g. math or science, they start saying baseless things.

Yeah, that's also not the conclusion I would draw, either. And that's fine: I don't have to agree with the whole thread to get value out of it.
I don't see this as baseless to be honest. As someone in the camp of "technology always has political implications", one of the interesting trends I've seen with tech is that most of the benefits go to the rich first. In some ways yes, that makes sense. The problem is when they never transition to the whole population effectively. Take subways, a well-defined technology at this point. Pretty much every city you look at, there's a minority community without proper access because the city sees the cost as not worth it to build the additional line or pay for service. The Orange Line and Roxbury come to mind in Boston, who instead got a talked up bus system to replace a line moved out of a minority community.

When you see a technology like this and think of the benefits, considering who gets those benefits is a big part of the value of the idea practically. To me, it's nothing against the ideas technological merit, academic impressiveness, creative ingenuity, etc. It does reflect what ideas someone like Musk is focused on though, and I don't think bringing it up inherently means they have an axe to grind. I think Elon is doing a ton of good and is one of the few SV bigshots that deserves hype (looks sideways at Peter Thiel), but we should have realistic views on who his projects are exactly helping both short and long term.

I hear what you're saying and actually agree. The somewhat pedantic point I was making earlier was just that the author could've more conservatively written, "here are some possible dangers down this path which we should think carefully about."

(Sorry for replying to a long, substantive comment with a short one; I just don't have anything to add.)

The trick with this kind of thing is separating malicious deliberate exclusion from just trying to finance a project by catering to people who have money to fund it.

Sure it would be very nice and charitable of Musk to make sure that poorer communities are served by tunnels too, but that runs more risk of his already super risky business going bankrupt. In that case nobody, rich or poor, would benefit.

I imagine he'll follow a strategy similar to Tesla where he starts by pursuing the most wealthy markets while his costs are high and as the company refines its technique he'll go down market and become accessible to a broader swath of the population.

The Power Broker is one of my favorite books and I agree that Moses was ultimately a despicable man, who made NYC a much worse place to live to withholding funding for transit while pouring money into road building in a hopeless attempt to deal with the congestion he was causing.

However, I think the tweetstorm misses that it is poor and middle class people who are most hurt today by inadequate transit, and one thing that would have an enormous effect is an order of magnitude drop in tunneling costs.

My other post <> links to a look at why the Second Avenue Subway's $2.2 B per km costs are 20x higher than other cities. A technology that drops tunnelling costs will be great for the poor, and thankfully, I do not believe the news media (with all of its flaws) would ever allow someone like Moses (or Musk) to operate the way he did today.

Very real risk for developing transport infrastructure... Would checks against this kind of malicious intent be on the digging company, or on the city planning departments that determine route alignments, etc.?

(Real question - I don't understand the relationship between technical contractors and cities in this context.)

Every self-driving car video I've seen is set in a place built for cars, not people. Not a coincidence.
This seems like a fairly average Five Minutes of Hate that Twitter users seem to produce all the time.
The only though it provokes in me is, Man, here we are a century later, and the ignorant masses are still letting rich white dudes decide their future for them.
"This white dude is a racist. Elon Musk is white! He must be planning to do the same imaginary thing!"

Not through-provoking; just more verbal diarrhea from a very angry, misguided individual that uses twitter as a platform to spread their dumb ideas.

It's not thought provoking, it's a series of thought terminating cliches.

I'm as liberal as they come, I'm very sensitive to disguised racism, but the tweets' entire basis of comparison between Musk and Moses is "both are/were ambitious men and now musk is talking about infrastructure". It's free-association garbage.

The Moses story is fascinating because he accomplished great things that built NYC but was also a horrible person. The tweeter you linked is like, "hey, Musk is trying to accomplish great things, he must be just like Moses".

Let's not forget that Musk literally said he wants to bore tunnels because it takes him too long to get to work... and this video is essentially showcasing a rapid transit system for people who own his cars.

Musk also claimed Tesla's solar roof would cost less than a "normal" roof... (PS Musk considers a "normal" roof to be made of slate)

The "affordable" (his words) Model 3 has a standard configuration of about $40k.

I think he's a super interesting guy doing amazing things... but I think he's vastly out of touch with what concepts like "affordable" or "normal" mean to the majority of this country. His "normal" doesn't extend very far outside of silicon valley.

He's more Tony Stark than Iron Man.

I watched the roof reveal and Elon made it clear he was comparing to prices of high-end roofing material.
The Model 3 starts at $35k [1], which is only slightly above the average price for a new car sold in the US ($34k) [2].

[1] [2]

Moses wasn't a horrible person. He was an ambitious, unscrupulous, and effective person with a singular view --- one not totally out of step with the elite of his time --- that happened to be (in the opinion of many, including me) very harmful to the long-term health of New York.

I think it's your rebuttal that's facile here, not the comparison in the Twitter thread, but, like you, I might be wrong.

I'm reading the biography of Moses as we speak and the current chapter does paint him as being capable of a unique kind of horribleness, regardless of his other positive qualities.

As one of his friends described him: "He's so forthright and honest that if he saw a man across the street who he thought was a son of a bitch, he would cross the street and call him a son of a bitch, lest by passing him in silence, his silence be misconstrued".

That disagrees with the Twitter thread you linked to, which claims:

> Robert Moses weaponized Civil Engineering and Urban Planning to suppress marginalized communities. Engineering is always political.

Words like "weaponized" and "suppress" suggest that Emily thinks Moses was ill-intentioned, not merely an ambitious guy who in his monomania happened to overlook some of the more sinister side-effects of his work.

The entire point of The Power Broker is that Moses was ill-intentioned. He deliberately built his projects in ways that froze NYC's minorities out from being able to benefit from them, destroyed healthy neighborhoods when they tried to stop him, and bankrupted the city building highways it didn't need because every new highway project increased his personal political power.
I don't entirely agree with the Twitter thread, but it's also possible to "weaponize" and "suppress" because you think it's the right thing to do. Overly-influential people exerting their power to harm others in the interest of what they believe to be "right" is something that bothers me a lot about the power structure of our industry today. I don't think the comparison is at all unwarranted.
it's also possible to "weaponize" and "suppress" because you think it's the right thing to do

How does that have anything to do with whether he was horrible? In general, people think they're doing the right thing. That doesn't mean they're not horrible.

In what ways, specifically, is Elon exerting his power to harm others? Or have I misunderstood your comments?
> I don't entirely agree with the Twitter thread, but it's also possible to "weaponize" and "suppress" because you think it's the right thing to do.

Everyone thinks what they do is right. Ill-intentioned refers to whether the characterizer thinks it was right, not the actor.

I think there is nothing more boring than reading a bunch of people who never propose anything point out flaws.

You all sound like Balmer.

This is a CONCEPT!!

Elon is THINKING you all are pointing, laughing and adding no value to the conversation of "What comes next?"

If your idea is "the metro works", a 150 year old system, then this video is not for you.

To the video, I like the concept of combining public and private transportation in the same path.

It also makes sense as a way to directly link far distances. To me, this is a modification of the hyperloop concept. Something more feasible in the shorter term and definitely less risky.

Of course all this depends on the economics and physics of boring becoming cheap and 10x faster. keep thinking Elon.

Earth needs more of your "fantasies". Let the pointers keep pointing.

"I think there is nothing more boring than reading a bunch of people who never propose anything point out flaws."

This just isn't a very rational statement.

We need some solar frickin' roadways!
This is just FUD to crowd out practical solutions that compete with his magical car bullshit.
If that is your idea of value, there exist plenty of scifi writers/artists with concepts like this, except more practical, better thought out, or so on

So perhaps instead of 'pointing' you should take your own advice?

That's really unfair considering the source. This is someone who continually has proved the skeptics wrong. At what point does he earn the benefit of the doubt in your eyes?
Proven what? His main claim of glory, Tesla, still hasn't achieved what he built the company for: making EVs mainstream. Rather than the ecological revolution he pretends it to be (his focus on climate change), it is still nothing but an expensive toy for the wealthy. Not exactly selling at the levels where we could talk about making a change for the planet.

Maybe you're referring to SpaceX in proving skeptics wrong? We have yet to see if that company ever becomes profitable. Reusing rockets is not what made people skeptical as much as pretending it'd make financial sense to do.

Most of his other popular pet projects are even more pie-in-the-sky. Neuralink? That's nothing but talk. Hyperloop? not a single prototype built in the real world, in a real location. OpenAi sounds like what a conspiracy theorist would come up with.

I think this crazy tunnel thing Elon just announced looks horrible, but the moment you claim that Tesla and SpaceX aren't doing anything special is where it becomes pretty obvious that you don't know what you're talking about.
Tesla sells high tech luxury vehicles that, as yet, aren't mainstream, and there are several road bumps to overcome before getting there. To laud Musk's success today to the point of proving success on his future products is premature. He hasn't completed his initial goals -- making electric mainstream and space flight an enterprise.

Not saying it isn't possible or what he has achieved isn't great. Just saying his existing successes don't prove what he's proposing will succeed, since, his new goals are as big or bigger than his initial as-yet-incomplete goals.

> aren't mainstream

Citation needed. I see teslas multiple times daily. In my book that counts as mainstream.

> as yet, aren't mainstream

Maybe it takes more than 5 minutes to make all cities capable of powering electrical cars then competing with the existing car market? He's already built a successful product, has successful competitors, prevented the 2000's era proprietary cell phone charger fiasco from happening again. It's a little too late to be skeptical.

I agree. Just saying it isn't evidence for future big plan success. I'm glad some people are optimistic for it. I wonder what will happen to all these goals if / when the next recession hits. But that's more of my cynical view coming in. You keep being you and I'll be me ;-)
The costs of tunneling are like FAR more expensive than most think. Breaking, excavating, and supporting rock is slow, time and cost heavy, and precarious work. While this is an interesting concept, unless there are serious advances in rock boring techniques (personal opinion: there are none coming) this will never approach fruition. I would suggest anyone interested in further research look into the "Big Dig" of Boston and the staggering costs and challenges it faced.

Good luck, Elon. It'll be another moonshot company if you can pull it off.

Seattle's Bigger Dig is also worth studying:

Sending rockets to another solar system would be cheaper than the tunnels depicted in this video. I'm not even kidding.

Where is all that material going to go? There's so many tunnels there you could build a small mountain with it. Maybe he can team up with some sea-steading outfit and build a small continent off the shore of San Francisco.

You'd need three or four orders of magnitude reduction in tunnelling costs to make that anywhere near affordable, and even then you'd still have unbelievably complicated logistical issues. How much concrete do you need for those tunnels? What about ventilation? Safety procedures? Flood control? A single one of those could cost upwards of a billion dollars and I'm not sure there's a lot of cost savings by doing more of them, the complexities don't scale that way.

The more you dig, the more you're likely to hit something expensive you're going to have to pay to fix.

Make an underground concrete factory in the tunnel system and use the tunnel material to make concrete to make the tunnels.

(I'm kidding)

Loose dirt off of the coast of SF? That doesn't work so well in an earthquake. Lookup "liquefaction".
If you start the tunnel down far enough, you could be below anything that could be hit. Would that make it less expensive?
You make it sound like all that's down there is uniform layers of perfectly intact rock just waiting to be bored.

No, it's a hellacious mess of rocks of different types, of muck of all kinds, of brittle, water-filled pockets of who knows what, and every inch you dig you find out there's another problem up ahead.

In the case of Seattle they planned, they surveyed, they did test drilling, and they plotted a course that should have avoided everything, yet they still managed to slam into a steel pole that shouldn't have been there. It set their project back months, the machine was trashed and had to be dug up and fixed.

Plus, these tunnels are only part of the package. You need those surface access lifts, and those may well be the most logistically complicated of the whole system. To make this accessible you'll need hundreds of them, potentially thousands, and each one is a mega-project unto itself if you've sunk the tunnel down deep enough to avoid all those hazards you're now digging straight through.

The deeper you go, the more those lift stations cost. The shallower you go the more you'll come into conflict with infrastructure. There's no easy win here.

Thanks for the info. I asked because I didn't know, didn't mean to say that it was a piece of cake or anything like that.
Somehow I think Elon Musk has made it through the middlebrow dismissal phase of this if the concept has made it this far(to include actual digging in SpaceX's parking lot even).
Somehow I think Elon, who's a pretty smart guy, has run out of challenges and is now resorting to trying crazier and crazier things.

Next up: Elon's Space Elevator! Elon's Fusion Reactor! Elon's Teleporter!

Musk could also be bullshitting to help get funding to create a boring machine that is just twice as good as what we have now. That would be a very profitable company and would reduce subway costs, etc.

Musk's a sales technique to promise the moon (Mars really) and then use the cash to build a revolutionary but realistic company.

SpaceX isn't going to colonize mars, but its putting satellites in orbit.

I wouldn't be surprised if a 2x or 3x more efficient boring machine is the ultimate product of this and it makes future infrastructure projects much cheaper as a result.
I wouldn't be surprised that for such a niche industry he couldn't make it 20x more efficient. I also wouldn't be surprised if he could only increase efficiency marginally because its a hard problem. But these niche problems often have huge potentials for efficiency gain.
People said moving phonebooks to the internet was stupid. Then he founded Zip2. People said moving banking to the internet was stupid/insane. Then he founded which merged with and became what we now know as Paypal. People said he couldn't possibly make rockets from scratch that go to space. Then he did it. People also said he wouldn't land rockets on boats. Then he did it. Then they said he would never refly a "launch proven" rocket. Then he did.

As absolutely insane as his goals are, betting against him overall tends to be a losing bet. I'd be careful about what you think SpaceX "isn't" going to do. If it is technologically possible, they will do it. Period.

There's people who will think any issue is stupid, but by no mean did the vast majority of people think those ideas were stupid. I particularly don't recall anyone saying reusable rockets were a bad idea.

And X.Com didn't become Paypal. Paypal became Paypal. Paypal was already developed before the merger and it was not Musk's idea.

> unless there are serious advances in rock boring techniques

I'm pretty sure Elon Musk doesn't enter a market unless he intends to do just that.

Edit: I got downvoted a bit but it is his MO. He takes things that are expensive and makes them cheaper. For what it's worth though, I do think the tunnels in that video are ridiculous.

And concrete production? And underground hazard detection? And coordination with city infrastructure? And...
Honestly though these same sentences came up around Teslas too.

And battery production? And crash test safety? And coordination with NHTSA?

People made electric cars before Tesla and they'll make cars after. People made rockets before SpaceX and they'll make them after.

He's cut component costs on the Tesla by maybe 70%. On the SpaceX project it's more like 80% compared to the highest cost competitor. Both of these are huge achievements.

The problem with tunnels is they're not cars, not rockets, not anything like he's ever done before. If he had a functioning Hyperloop system, if he'd proven he can build out infrastructure on a geographic scale and not just product from a factory I'd be more likely to agree with you.

This is a bad idea, a bad project, and a total waste of time.

I really, really hope I get to see you eat your words in 30 years.
I have to struggle to think of a dystopian future any more hellacious and soul-crushing than Musk's vision here. It's just tripling down on the concept of living a life centered around the car. Another step to eliminating all human interaction in the course of your daily life.

If, by some stroke of genius and fluke of luck, this thing does get built it will go down in history as the most absurd thing ever constructed.

Then perhaps a hundred years after it goes bankrupt someone will be drilling down there and hit a tunnel that nobody knew existed and re-discover its brief and absurd history just like Chicago has done with their own boring company:

You could change...

> And concrete production? And underground hazard detection? And coordination with city infrastructure? And...


> And battery production, and driving hazard detection, and coordinating with the FAA and NASA, and rockets, and...

It's not guaranteed success (not even remotely) but if I had to bet on anyone...

You act like Musk does all the work himself. If he wanted to he could hire the best and brightest in each of those areas and they can work in parallel.

I don't even know if the guy is a good engineer. But I'm pretty sure to have the success he has had he knows how to inspire them.

I think he's gone one step too far on this project. Concrete is something that's necessarily expensive to produce, there's inescapable costs in the production cycle, so while he could probably make it 80% cheaper, he can't make it 99.9% cheaper.
>Concrete is something that's necessarily expensive to produce

That's true. But techniques like compressed stabilized earth blocks can reduce the required percentage of concrete from ~30% to 4%.[1] For example, recently a 4% concrete and 8% ash CSEB was shown to be as strong as class 30 concrete.[2] Fly ash can also be used. Obviously considerations like longevity and manufacturability need to be validated, but the strength is there.

Essentially you're mechanically squeezing all the air out of the concrete, thus reducing the cement requirement. Since TBM tunnels are made from precast formed concrete currently, it seems like a natural cost (and CO2) saving improvement.



I agree that video goes WAY too far. The tunnels in that video are absurd. I give way better odds of him actually sending people to Mars than building that absurd tunnel system.

But he might succeed at something somewhere in between the tunnel he is boring in his parking lot and the video.

Context: I lived in Boston during much of the Big Dig. Large tunnel projects scare the heck out of me as a tax payer.

If he wants to get into the tunnelling business and start bidding on these "big dig" projects in various cities, I think he'll find some success. His engineering aptitude, his ability to think around problems, that's gotten him to where he is today.

If he retreats from this and builds some kind of pneumatic tube system to transport goods, people, or whatever, he still might have a chance of a win. Those systems have been proposed, and in some cases actually built, and in many cases they've been great ideas.

If he stubbornly insists on pursuing this batshit insane system of tubes he will fail, and he'll fail hard. There is not enough concrete in the world to make that many tunnels.

Maybe he can use something that isn't concrete
Maybe he can. The construction industry has explored a lot of options, but let me tell you something: If there's one group of people that are necessarily conservative about these things it's civil engineers.

A rocket can go to the moon and come back safely, that takes an abundance of caution and significant attention to detail, but it's a fixed-length trip. Civil infrastructure has to exist for decades, or in the case of many American undertakings, well over a century. That requires extreme caution.

If you invented a concrete alternative today it'd take at least twenty years for it to be considered a viable alternative to concrete because long-term studies of the mechanical characteristics of it under a wide variety of conditions will have to be taken out.

Concrete is an extremely complicated material, I know people that have gotten a Ph.D. in aspects of it, and it's very well understood. This hypothetical alternative you're talking about has a lot to measure up to.

> It'll be another moonshot company if you can pull it off.

Your phrasing is interesting given that SpaceX announced sending two people around the moon next year.

Anyone know what it's costing Tokyo Mwtro to keep digging tunnels at very large depths? They have great coverage yet they're still digging new lines.
The issue with Tokyo is that the density supports metro expansions.
Per distance costs should be theoretically comparable? (Regulation costs and labor coming to mind as drivers of cost differences)
I was talking about the demand side / use more than the supply side / cost. But after a cursory examination of the statistics, Tokyo doesn't seem to have a measurably greater density by any common metric vs other cities.

So I suppose my above was wrong. I'd guess the more reliable enablers are only sufficient density, coupled with good geology and a cooperating regulatory / permitting structure.

Not only the drilling, but the shoring up and walling of the tunnel. Also, people tend to be opposed to "move fast and break things" if they're likely to get buried under them.
Until you remove the "they" by fully automating the system.
Ultimately you want to put passengers in the tunnel, yes?
From parent comment, I was guessing that the point of greatest risk would be during tunneling / initial bracing? Rather than final static bracing.
I was thinking of the NATM failures:

(which were during construction, but happened in "finished" sections, I believe. NATM applies a single pass of shotcrete to the cut rock surface)

People also tend to object to "move fast and break things" when they, and their very expensive buildings, are on top of said things and get broken as a result.
Point. Although I'd assume the majority of subway routes tend to be built under roads (also bad, but less terrible)?

Not sure what the geology of San Francisco / California tends to be like, but I believe most of the Manhattan skyscrapers are anchored down to the bedrock. Which I'd expect would require cutting and reinforcing vs just "drill on through".

Elon has stated that he believes it is possible to reduce tunnel creation speeds by 5 to 10 times, and that this is what they will work on doing:

possible to reduce tunnel creation speeds by 5 to 10 times

He's going to involve the government? :|

Maybe one day we could connect the individual pods, and even gasp route these "coupled cars" on rails above ground.

I wonder if anyone has tried that yet?

Above ground rail isn't practical in urban areas. The video had silly car tunnels, but in practice, I'm sure the bulk of their business will be subway tunnels.
What? The Chicago L and NYC subways (both of which carry hundreds of millions of riders per year) have many, many miles of either at-grade or above-grade track.
That would be amazing! I wonder if car manufacturers wouldn't oppose it through some sneaky moves though...
"unless there are serious advances" ...which is precisely what Musk is researching (bottleneck of boring machines): “We’re trying to dramatically increase the tunneling speed,” Musk says. “We want to know what it would take to get to a mile a week? Could it be possible?” See
AFAIK, in many major cities, a major part of the cost of tunnelling is the fact we simply don't know where hundred-year old utilities are.

And, hell, the fact that many cities aren't built on rock (e.g., London, Berlin, Moscow), so even if you can bore through solid rock you're probably not actually that well off: can you also bore through clay and gravel?

The whole process can be fully robotized, and the energy comes from cheap solar. It's not even a moonshot, it will happen. We will do even crazier things than this. In the future we will bore tunnels out of boredom.
That's the entire point of The Boring Company. It's way more expensive than anyone expects. That's the problem they are trying to solve. The entire goal is "serious advances in rock boring techniques".

That may be a lofty goal, but at least the message I got is that it is the one they want to reach.

It seems to me that there may be room for disruption. Currently every TBM (tunnel boring machine) is completely bespoke and is used for exactly one project and is then dismantled/recycled. They cost hundreds of millions of dollars each. I imagine there are relatively few manufacturers out there building TBMs.

Actually in some ways it bears a resemblance to the spaceflight industry (expensive, custom-made, few players). Coincidence?

>> "(personal opinion: there are none coming)"

Former tunnel boring engineer here.

There is a ton of room for innovation around tunnel boring machines built by the major manufacturers (primarily Herrenknecht and Robbins), around reliability, durability, ease of serviceability etc. I cannot emphasize enough how modern TBM's require an unbelievable amount of engineering attention, repair labor, spare parts infrastructure etc, similar to many super-early-stage fragile prototype technologies. Unfortunately TBM's are no longer early stage, but for some reason the technology is frozen at just-good-enough-to-barely-work."

However I don't know if the economics will work out to fix any of these. Here are a couple of the big problems:

* Most TBM's are semi- or fully-customized for a single job. This raises machine costs. It'd be better if there were only a small range of small-medium-large TBM's that work ~everywhere.

* Most TBM's are fully assembled in the factory, smoketested aka turned on to make sure they work, disassembled and shipped to the job, then reassembled and used. This is not efficient, surely we can figure out a better way.

* Most TBM's are entombed aka thrown away at the end of the job, because getting them out of the hole is expensive and difficult.

* Changing the cutterheads is labor intensive and dangerous and requires highly trained very expensive humans, and it's slow. While you change the cutterheads, your billion dollar toy is sitting there doing nothing.

* TBM architecture is highly dependent on geology. A slurry faced TBM that works in mixed soils is a totally different beast from a hard-rock TBM. It would be cool to have one machine that works in many geologies, perhaps with minimal or automated modifications.

* TBM's require lots of care and feeding from a small army of humans. This raises job costs.

* Topside support infrastructure such as slurry plants and ground freezing machinery comes from different vendors, often even from different countries. E.g. it's common to buy your topside slurry plant from the MS company, in France, while your ground freeze vendor might be Tachibana from Japan. Often each subsystem's engineers on site literally don't even speak a common language. Hilarity predictably ensues. Vertical integration would pay huge dividends here.

Ideally Elon can mass-produce TBM's that just work out of the box for most jobs, and that are easier to work on. Then we can laugh him out of town for his stupid "put cars in tunnels" ideas and use his miracle machines to build sensible train tunnels.

So they are somewhat similar to the problems Elon tries to solve with rockets. Rockets are not normally reused, which makes them expensive to use.

They are often custom built (at least partly) and thus not mass produced. While we won't see that for rockets any time soon, it believe he managed to bring down the cost of building rockets and continues to do so (he uses his own money after all and does not have the support of every tax-paying citizen like NASA used to during the Apollo missions).

Sure the engineering challenges are probably different for the most part but the economics are the same. Rockets are more expensive then they should be. Boring is also more expensive then it needs to be.

First, I want to say that I'm a _massive_ fan of what Elon Musk is doing with SpaceX.

> he uses his own money after all and does not have the support of every tax-paying citizen like NASA used to during the Apollo missions

This isn't really true. SpaceX, like pretty much all private Spaceflight providers, has received many development contracts from NASA. These are basically NASA giving the company a bucket of money to develop launch capabilities to certain requirements.

SpaceX has _absolutely_ been supported by the US taxpayer, and likely will continue to be. It definitely has been _much_ cheaper for the taxpayer than Apollo, but we haven't gotten a free lunch on this one.

Well, that's true but the only reason spaceX was given the money is because the government wanted to put satalties in orbit. They just figured SpaceX was the cheapest way to get them up their.

They had to prove that they could do it before they saw a dime. The NASA has a project and gets funded without having at least a prove of concept (e.g. A single rocket that can do the job) as long as congress likes it. I'm not saying that this is bad, but this way he earned the money.

Furthermore, unlike the Apollo missions, sending satellites into orbit served a practical purpose. Sure the apollo missions were really cool and have helped science a lot but their practicality was a lot less.

I really wish this was a top-level comment so it could be voted up to the very top. More informed than 99% of this entire comments section. Thank you!
That's a lot of good insight into tunnel boring. Thanks for that.

I know Cincinnati's subway failed because of some bad tunnelling that caused foundations to sink .. well that and the great depression. If they had started earlier or designed it better, Cincinnati could have a Chicago like transit system today. Unfortunately it took them years to get a tram and there are people still trying to shut that down instead of expand it! Unbelievable.

I know in Seattle, many of the tunnels (like to Northgate/UDistrict) have actually been fully bored. The new stations are still not due to open for a few years, mostly because the majority of time isn't spend on the tunnels, but installing track, electrics and building the underground rail stations.

Precisely this. Most people are focusing on the wrong issues, whether it should be tunnelling cars and not Subway trains etc. That is like arguing SpaceX is putting humans on Rocket and not Satellite.

If Elon could make tunnelling 10x faster, requires much less Human labour and reusable, this will dramatically cut down the cost of building SubWay, or other underground Networks. I am not sure if such tech could be used to build like a underground Shopping Mall in Cities. But if we could build a Walk way under every Car Road would be great for urban cities.

Fantastic post, thanks.

I have a naïve question about subterrean _housing_.

With the real estate skyrocketing in some cities, and scarcity of terrain, I wonder why there is not much more underground liveable habitations (for example, near an expensive city center with no space left).

In my city that's where they put parking spots which are even more profitable than housing per square foot. Over $60k a spot.
Even if just having a semi-underground floor with ground level windows for a bit of extra space (gym, etc) for residences.
London is seeing a bit of this - people are building massive 3+ story basements under existing properties.
For anyone interested, there are a few Grand Designs episodes featuring underground residential work. Some are quite inventive due to space constraints. Amazing how expensive some of the groundworks can be dealing with weather or underpinning neighbouring properties.
Very interesting. Your comment should seriously be at the top.

I think this is really just Elon's goal, and the talk and fluffy marketing video are just that. Fluffy marketing and PR for his companies.

Now that's a useful comment.

Here's Crossrail's video explaning how their TBMs work. This gives enough detail that you can get an understanding of what's going on.[1]

There's so much variation in geology. The Seikan tunnel to Hokkaido had huge variations in soil and the project went very slowly. Eurotunnel is mostly through chalk, and went well. The Gotthard Base Tunnel in Switzerland was a long grind through hard rock well above water level. That's a slow process, but was reasonably uniform. SF's BART tunnel, unusually, was built onshore in sections and lowered into a dredged trench. NYC's Water Tunnel #3 was in hard rock, and that project went very slowly.

Many things can go wrong. Hard rock may not be competent rock capable of supporting itself. The Tom Lantos tunnels south of San Francisco were through a small mountain of loose shale. One tunneling project in Japan hit an underground river.

The most advanced underground rail project today is probably the Tokyo-Osaka maglev line.[2] 43 kilometers of this is already operating, and most of the route is in tunnel. Tokyo to Nagoya is scheduled to open in 2027. The connection through to Osaka was scheduled for 2045, but the Government has decided to accelerate the program and get it done sooner. Here's what the ride looks like.[3] 500km/h. Working now.




Did anyone else notice that cars being lowered leaves a giant fucking hole in the middle of the street?!

This is a marketing fluff video untouched by engineers

This is obviously just a marketing video, but that isn't a very hard problem to solve. The bigger issue is building an enormous underground highway network under an existing city.
I was too busy noticing how there was no contention between the newly raised car leaving the platform and a new car driving into the platform, or the endless line of cars queueing to be raised or lowered, or the amount of time it would take for a car to make it in or out at rush hour, or brain sizzles
Do you really think that no one, not even Elon did notice? I would rather assume, that for this concept video they considered this detail as non-essential and the actual entry points would look quite differently (and safer) than displayed. They most certainly would be different to those "parking spots" shown in the video.
So you raise a fence around it (stored on the sides, underground of course), or slide a roof in (once again, stored below the surface) to prevent anyone from going in even if they wanted to. This doesn't sound like a biggie to me.
The ongoing maintenance of tens of thousands of sliding doors, elevators, and retracting fences sounds like a biggie to me.
Every subway contains a whole bunch of sliding doors that open and close every single stop.
Yes, and they frequently need repair and maintenance.

Now imagine having tens of thousands of subway cars instead of a couple hundred.

There are tens of thousands of teslas out there already with automatic doors.
And (most?) new minivans nowadays. And most cars have power windows as well. And most supermarkets have sliding doors as well. And probably most garages in the suburbs have automatic doors. This is actually run of the mill technology.
The easiest solution is to make it a covered "garage" with doors on both sides then the hole is always covered. But that doesn't look as good on a promotional video.
You didn't see the force field the appeared as the car lowered past the threshold?
uh duh??? Ever heard of a concept? How many concept cars actually get released as the "marketing fluff" that you see in auto shows?
Tesla releases every one they've shown. Or they will have, starting in July. (Though they'll soon have more to show.)
If this is ever built someone will absolutely ghost-ride the whip in the tunnel.

And die.

And lawsuits.

Someone needs to edit the video so you see a pedestrian falling down the shaft and breaking their neck
Might as well add Judge Judy and a scene in court when the lawsuit happens.
The amount would be way over Judge Judy's limit.
There's a sidewalk I walk down, it's quite narrow and runs along a shoulderless road with a steady stream of cars whizzing by at 50 miles an hour. I think to myself 'how much more or less dangerous is this than walking along the edge of the Grand Canyon? One misstep and I'm toast. One misstep from one of those cars and I'm toast.'

We have a hardwired respect for heights, but at no time in our evolutionary history did we ever have to deal with the kind of speed cars move at. So we look at a 10 foot deep unprotected hole in the ground and instantly think 'Hey, that's a hazard', but we don't give nearly enough consideration to speed, and as such 2 million people each year who are killed and injured in US motor vehicle accidents, and we just sort of shrug our shoulders.

Reminds me of this image:
I mean, you can easily cover up the hole with a sliding door pretty quickly after dropping, or, as someone else mentioned, raise fences during the process.

This is far from the hardest problem to solve in the video.

I'm just pointing out that the flaw is egregious. PR videos are supposed to give people a view of the future, suspend disbelief for a minute. This just looks like something slapped together by an intern told to "put some future cars in a tunnel"

A damn disappointment for something hyped a while back from Musk himself. He should learn from Hollywood, movie trailers are far more important than the movie itself when public interest is involved.

Except most people will probably not notice that.
I don't get it. Much of the USA is faced with crumbling infrastructure and a lack of money for maintaining that infrastructure. How is creating a network of powered tunnels - which are much more expensive to maintain than surface roads - going to interact with this economic reality?

This seems like technology that addresses mostly fun, theoretical problems - like traffic optimization, not ugly, practical ones like tight municipal budgets and urban sprawl.

Degradation of infrastructure is caused by heavy vehicules (trucks), weather and bad driving. Tunnels solve these 3 issues.
How do tunnels solve bad driving? Tunnel accidents are even worse than those on the surface.
It doesn't look like you get to drive in the tunnels. You get put on a car that is on fixed tracks.
They are clearly pictured as being private tunnels for Tesla owners, which allow the rich technologist to avoid surface traffic, charge their car while on the tunnel platform, and avoid driving through all those uncomfortable poor regions.

It will interact with the surface economic reality in the same way that flying Audis in tunnels interact with the dystopian wilderness in Hollywood sci-fi films.

Lack of money for maintenance is a problem of overextension and overconstruction. Urban sprawls result in the same thing.

Creating a powered tunnel, especially if it can be engineered to be done faster and cheaper, could result in increased urban density?

It's unclear why this centralized control car-train approach even needs to be underground. Seems like you could do something very similar above-ground. It's basically freeways but without human operation.
But getting rights of way are more complicated above ground. That's probably the one thing that's going to kill the Hyperloop and it already strangles passenger rail in the US.
And it's unlikely that any technological/engineering innovation will make that cheaper. I can see why going the underground route is an attractive idea, you can hope to drive the cost down there.

That being said the cost is currently extremely high, the tunnel that is finished boring and still under construction is estimated to cost 4.2 billion for 2 miles dug over 3 years.

Well, since the Internet was once described as a series of tubes(tm), the Boring company is just extending this metaphor to create the Mole People Highway of The Future. That said, it seems like a great experiment to run somewhere in the middle of nowhere in China the next time they want to build another one of those nearly empty cities they wish to fill with future citizens some day.

But seriously, Elon Musk appears to be dating hot and crazy at the moment. Let's just let him get through this phase of his bucket list so he can get back to being visionary once he realizes why one should never marry hot and crazy.

The easy solution is using private project finance instead of public funds.

But I seriously doubt this thing is actually cost efficient.

I feel as though a large scale privatization of roads would see an explosion in toll roads, which I don't believe is a sustainable solution to infrastructure problems.
municipal budget problems are only a problem for the people in office when it goes downhill.
I am not sure the poor state of existing infrastructure precludes someone from building their own new infrastructure. Public transportation outside of the US is often run by private companies, and they make plenty of money.

Even in the US, passenger rail is typically run by the government or government-like bodies, while freight rail is just private companies. I don't think there's an intrinsic reason for that, it's just how it is. (More like, people with goods to transport are willing to pay, but people with only themselves to transport aren't. Or we see public transportation as a "public good" that's worth subsidizing, but of course the government super subsidizes the road network too.)

The fact that your local politician doesn't want to allocate public funds to shoring up a collapsing bridge doesn't mean that Elon Musk can't spend his own money to build his own bridge (tunnel in this case), right?

I am not sure the poor state of existing infrastructure precludes someone from building their own new infrastructure. Public transportation outside of the US is often run by private companies, and they make plenty of money.

It would be relatively easy (which is to say, it would be easier than doing it to private cars) to fit the municipal bus fleet with the equipment to also become automatically piloted "packets." For that matter, it would also be possible to bake-in such functionality to Tesla cars.

> Public transportation outside of the US is often run by private companies, and they make plenty of money.

It would be interesting to learn details: How often? Who is making how much? And in what circumstances does it tend to work and not work?

In Europe there are plenty of private companies offering public transportation and they are almost always subsidized by the government in one way or another.
> The fact that your local politician doesn't want to allocate public funds to shoring up a collapsing bridge doesn't mean that Elon Musk can't spend his own money to build his own bridge (tunnel in this case), right?

If you're advocating for a private transportation network, then I'm theoretically OK with that as long as it's not subsidized directly or indirectly by the taxpayer. No special tax loopholes or favourable deals on digging rights please.

The problem with such tunnels is that they're natural monopolies, not least because underground space in reasonable depth is finite. It's not a service you'll get competition on.
You can have multiple operators compete on the same rail line, though.
Many US passenger rail systems were private but stopped turning a profit and were "nationalized".
They stopped turning a profit because the government regulated their profits (after throwing money at them hand over fist, which was naturally exploited) and then federalized it when it fell apart when they decided finally to go to war.

During World War I, regulation prevented the rail industry from properly responding to an uptick in rail demand for exports to fuel the war's various foreign factions (ship capacity had been greatly reduced by German submarines). After the rail companies asked for a rate increase in order to help deal with the increased traffic (which was rejected), the President seized the rail network in order to sidestep the debacle and get their exports out.

The rails were de-nationalized when the war ended 2 years later. After that, the use for passenger travel steadily declined as automobile and bus transportation grew, and the rails never recovered (except during WWII). In 1971, when the entire network was about to collapse, the government created Amtrak. Amazingly, most of the network is still limited in capacity and speed due to regulations from 1947. And most of the improvements in the system have come since 2000. Any subsidies that could have upgraded the network or increased capacity or efficiency over a period of 80 years went into building highways and airport control towers (but not more efficient public buses or light rail).

Of course, Amtrak still leased its rail lines from the railroads, so the old rail companies became the new landlords and freight providers, while Amtrak serviced passengers. Amtrak basically cut passenger service and available rail lines in half, with whole corridors becoming freight-only. Later Amtrak bought bankrupted railroad track, and currently something like 25% of the rails Amtrak travels are owned by it.

The parent is half-correct. The freight customers don't have the same needs as the passengers, and "more convenient" methods of transportation exist for them, but for some reason the government demands that passenger rail remain (for the next big war?) so it got bailed out and nationalized.

I have to give Elon Musk credit - the average person would be hard-pressed to come up with even a single laughably impractical mode of transportation, but he's got two.
Actually he has 3... Rocketry is a pretty impractical mode of transportation as well.
It's the only practical way to get to space and stay there...
gondolas and busses
Hyperloop looks insanely good in comparison. Like ideally it's just an upgrade on trains. This is some bizarre daydream.
People said exactly the same thing about toilet paper when it was invented.
On the other hand, investments in better boring technology produces a lot of valuable real world construction industry IP for pretty conventionally dull projects that happen to involve underground travel (as well as potentially being useful for his Mars and megacity dreams). Millions of people travel on underground railways and drive through hillsides every day. Whereas most innovations necessary to develop relatively-less-unsafe means of propel people at high speed through long distance above-ground vacuum tubes are kind of predicated on the assumption that people might actually travel in a way similar to his concept sketch.

Ignoring the marketing video, it's easy to see why he's potentially going to spend more engineer time and money on the boring technology and schemes for building big swooping curvy tunnels through prime metropolitan real estate whilst being happy to "open-source" the idea of firing people through metal vacuum tubes for others to work on.

The essence of The Boring Company is the same as the business plan behind SpaceX: people assume that an existing industry (tunnel development, rocket launches) is reasonably well run and operating at something of a local optimum. But it turns out that there are order of magnitude (i.e., 10x) improvements available when Musk is able to assemble a sufficiently capable team to focus on it.

I would suggest that tunnelling is a more fertile opportunity, given that there had already been a bunch of rocket startups that had tried and failed over the last couple decades. Tunneling today is insanely expensive. Here's a superb article from Matt Yglesias at Vox on the $2.2 B per km Second Avenue Subway: . Other countries are already achieving costs of $100 M per km or less.

Now, does the car carriage from the video make perfect sense? I'm skeptical. But Musk has never been slavishly faithful to the original conception of his ideas. He gets started and then iterates, and so far the results have been awfully impressive.

I would love to see a cheap tunnelling technology in the US. Musk certainly has experience dropping the costs of technology, and I would guess that a well designed private subway system might be profitable after a time in some US cities. Would. Love. It.
I can't get over how impossibly dumb this idea is. It's a clever fantasy but it doesn't seem practical at all, from a cost or safety perspective... has he given a "first principles" talk about why any of this makes sense? By the time a system like this is built, all cars will be autonomous, so the self-driving sleds will be entirely redundant and it just becomes a super expensive road with no safety escapes.

Autonomous ground travel optimization, hyperloops, and air travel all work together to make a seamless system that make this seem redundant.

why is it impossibly dumb?

> from a cost or safety perspective

Maybe that is why he is pursuing it, is because maybe he can help reduce the cost and safety. Just look at how much he is going to reduce the cost of rocket launches and landing them is far safer. And to me that is a far harder challenge than making underground transit cheaper and safer.

> By the time a system like this is built, all cars will be autonomous

I think even if we all switch to traveling pods, this doesn't JUST solve a transportation problem. It solves underground expansion problems.

That tunnel could alleviate 'autonomous pod traffic' in dense areas. OR perhaps it could be used to build underground cities (tube cities) or (tube storefronts). Or perhaps just improved and accessible infrastructure for a city to utilize more expandable tunnels instead of the tiny ones we have now. (If they made boring significantly cheaper/safer).

Just remember there is more to underground boring than just transportation. And your 2 reasons why it won't work is likely the very 2 things they are trying to address.

Toronto really needs this. We have a raised express way that's right in front of our harbourfront and it makes the whole area noisy and ugly, blocking what should be a great view towards (great) Lake Ontario. Most importantly it takes up a ton of very valuable real estate.

A huge amount of condo development has been done right next to it and having lived in one the noise is a real problem. Living on the south-end of the highway towards the water almost feels like being cut off from the real city

You basically have to keep your window closed most of the time otherwise it's a constant drone. Night time is the worst as it goes quiet then occasionally a truck will come by and wake you up. The higher up you live the better, but that still leaves about half the units close to it.

So not only would it open up a lot of new property development but also significantly increase the value of existing properties.

The city has been considering burying the highway underground similar to Boston's tunneling project. But the Boston one ended up going billions over budget, so it is not an easy thing to do.

If they can bring the price down dramatically and perfect the concept I'm sure we'd be one of the first consumers for the tech.

Toronto is one of the most dysfunctional cities in NA. They can't even add a new subway line or additional stops. They have no problem closing down every major high way in the City for a marathon every weekend during the summer or the Molson Indy causing massive traffic issues.

The City Council is inept so good luck hoping they could ever have the insight to agree to something like this. , so I really doubt they will ever be capable of implementing a solution to the traffic congestion, noise, etc.

Toronto has enough space that LRT makes way more sense financially than subways but Ford ruined LRT in the minds of almost everyone.

Even GO could cut down a lot of traffic if they'd just add more parking lots on the edge of the city and make it all day two way. When I use to live north of the city there were 3 trains into Toronto in the morning on the Stouffville line and 3 trains back at the end of the day and if your schedule didn't fit them exactly then you had to drive to Finch and hope for a parking spot or drive in.

GO Transit has done exactly what you said over the past few years, they've been adding way more trains and way more parking lots.
Yeah, they added like Mount Joy and Linconville on the Stouffville line. I think they are almost ready for two-way service on that line as well. Then all they need to do is figure out how to do it for less than $20/day.
Just tear down the Gardiner and build public transit everywhere. The traffic will evaporate as people change their behaviour, just as we've seen in Paris and other jurisdictions that have removed road capacity.

There's no need for this absurd fantasy tech. We can solve our transportation problems with the very basic tools we already have.

I don't expect the Gardiner will ever be buried but I really wish the vote to tear it down and widen Lakeshore had won. I've read that the backfill land that makes up that whole area south of Front street would make it a lot more expensive than normal tunneling.

I use to live at 18 Harbor about 3 stories up from it and while the drone just became white noise the motorcycles at night were awful. Though that spot also had the horns from ACC spoiling the hockey games on TV(you knew a goal was coming) and the noise from concerts was often loud enough to clearly hear the singers words. Before that I lived at 33 Bay st in the same complex and you didn't hear a thing but I was 30 stories higher.

Ever been to New York or a similar city and watched people pouring out of a subway station at 8:30 am?

Now imagine every one of them is sitting in a sedan that is delivered out of an elevator, one by one.

According to Wikipedia, "Times Square–42nd Street/42nd Street–Port Authority Bus Terminal" station has 206,247 riders on each weekday on average. If we have 100 elevators which can transport a car every five seconds, it will take 172 minutes to move all of them.

With more realistic numbers (an elevator usually doesn't go down and come back in five seconds) it will be more than a day.

This is a solved problem. It's called trains.

Visit Switzerland and you'll see that it is superfluous to build all this expensive infrastructure just to stick your personal car on a train.

Riding in a train is bigger, way more comfortable, and much cheaper.

I would think that elevator has less capacity than a tunnel entry would have. The video compensates for that by having multiple such elevators, closely spaced, that presumable share an on-ramp. I'm not convinced that gives you enough capacity, because each car being lowered on that on-ramp blocks traffic for quite a while.

Also, entering this system leaves a big hole in the street where the carriage was. Before another car can enter, a new carriage must be brought up from below. That decreases capacity even further, except for the ideal situation where that carriage always carries a car. In the less than ideal sitautin, there's the added problem of getting that replacement carriage in place at just the right time (for example, at the end of the day in a business district)

I have profound respect of Musk's perseverance and courage to tackle difficult problems, coupled with a great vision of the future. This project however, as it was presented, strikes me as a bit off the mark.

I lived in a dense city with good public transportation and good bike and pedestrian lanes. To get around the city and its surroundings, I would mostly use my bike. It was incredibly fast to find a parking spot and to get from point A to point B. Other times, I would use the integrated public transport system (bus/train/tram) if wanted to go somewhere further in less time. I had options, flexibility and much more freedom than I would if I used/owned a car. Not only that, but my quality of life was way higher than that in the suburbs. Not having a car made a huge difference: more physical activity, less monetary burdens and the piece of mind acquired by not thinking about its maintenance and care.

This takes me to my second point: passenger cars are mostly useful in sparse areas, like the suburbs. In dense areas it makes less sense to have a personal cocoon for transportation. Although the boring company's tunnels are underground, that same energy and investment would be better suited in a public transport alternative, like a subway. This subway would transport people and their bikes, and this could serve as a push for the street level pedestrian, bike and public transport infrastructures to get better.

Now what if we add an Uber-like component to this and let people share/carpool together to reduce the number of cars above and below ground? Instead of tires that wear out, we could use steel on rails! Aaaand, we just re-invented the subway.
The Disney version of this concept: [1]


I thought Disney wouldn't want that shown much any more. But no. It's on a big display screen at Disneyland for the queue at Autopia.[1] Nuclear reactor scene and all.


City streets have more than enough space for fast transpiration. We just don't use them efficiently. Congestion is a tragedy of the commons. It could be trivially solved by putting a high tax on cars using city streets. Then the only vehicles on the street would be those that transport multiple people or valuable goods. And they would have free reign with minimal congestion. (Also maybe put an extra tax on nonelectric vehicles, because there's much less justification for using them in a city.)

If you are willing to build entirely new infrastructure, like this project, there is so much you can do. The main reason self driving cars are taking so long is because they have to be able to do everything a human driver can do. Which is very hard. If you build tracks and sensors into the road itself, it could be much easier. You could have a city filled with fleets of small automated electric people movers.

A game I play with my kids when we're waiting at street corners is to count the vehicles' occupancy. Spotting anything > 1 is like scoring points.

We don't take the car without an explicit reason: we're late, it's far away, we're hauling stuff, it's raining.

But this is Oklahoma, and as soon as you're a block from the OU campus, pedestrians are seen as freaks. Young guys yell at you from pickup trucks. (It's not just me; I have confirmed this with other people over the last 12 years.)

We need electric cars, but we also need a cultural change. We drive, and I don't want to judge people for driving. But I wish it were seen as a fallback, rather than a default.

Oh jeez I wish someone could just invent some kind of underground mass transportation system able to efficiently transport lots of people from place to place in built up metropolitan areas. That'd be awesome. We could call it a 'Metro' or something.
If anyone's looking for a good source of information on transportation costs, I highly recommend and They cut through the BS of the mainstream media and politicians on transportation policy and give really intelligent opinions, particularly on zoning/land use and on the US's ridiculous transit costs.

(A lot of it is complaining about the ridiculous cost of New York's Second Avenue Subway, and complaining about how the media won't even mention that its cost was 3-5 times more per km than similar routes in London, Paris, and elsewhere in Europe. @MarketUrbanism also has a few other ticks:

* He aggressively argues that train systems in the US should save money by getting rid of conductors.

* Also, he argues that US buses should use Europe-style fare policing (with ticket inspectors) rather than requiring people to swipe as they board the bus.)

They're snarky and a bit hard to undeedia won't even mention that its cost was 3-5 times more per km than similar routes in London, Paris, and elsewhere in Europe. @MarketUrbanisrstand to the uninitiated, but they grow on you. I've learned a lot from them.

We have fare policing on express busses here in NYC.
Not that tunnels are a boring idea, but if you handed me a couple of billion, I think we could solve public transportation using ultralight above ground systems. I would base it on a roller coaster type design using single or dual tracks suspended by high load anchored polls.

The car weights would be kept to a minimum, allowing tracks and supports to be sized much smaller, lowering cost and design requirements. The average car would weight less than a bus, and could travel at very high speeds.

Existing trains and subway systems are based off of hundred-year old freight train systems which were designed to transport thousands of tons of weight. This has a huge cost for subway and commuter train design. A modern subway train costs millions of dollars, weighs multiple tons, and is an immense engineering task.

By engineering a total target track and car weight of a few tons per spacing instead - this system would be far cheaper and easier to maintain.

Passenger cars would be designed to hold only a dozen people, and cars would be linked or unlinked as needed to increase capacity and efficiency. This design also allows the system to maintain extra cars of varying sizes to manage variable rider capacity. Rather than time tables, the system would run based on rider demand, maintaining a slight over-capacity to handle peaks. This is no different than the typical Uber-type demand based system.

On the typical street, such systems would only utilize a few square feet of space per block. They could also utilize existing utilities and would require minimal space for stations. Trains would exit the main track to prevent stalling the main rails while boarding passengers.

This system could also be extended to long-hail service as well into suburbs, or perhaps across states, It wouldn't have nearly the same difficulties of property right of way, environmental impact, and NYMBY - as it essentially has about the same impact as a typical electrical infrastructure. It could also be placed along existing roads and bridges to quickly build out the system.

Anyway - just an idea.

Sounds better than drilling through rock to me.
The whole thing is sufficiently bizarre that I just have to assume it's an excuse to develop something more useful.

If that something is cheap autonomous mining that can be sent to Mars to build a colony before anyone arrives, or a sneaky way to make very large underground nuclear bunkers that always have a surprisingly large number of random ordinary people in them, or just that Elon knows about a major valuable mineral deposit that nobody else is aware if yet, great. But if this really is just some self-driving pods that attach to your car and take you around at relatively high speeds, I don't see the "while underground" doing much for the congestion.

So it's roll-on roll-off rail, with one car per train rather than running on a schedule. Loading and unloading is also parallelized through elevators (though it'd likely be far better to build a ramp down to a station. Basically it'd be an underground angled parking lot, except the parking spots can put themselves on rails and go somewhere else.)
What we really need to do is to figure out ways that reduce the need for all this transportation. When you look at it from a distance almost none of it makes sense. The only travel that really needs doing is people working with physical stuff, moving the goods themselves around and leisure travel (and that one is definitely not a must but it is hard to make a stand-in experience that is comparable to the real one). Most commuting is - or rather should be - totally useless.
Robots doing physical work, people discussing strategies in conf room with collaborative tools. Problem solved ?
Dense cities and narrow streets would solve the same problems with fewer technical demands. Look up New World Economics and "Really Narrow Streets"; the author provides a blueprint of sorts for traditional cities with minimal commute/transport expenses.
this ?
Why wouldn't you at least have right-of-way for two wheeled vehicles? People are so much more efficient on bikes than on their feet.
My opinion: moving a problem to other place you do not solve the problem.

We have too much cars, millions of people, each driving a ton of steel to move from place to place alone. Cars on the underground is not a good solution.

What world needs is automated and intelligent transport, and for the masses.

Automated intelligent transport for the masses. Subway trains you say?

Americans hate those.

Subways are expensive and complicated in some terrains, but woks pretty good I think, don't you?

PS: Hiperloop also seems a good solution for long travels. PS: Each solution is better for a specific problem. Automated cars seems promise to small and medium cities.

Is it just a coincidence that Musk's main competitor in the space business is called "The Boeing Company"? I don't think so.
The Boring Company isn't a jab at Boeing, it's a generic name for a company that bores holes in the ground... Ya know.. Tunnels?
Kinda off topic with what this is about but I have a few technical questions regarding the website (which is just a logo and a YouTube video embed on a white background):

- Why is it built with React? - Why does it need to load so much JavaScript? - Why does it need to load a custom web font? (There's exactly zero text from what I see). - Why does it need a CSS grid framework?

There is obviously more coming soon.
Yeah, it's amazing how much code is on that page. Really? How many font weights are you pulling in? 5? Is there _any_ text on that page? :)

It actually looks like it was made using a GoDaddy website builder.

I suppose they don't really need a perfect website at this point.

If I recall, this whole idea started as a result of traffic on the 405 or something.

This idea is only useful if it could deliver traffic volumes at meaninful percentage of the current 405 throughput.

wikipedia says "The freeway's annual average daily traffic between exits 21 and 22 in Seal Beach reached 374,000 in 2008" .

So how many car elevators to do 10% of that? How many car elevators to move 37,000 vehicles per day? Assuming a 1 minute cycle time, that would be 25 elevators running 24/7 evenly, with no rush hour (obvious unrealistic).

I think it is a scale problem, much like 3D printers won't upset the economics of high speed injection molding anytime soon.

Looking from the other direction, say an elevator can handle 60 cars an hour, so given staggered commutes it might serve the needs of 100 drivers. If having elevator access let you cover most of your commute at 100mph, what would that be worth? Multiply by 100 drivers, and 10 more to get from annual revenue to capital expense and I'd say million dollar elevators are no impediment at all.
When I heard about Boring Company I kind of just assumed it would be used for underground hyper loops. This feels kind of wrong.
AFAICT nobody is planning to build hyperloops. They are building evacuated tunnels and calling them hyperloops.
Hyperloop at least has the right idea: Building above-ground is vastly less expensive than tunnelling.
My thought process was...

Hyperloops are round + tunnels are round = Boring Company

Putting cars through the tunnels is not what I first expected.

It's the sort of thing a guy who owns a car company would do, not someone who's actually trying to solve a transportation problem.
Or a person who actually understands what people want in a transportation solution. Nobody outside of city planners and environmentalists take the train/bus solution seriously because it's such a lifestyle downgrade from cars.
If you're in a city that's not explicitly designed around cars, a car is a total hassle. America's gone all-in on cars, but even then the current generation is abandoning them and instead doing something crazy: Living close to where they work.

A car is a massive investment of time, money, and emotional capital that an increasing number of people are simply unwilling to make.

Actually I believe part of the thinking behind this is that hyperloops underground would be easier to route and maintain especially under cities.
Interesting idea but very weird video. A couple thoughts:

1. "Boring Company" is such a great, funny and fitting name for a tunneling startup. FYI there are people who get so excited about a name they think is just perfect (or title for book or name for a yacht...) that they pursue creating it even though they aren't seriously into the idea. See: the better the name of the yacht, the less the owner uses it...

2. Agree with other comments the video verges on embarrassing. I don't think it helps Musk's cause much...Unless: (A) he subscribes to "there's no such thing as bad publicity" and/or (B) Musk in fact wants other entrepreneurs to see his crazy ideas as a catalyst to start their own copy-cat companies working on the same issue usually with their twist. He has made public comments (especially around the time when he open-sourced his patents) that support both (A) and (B) being true. See: all the new space, solar and hyperloop like companies that started in Musk's wake.

3. I don't think we should blindly give big-thinking entrepreneurs the benefit of the doubt. That has gone very poorly recently and historically. But I think we/the public/government regulators can support innovation and keep an eye on big-thinking well-funded entrepreneurs so they don't do something f'ing stupid full of negative externalities and tragedies of commons and tyrannies of small decisions etc...

4. This particular form of new tunneling as seen in the video might not happen. I hope it doesn't as there are serious engineering and public safety issues. But Musk has a point about needing to dig! AND Musk thinks very long term (the guy is working on going to Mars). Earth only has so much land, as human population increases, especially around cities, we can only build up or down. Both should probably be tried. I remember when Jeff Bezos said Amazon wants to try to deliver your packages by drones, and that Amazon also is out destroy the American economy. Ok he didn't say the second thing. But as for drones, people went nuts on both sides he said that but it's going forward. What if Musk's tunnels started off smaller, focused on delivering packages into and across cities, so not huge tunnels for people but more like conveyor belts for deliveries? There is a need for that or there will be soon. Would that be more palpable and would there be less averse reaction?

Have a good, relaxing weekend to all!

Telecommuting is a lot cheaper and easier.

Also, what is the point of those rails? Seems like self-driving cars would be much easier and require a lot less.

I think the robotic conveyer belt style design like seen in movies like iRobot would be cheaper and more convenient. Plus, having it so people don't walk to their cars means you don't have to worry about theft in parking garages as much either.

This. When Musk came up with his hyperloop idea, I found it odd. It seems to me that transportation nowadays needs two things : supersonic airliners and self-driving vehicles.

The ideal scenario to me is this:

   1. wait for a self-driving car to pick you up,
   2. be driven to a subway/train-station,
   3. take a train to the airport
   4. fly at supersonic/hypersonic speed
   5. repeat previous steps in reverse
Consistency of acceleration/deceleration/top-speed, I'd guess.
>Also, what is the point of those rails? Seems like self-driving cars would be much easier and require a lot less.

That was my first reaction as well. I think it might have to do with there being no way of expelling the exhaust gas. As long as even just 1% of the cars using the tunnel are fossil fuel powered their exhaust will poison the whole system (carbon monoxide can fuck you up at even just 50 PPM).

They could limit the tunnels to just self-driving electric cars though.

It's a great video, but one of the most impractical ideas I've ever seen. It would be cheaper to buy more buses and install congestion charges (fees to drive in cities during peak times).
So you want to reduce traffic by making the roads less enjoyable and more expensive to drive on? Not exactly the type of solution I would like be excited about.
The tracks were surprising until I thought about all the idiots I encounter on regulars roads. Then it made perfect sense.
Metal on metal also has a fraction of the rolling resistance.
Though it looks like they're still rubber-wheeled with a guide-rail down the centre rather than steel-wheel on a pair of running rails.
This seems pretty similar to Musk looking at everyone throwing away rockets and deciding to do something about it, however if you look at Seattle's big dig the cost of the machine was only 80 million out of 4.2 billion. He's going to have to find significant price reductions beyond just reusing a boring machine.
This is not likely to work in SoCal. Our geology and prolific and scattered mineral/gas reserves simply would not allow for it. Maybe elsewhere, but not down here.
If you go and do something like that, why have the car at all?

Edit: To be a little less snarky, multi-modal transport of this form has been considered; it's one of the ways in which PRT systems have been proposed. But those systems don't also say "and now we build the highway underground."

I don't think anyone really enjoys hiring or renting cars on both ends of the journey. Being able to BYOCar would make me use this system immediately.
It solves the last mile problem -- same problem we have fiber installation. You can build fast transport hubs but you can't get right from door to door.
Well if you figure a mile of urban freeway in an urban area is an easy 5 million per mile which makes it about a thousand bucks a foot. That doesn't include annexation or planning, just construction.

A tbm can make a tunnel for 19k a foot in the right environment (, but that cost is dropping as more and more tbm projects since 2000 have driven the costs down.

So basically it's 20x as expensive to bury a highway as it is to build one on the surface.


But, when you look deeper, in urban areas there just aren't rights of way available to put new highways, and so you have huge slow costs that grind out projects. In addition, if you can find a place to put one, they are... ready... usually public infrastructure.

This is a private highway... private highways are a good idea. Take a look at

This is a bet on free market roads. That is a big bet, but goodness it's not a naive one.

I feel like Elon has some kind of cache of historic photos and documents from the late 60s and early 70s that he is just pulling pages out of.

Anyways, 20x more expensive is very doable and these roads could operate profitably in urban areas (and that's the opening, current cost). Oh, and the son of a gun bought a used tbm, which will save gobs of the cost. Oh, and it's for a ton of jobs (the cost of acquiring the Tbm is a large part of the cost of tunnels), and there is going to be a glut of tbm inventory in coming years.

Add it all up, and it sure isn't a "dumb idea" in some kind of intrinsic, obvious fashion.

Seems like a good bet actually.

This is impractical in SO MANY levels...

Sorry Elon, I support 99% of your ideas, this one belongs to the other 1%...

Stupid naive question. If Musk cares so much about environment and all that, why not just build proper public transport for the bay area?
This is actually a very, very good question.
I think he's motivated by the idea of building systems that enable other systems that wouldn't be possible otherwise.

Examples would be the gigafactory, his comments about how Tesla is not learning how to build cars, but learning how to build car factories, etc. The approach with SpaceX wasn't "OK, let's build a rocket system that can get to Mars." Instead it was "OK, let's build a company that has a repeatable and sustainable launch business that can drive down cost and drive up efficiency over time, so that getting to Mars won't be a near-impossible problem anymore."

Building a one-off public transit system in the Bay Area, with all the current technological, regulatory, and social headaches, doesn't really offer many opportunities to improve things, does it? Elon isn't God; he can't magically overcome all the factors that cause the Bay Area to have bad transit today, just like he couldn't magically start colonizing Mars in 2004.

So building a new class of technologies to bore tunnels much more quickly, safely, and cheaply seems like it enables a whole new set of opportunities to make the current transit problems more tractable. It creates a whole new set of opportunities for transportation that simply don't exist today.

I'm tired, so forgive me if that isn't clear, just what's running through my head.

Whether Elon Musk can deliver on all of his ideas is almost an moot point. The important thing is that he is inspiring an entire generation to think outside the box and to believe that they really can change things.

For that alone he gets my gratitude.

It seems crazy, but there's also some appeal in the idea of opting out of all the legacy infrastructure. If we could rebuild our roads from scratch today to serve a vehicle for the 21st century, what would we build? Probably something like this - standardized vehicles on automated roadways with built in electric connections that enable unlimited long-distance high-speed travel (though we'd just build this into cars instead of using 'carriers').

But it does seem pretty far out that we'd have tens of levels of tunnels for all this underground traffic. Hyperloops seem more plausible.

> It seems crazy, but there's also some appeal in the idea of opting out of all the legacy infrastructure. If we could rebuild our roads from scratch today to serve a vehicle for the 21st century, what would we build?

I don't know, but we did rebuild our roads from scratch to serve as a vehicle for the 20th century, and it was a disaster. Let's first fix the problems that the last attempt to start from zero created (read up on Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs), before trying to start from zero again.

> Hyperloops seem more plausible

the vacuum requirements alone make hyperloop an non-starter imo. This type of "fastloop" seems a lot more viable.

Hyperloop would seem even _more_ plausible if we were able to lower the cost of tunnel construction. Likewise, traditional mass transit and other infrastructure (power, telecom, sewage) could be significantly cheaper with improved tunneling technology.

If Elon Musk wants to spend--or convince others to spend--billions of dollars innovating tunneling construction, then I'll enthusiastically support whatever vision motivates him.

It's like if a kid decides to clean his room so the aliens can land their spacecraft, then by all means, let's get ready for the aliens!

Sorry I know that post quality is important and everyone should strive to make important points that move the conversation forward but at the same time I have to say "let's get ready for the aliens" really made me happy. Funny.
Isn't this a solution that becomes outdated with self driving cars?
I think this is actually more of a fix for the problems with self driving cars, specifically: other traffic. By creating a new category of infrastructure the selfdriving parts can be far more reliable and simple.
While this looks very cool I'm not sure how the economics would work out. The UK-France channel tunnel for instance which transports cars fairly rapidly through a 31 mile tunnel cost $21 bn to build and the tickets aren't cheap (~£100 single) which works if the competition is a ferry but may not if it's just driving a bit. Maybe Musk will figure how to bring down the cost a few times.

I would have thought semi self driving cars platooning would be a cheaper and more practical way to beat the jams.

I do like the idea of coupling self-driving car technology with taxi service and underground highways. When it comes to urban environments, automobiles and associated infrastructure takes up an enormous amount of the available space. It hurts resident's quality of life in many ways (noise, pollution, traffic, stress, less green space, etc). This is one of the reasons I am totally on board with investing heavily in mass transit underground (super excited that Seattle is finally getting their act together on this, which is my home). If the cost of developing underground transport infrastructure is driven down enough by this venture, we could improve traffic flow and reclaim some of the space on the surface as space for people, not cars. Couple that and a future with clean energy for cars and when using a self driving car service is more convenient than owning a car, we could create a transportation system that can get you anywhere, quickly, efficiently, and without transfers.

Self driving car services would allow us to reclaim huge portions of cities by reducing the need for parking spaces everywhere we go, and make driving safer. Tunnels for highways could replace interstates that cut cities in two, as well as provide more flexible routes. Electric cars could make our cities healthier. I think I see what Elon is trying to do...

My bet: it's all about the lithium. The Gigafactory (located near a large domestic lithium cache) will soon consume a large fraction of the world's lithium output, and currently, Tesla is completely dependent on other companies to mine it.

My question: will the debris Musk will need to transport away from the next "beta-test" city happen to contain large quantities of lithium? Or will his current suppliers have a new source of (too-good-to-refuse) industrial machinery?

By the time you could conceivably build some of these tunnels, the Teslas and most other cars will be at least somewhat self-driving. (Since you're in tunnels, the problem gets a lot simpler, with on/off the real tricky parts.

I would have thought you'd say where you wanted to go, and if you had enough battery to get there, the car would just drive itself in the tunnel, eliminating the need for a whole other wheeled, motorized sled to move a wheeled, motorized vehicle.

A subway, but you have to be in a car to use it. Brilliant.
I thought this was satire until I came to the comments.
You know, we have something like that and it's called Metro.
Advancements in boring technology for small stuff (1.5 meter diameter utility tunnels) would also be a game changer in major urban areas. If you need to do cut and cover trenching to install vaults/manholes and duct for underground fiber in a major city nowadays, a several km distance project can run anywhere from $400 to $1000 per meter or more. Traffic closures, street closures, flagging, shoring of excavations, moving big construction equipment around on flatbed trailer in urban cores, etc.

To the extent that at $800/meter, a 4 km fiber path could cost $3.2m.

A bored small diameter service tunnel sized lined with concrete sections (basically a mini version of what the Bertha TBM in Seattle has just finished boring), sized to accommodate small electric carts that could be shared by multiple cables stuck to walls would be a game changer.

Here's a question for those way smarter than me. Why is there a need for a platform?

Some pros: - If its a shitty, poor regulated car.. this will lead to more safety - Avoid adding extra gear (software/hardware) to the car

Cons: - Size restriction - Clean up and Maintenance - How do you ensure the car is in the platform securely?

Also: according to the video, entry is quite free. How will they prevent some terrorist asshole from causing major damage with a car full of explosives?
Yes. This is also a concern. Also people are usually fucked up. How will I know that some idiot wont jump out of his damn car during this?

A restriction would be to simply have all windows and doors locked but this can be circumvented in older cars. Perhaps a restriction would be to cover the entire car in some sort of a housing. This will lead to the size constraints I described earlier.

So all in all, a lot of safety concerns with this but I am confident Musk has something up his sleeve. Something like this is a raging yes to one of his two questions; (Yes - "[Will this do good]" | Maybe - "[Is it tractable]" ). I think a solution like this is great if we have a blank slate, which will be the case on Mars.

Edit: Spelling and grammar.

Only Teslas will be allowed?
Even tesla a [will] havr different sized models.

Sedan, the new one that's in backlog, truck that is being unveiled in September, etc.

I also do not think he will convince any municipality to allow boring of a network just for tesla. I also do not think he is that close minded.

This seems like a premium service, because you have to choose your destination somehow, and here comes some device that you have to install in your car (I'm referring to some kind electronic toll collection + navigation system). Also, the amount of people using this service has to be limited somehow. As the technology is presented in video, the input/output of the carriages is quite limited. Also, what about the rush hours? Everyone wants to get in, to go faster, so queue will be created, waiting for their turn. What will happen when more people, than the exit queue can handle, want to get out on the same exit/area? You will be redirected to another exit, far away as much as how many people wanted to get out in that area.
If he does bring down the cost of tunnelling, I hope we get a lot more tunnels for trains.

If he has any sense he would be bidding for these projects too.

It would be great if by default we could get bigger tunnels (if crossrail were bigger then we could get double deck train in the future for instance).

Given the time, cost, and complexity of Boston's big dig[1]; I'd be very surprised if there's a way to do this practically.


This is very confusing. There is nothing on the site but the video, and the video doesn't explain who they are and whether this is a serious project or just a design concept, and so on.

I think that this is a case where a secondary source submission, such as this one [1] to a TechCrunch story about this, is better than the primary source source submission, because the TechCrunch story actually tells us what the hell we are looking at. I think the moderators goofed by deciding that this submission was the one that should win.

Anyway, it's an Elon Musk company, and he talked about it at a recent TED talk.


I feel this could be useful as a kind of underground super-highway for some cities i.e. I need to get from one end of the city to the other end without stopping somewhere in between. Tunnels can get built today as opposed to drones or flying vehicles which are at least several years away. It could probably help traffic in some large cities.

If it could be done inexpensively and quickly it's interesting.

Some sort of a cross-country vacuum tube type tunnel that could let you go from NYC to LA in 15 minutes would be amazing and I think closer to the original hyperloop idea, but ridiculously expensive and engineering-wise beyond the initial goals of this project.

I was just wondering if building bridges is more feasible idea than digging tunnels. Bridges will be easier to maintain, costs relatively cheaper, relatively easier to setup and we already have more experience in building bridges.
Don't fully get the benefit of moving cars on rails vs. moving cars on wheels... Higher fixed costs to power the rail vs. just letting cars auto-drive with internal propulsion. What am I missing?
It reduces the complexity of the tunnel needed for combustion vehicles (most cars today) by not needing more complex exhaust infrastructure, and thus makes this idea more immediately viable.
If you want cars to be more closely packed, travelling at higher speeds and controlled by computers, you probably don't want individual car owners to be able to bring the whole thing to a screeching halt through sloppy maintenance or shutting the engine down

(See also: Channel Tunnel)

> If you want cars to be more closely packed, travelling at higher speeds and controlled by computers

Isn’t that called “a train”?

It allows the entire system to be controlled by one system - e.g., no need for each car to have its own LIDAR system. ATO is way easier than self-driving cars. You get all the benefits of being able to group vehicles together, have all stop simultaneously in response to hazards, etc.

Plus, like with most rail systems, you get the big benefits of having a custom right-of-way. No need to contend with pedestrians, people parking in the traffic lane, vehicles that aren't as fast as others, etc etc.

Of course... if you want to build a new underground right of way, what's the best way to use it? Is a big open question in my mind. You could go for electric BRT, for instance, or big-dig style freeway.

The rolling friction of rails is really really low. And couple that with removing driver variability out of the equation and it makes some sense.
The fact that the idea is that most cars would be able to use the system, not just ones from a certain company. Additionally, 130mph is pretty sporty to maintain for all vehicles using the system! Most cars probably can't even achieve that speed all out, let alone safely (even if self-driven).
Rails allow the sleds to not require batteries. This is especially important if you're moving things at inefficiently high speeds.
I suppose you can't control (or detect?) if the car fails, and if that is the case, the whole system would be screwed.
These platforms will have to strap the car down somehow to prevent someone from driving off the platform while it's operating.

A crash at that speed would wreck that tunnel and put it out of service for weeks.

Or how about moving trains on rails?

I am of two minds about self driving cars. From a technology point of view, I think its great, but I don't really see what problem they solve that would not be better solved by ubiquitous public transportation (trains, mostly). Now, Musk wants to carry cars on sleds through tunnels under LA? Why not just build some damn trains?

EDIT: the real news is that he wants to improve boring machines which is not a bad goal. There will be more and more tunnels regardless of what you actually put in them, so faster, more efficient boring is a worthwhile goal.

I thought this too completely inefficient for your transport dollar. I actually thought maybe this was satire.
It's about the last mile connectivity. People don't want to walk/uber from home to the train station and from the train station to work. Having a car on rails solves this problem.
When public transport is ubiquitous, the last mile is really just that, a mile, tops (in urban environments). The difference between public transit somewhere like Japan, where everything is linked and you have intermodal hubs efficiently connecting higher speed and lower speed transit and what we have in US cities is staggering. It's downright easy to cross the entire country in the span of a few hours, only stepping foot outside for the very short walk to the nearest metro. Then you usually just have metro -> shinkansen -> metro, all connected to eachother, to get to where you have to go. You might need to change your metro once, but that's hardly an inconvenience when the connections are in the same building and you just walk a few feet from one platform to the next.

Compare that to Seattle, where my friend got lost trying to get from the light rail to the incredibly slow train up to Vancouver because they're several blocks apart. And then had to do the same on the Vancouver end for the same reason. To make matters worse, the train between the two cities is actually slower than the train between Tokyo and Hiroshima, with roughly 3x the distance.

Shared self-driving cars would essentially be an ultra-efficient bus service. Instead of huge (often half-empty) vehicles driving set routes, you have small custom electric vehicles (remember, the interior could be anything) going exactly where they're required.

Keep the trains, but replace buses, taxis, and probably quite a lot of private cars with an automated fleet. It would be a huge change, a huge improvement in many lives.

Why does it even need the rails when the cards have autopilot built-in???
I wonder if you could make a big drill out of hundreds of hot swappable high torque Tesla motors that were intelligently geared and well mounted. Hot swapping battery packs from the underside of a car via automation was demonstrated years back by Tesla so learnings there could be used. Tesla uses a bunch of widely available 18650s for their packs and benefit from that same modularity, and I imagine big cost savings there for a drill that size even with a great deal of breakage in the array of motors.
Check out the absolute lack of any pedestrians and cyclists in the street scenes. That tells you everything you need to know about the value of this video (pretty much zero).
Where is the advantage to the tried and tested metro? Transporting individual vehicles instead of people is much more complex, costly and will require more maintenance.
Musk might probably not want to build a full network but just one or two tunnels for his own convenience and grab some more focus and investment as well.
In germany this is called a subway. We also fixed the problem with the queue and people being required to bring their vehicle to use this vehicle.
Engineering aside, how does this work out legally? How does a company get permission to dig tunnels under Lps Angeles, or any other American city?
Musk launches companies like designers post on Dribbble.

Too bad that only a small % of them really get developed - really love his creative consistency though.

Why the "pods"? Wouldn't it make more sense for self-driving electric vehicles (which can safely maintain separations from other traffic and travel at high speed on a narrow track) to use their own propulsion?

Apparently the concept behind The Boring Company is to reduce the cost of tunnelling, but surely the "pods" would add a great deal of cost to this system.

Because not all vehicles are self driving.
They will be, though. It's reasonable to restrict tunnel access to appropriately equipped vehicles. Why jump through expensive hoops to support classic cars which can still use surface streets anyway?
It would be interesting if TBC commercialized a subterrene [1], and drove down costs of building underground structures to a tenth or hundredth of current. But commercial mobile nuclear power is unfortunately not available.


As a backup you could always sell them as automated parking lots while you were working on the tunnels. Because I'm odd in that sort of way, I imagine the tunnel as an infinite tape and the entrance/exit ramp as a place where you can read or write the tape. Now if you could just force the cars to either forward or backward on demand ...
This is the kind of idea you come up with when you spend too long inhaling exhaust fumes on the 405.

I don't know why you got so many down votes. That's EXACTLY how Elon Musk came up with the Boring Company.
Side note/tangent: I think this is closer to what "flying cars" look like in the future vs. what's being attempted lately (which are really just increasingly small lift-based aircraft.)

Replace the underground rails with above-ground "rails" (perhaps electromagent based, when there's enough power to do so.)

The funny thing about Elon is, that the lower the general chances for a successful undertaking are, the higher are the chances that he will succeed.

I'm just not sure if the entrance to the boring market is a high-risk venture. But at least the idea of building an underground network under existing cities is a very ambitious project.

What if the tunnels themselves are congested? Wouldn't it mean a line of cars surface-side waiting for their turn?
Exactly. A transportation infrastructure operates most economically when its capacity is (close to) maxed out. Since demand is variable it will inevitably happen that the capacity is sometimes not enough (as in overbooked flights). Traffic jams are the result. So what this system is doing is moving traffic jams underground or, as you say, to the on-ramps. What have we gained?
When I heard about this previously I wondered if it's a way of developing tunnel boring technology and expertise that would ultimately be useful on Mars. Underground tunnels and spaces are likely to be useful for a Mars colony and Musk is trying to figure out a way to get someone to fund it here first.
Where's everyone going in this automated universe? To the work from home office? To the online store?
The experts are panning this idea.

Anyone else notice the mess of CSS and HTML? The document fully downloaded almost 900kb. In hosting costs alone this could have been down with bare fraction of that and supported 20x more traffic for the same cost. Anyway. Love the idea :D
If you ignore the boring and tunnel part. A autonomous high speed contraption to carry cars, yes human driven cars including the fuel driven ones is the actual innovation. This will definitely work in many cities now itself.
Elon should do AMA on Boring company to answer many questions and confusions here.
The rails are a rather interesting vote against batteries. Previously, the hyperloop designs were all gung-ho about loading batteries, however that's not shown here, implying third rail power.
I like the idea of putting cars underground, because then you can build a human focused city above. But the video shows an urban wasteland of aboveground high-speed traffic and no people. WAT?
How about... mass transit. You know, not needing to dig giant big tunnels and build the infrastructure to ferry individual people in huge cars around underground, because the roads are too congested with individual people in huge cars.

Dig big tunnels to ferry trains with people underground. Works pretty well.

This is the thing. Why on earth would you build this insane network to ferry one person in their car, the displacement of which could probably move 8 people using the same footprint. I think they throw that idea a laurel at the end, where a more people-pod-like vehicle is getting lowered in the same manner.
If the system doesn't move your car, then you need two cars and parking for both of them. Park your first car, use the system, then get into another car that you have previously left waiting for you.

Unless there is a stop at every home and business, you'll be needing cars. You might as well transport them.

Or you could walk a little bit between stops.
I can't see how the economics of this would make it viable.
What a huge waste of resources for individual transport options.
On the downside, LA traffic sucks but at least you get the sun shining in. Spending your whole commute in tunnels seems a depressing way to live, even if its shorter.
I dunno man, spending 2 hours in traffic versus 15 minutes is probably a pretty easy choice for most people. I get the sentiment, but if we are being honest, sitting in traffic is ALREADY a depressing way to live for most people.
That's your opinion. Getting stuck in a traffic jam on a hot sunny day is very displeasing to me. I'd rather move fast through a tunnel.

Edit: fixed typo

So what you're saying is you'd rather get stuck in line waiting for tunnel access instead of actually driving to where you're going?

Based on that video it looks like the cycle time on those platforms is pretty limited. There's a fixed number of them circulating at any time. You'll be stuck waiting for one to pop up even if you're second in line.

If you're tenth? Get out a magazine.

Genius marketing/PR - just look at this huge thread ;)
The Boring Company:

...solving the hole problem's underground

...making tools to take you down

What they don't show you is the dome keeping the air in, as this is the future society which Elon Musk will build on the moon.
I'd like to see them try to do that beneath my city.

PS I am ashamed of the current top comment (despite not having anything to do with it).

This looks like a cool (probably impractical) way to recharging the car on the go. No more delays to re-charge the battery.
My guess is Space X came across a way to make tunnels really fast and cheaply. Now to interconnect the world underground.
Interesting concept, but big, deep holes in the road seem like a health and safety nightmare.

Look forward to seeing the next iteration.

If successful, I assume this will be used to drill underground hyperloop tunnels. That's obvious, right?
Obviously a terrible idea, but a mining/tunnel building company would be a reasonable outcome.
As someone who has been in the UG mining industry for the past decade. This is very interesting.
Where do you get the energy to make this and then to maintain this? Entrophy? Hello?
I wonder why having to transport a car and not just the passengers themselves.
He is a car salesman ?
Curious: how many solar panels do you need to drive a tunnel boring machine?
Why is that interesting?
Bollards around the elevators; the car-cars should connect into trains.
Ridiculously wasteful. Not needed. Optimize "self-driving in packs with prefiled flight plans." No new infrastructure required.
Maybe car tunnels are a gateway to terraforming small moons.
besides google, what are the best sites for learning about the challenges of underground mapping and the current state-of-the-art?
This is not boring at all. Finally someone found a way to monetize tunnels.

Someone is pointing to problems that seem obvious, I can see a lot too, but they've solved monetization.

I can't quite tell if you're being sarcastic or not. If you are, credit to you as you fooled me.
What happens to those holes once the car is lowered into the tunnel by those carriers? Can I pedestrian just jump into the hole and then sue the boring company?
Giant hole opens up in street with no gate around it. Have they actually spent time thinking about this or is this a joke?
then the vehicle on a tray is accelerated up to high speed inside a tunnel without its axles or body being secured onto the carrier.

Then a vast network of these tunnels is somehow posited.

I don't think reality was one of the constraints applied to this concept.

> without its axles

electric hub motors would work here quite easily.

hub motors?.. no, my point was: what is stopping the car from flying off the carrier?
there is cool new technology called a "barrier" that could be used
Indeed. They might want to have included that in the video if they were suggesting this as an actual project and not a toy vision.
This is a mock up. Do you seriously think they forgot to ask the question "what about the giant hole in the ground"? lol
I love it
This is the dumbest thing I've seen him produce. Reliable rapid public transit is better in dozens of ways.
... except in the crucial way of "getting people to buy more Teslas", which is the metric Musk is most concerned about.
Well, Tesla is getting into the large vehicle industry, so it's not crazy to think they'd make autonomous vehicles for public transit if there was a market for it.
Yeah, proposing a massive engineering and infrastructure effort with an insane upfront cost in order to be the exclusive provider of the commodity trains for a few years until other manufacturers lobby for manufacturing rights is the real business venture here.
And worse in others. This at least has the advantage that people might actually want to use it since it's zero latency and you have your car for local driving.
Europe and Japan seem to have solved that problem with public transit.
If you think this is zero latency you're out of your mind. People can't merge or parallel park without causing traffic on normal streets and you think they'll be able to do it on elevators?
I don't know. It looks like a public transit system to me.
a public transit system... that requires a car
It doesn't. It's shown in the video.
Instead of using all this space and energy to move cars around, it'd make more sense to just have small pods for 1-2 people, and transport the people around from point to point.

There's already a project to do just this, called SkyTran. It never gets any attention.

This looks totally like a copy cat of old school books about electric cars and the future.

So nothing special at all, people had such visions for some decades.

Funny thing is projects like "Hyperloop", "Boring Company", etc all are already tried many decades ago in various places around the word, just marketed under a different name e.g.

this solves the "last mile" problem since your car will be at your destination
Makes more sense than the hyper loop to be honest...
I'm pretty sure cheap and efficient tunneling would be a prerequisite for the hyperloop
I'm still waiting on this to be revealed to be a part of the new Nathan For You season.
This is 100% Nathan For You.
Just... wow! How did they generate that monstrosity of a html document?
The monorail!
who wants to buy these domains
who wants to buy these domain names
"The Grimdark Slotcar Company"
This doesn't seem feasible at all. Especially the overview shot of the underground network, like it's all open air. Definitely wouldn't be possible like that under a major city.
Pretty sure that's a cutaway view.
What happens to those holes once the carrier lowers the car into the tunnel? Can I, pedestrian, just jump in there with the intention of discovering the future and then sue the Boring company? Well jks aside future is getting here sooner than we think.
Whenever I am stuck in traffic, I am thinking about how can we have no traffic jams at all. My idea is similar to this but not in tunnels. I think we can do it on earth. Just have an elevated freeway that is reserved for this type of traffic where road is like a conveyor belt. I hope you got the idea.
Auto piloted cars could easily reap the "conveyor belt" advantage if they were the only type of vehicle allowed on the road.
It's amazing to me the amount of negativity directed toward his projects and the millions of reasons people give for why they "won't work" (not necessarily on HN, but at least on general news websites).

I'm starting to believe the only difference between those who start their own companies and those who don't is that the latter convinces themselves that it is impossible, never builds anything, and from their own lack of having ever produced anything, concludes that their original supposition was indeed correct.

Engineers skew rational. They know that most ideas won't work. It's like aspiring actors or singers. Statistically, any given aspiring actors or singers won't become famous. The existence of Tom Cruise or Taylor Swift doesn't change that. Think about the dozen articles you read every day about some promising lab result or prototype that. How many of them do you ever hear about again?

Meat-space engineering is hard. I'm an early '90s kid who grew up hearing about how we're going to put people on Mars by 2020.[1] I got a degree in aerospace because of that! Then I realized that physics hates you most of the field is about eking out 1% more fuel economy every decade so United can turn a slight profit. Even Space X is more interesting from a business model point of view than an engineering point of view. It's like someone figured out how to make a $10 iPhone 3g in 2017. Neat, I guess.

[1] Almost everything pop science said would happen was a lie. Moon bases, NYC-London flights, flying cars, etc. Outside of computers and pharma, technology has progressed at a glacial pace over the last 40 years. If you transported someone from 1890 to 1950, planes, international calls, etc. would blow their minds. If you transported someone from 1950 to 2010, I think that they'd frankly be disappointed.

NYC-London flights were a lie?
I think he meant supersonic NYC-London flights. Or perhaps even hypersonic.
do those not mean the same thing?
It was proven impossible in the late 1930s.
International airlines don't exist, they are faked by the same people that did the 'moon landings' to make you think the world is a ball. If they really took people up that high, they'd be able to see the earth is flat.
I think you left the /s off your comment
No, it's true, really.
/s is for people who hate sarcasm. Those of us who enjoy it would rather drink it straight.
I don't really get the point of this comment. I'm also early 90's and I'm wondering why you're not more heavily for or against either side. You're living in an insanely fast paced world where, in 50 years, we will either be dead and roasted in Earth-Venus, or we will have carbon sequestration figured out and be on Mars. We need engineers to get option two, and you being neutral increases the chances of Earth-Venus.
Wait, there are actually people who think the Earth will be roasted in 50 years?
can you blame them with all the media alarmism about global warming? The Day After Tomorrow type movies and such too.

Not that it's not a problem - it obviously is - but it's not like the earth is going to be barbecue'd in our lifetime.

In 400 years of exponential 1% energy consumption growth it's possible.
I have seen such a comment twice on HackerNews before. And one from a friend on Facebook.

I think that's why people think Global warming is false. There are other people saying that all life is going to disappear, which is funny and clearly alarmism.

Engineers skew likes-to-tell-themselves-they-are-rational, but ironically I find belief in self-rationality interferes with listening and makes you less rational.
Engineers are more likely to be Creationists and/or conspiracy theorists than graduates of other STEM degrees:

I thought it was even worse, at "higher than background".
I get what you're saying, but sometimes a bad idea is a bad idea. You can't just positive think yourself out of it.
And there is the dilemma. :-)
Not with that attitude!
Sure, but you can't make that call when you have no real clue what the actual idea is or have the full details.
If Elon has figured out how to make tunneling cheaper, then he can dig tunnels and demonstrate it.

The video is clearly made to just hype it up. It serves no purpose other than Science fiction.

The video has a lot of bad details. That's the call being made.
'The millions of reasons people give for why they won't work' are so important and useful not only for the development but for other possible innovations. They should be welcomed.

And I think there are no causation and correlation between thinking reasons that make it impossible and starting a company.

I'm sure Elon Musk is browsing Hacker News to find out what blind spots he has, that only Javascript programmers can see.
99% of popular critical feedback on ideas like this is nonsense so ill-informed it would take days to intelligibly refute to an objective third party - and the only way to convince the original negative Nancy would be to succeed.

It would be interesting to hear what experts think, though

Except most people have no idea what they are talking about beyond their obvious 2 second observations.
> 'The millions of reasons people give for why they won't work' [...] should be welcomed.

Not really. It's easy to think of reasons why something won't work. It requires an insanely small amount of effort compared to finding a way to make something work. "Reasons why not" are a dime a dozen.

> And I think there are no causation and correlation between thinking reasons that make it impossible and starting a company.

I certainly think there is. I haven't collected any evidence, but I wouldn't be surprised if those who find success are always looking for reasons why something will work, and those who run into failure are always looking for reasons why something won't work.

Now, to be fair, thinking of reasons "why not" does have its specialized use cases. Safety, for instance. But even then, that requires thinking outside of the box for unusual failure situations.

> It's easy to think of reasons why something won't work. It requires an insanely small amount of effort compared to finding a way to make something work. "Reasons why not" are a dime a dozen.

I'd enhance that a little and say that it's easy to think of facile reasons it won't work. But let's say you think of a reason why a thing won't work after two minutes. If someone else has been working at the problem for two hours, or two days, or two months, or two years, what's more probable?

- They never made the initial connection to the flaw, and have failed subsequently to notice it or account for it.

- They thought of a solution to the flaw which you haven't.

Hrm. Maybe I just don't have that high of an opinion of my own faculties, but I tend to assume it's the latter. Especially if the person in question is a very intelligent person with a strong track record of outperforming expectations.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't probe, or seek clarification, or ruminate on the flaw. But if you tell someone who's been working on a tunnel boring problem for a whole quarter that "boring through rock is the most expensive way to connect 2 places (sic)" as at least one person in this thread has observed, I'd argue that that's not a useful reaction. My reaction is, "I wonder what he knows that I don't."

Criticism is the sign of a healthy society. If someone is afraid of criticism or doesn't want to take it, then they are only hurting their own work. That's not to say Musk is guilty of that, but his fans could accept it.

If we didn't have critics we'd still have kings with divine right. This seems like an exaggeration, but it's really just to say that we need people to look at things critically.

I haven't collected any evidence, but I wouldn't be surprised if those who find success are always looking for reasons why something will work, and those who run into failure are always looking for reasons why something won't work.

This isn't that far from prosperity gospel preaching. Believing doesn't make things happen, otherwise NeXT would be dominating the industry and not Apple because boy did Jobs believe and give it his all.

Sometimes smart people are wrong, and it doesn't hurt those people anyway if dummies are discussing their work.

Remind me, what does the NS at the beginning of class names in the OSX frameworks stand for again? It's on the tip of my tongue.

The technology Jobs believed in and developed at NeXT really did dominate the industry. It's in the phone I'm typing this on right now.

Completely fair (and cool!), but the use of nextstep at Apple is really a side-effect of NeXT failing to be what Steve wanted it to be (a competitor to Apple or simply successful).
I think you were making a very valid point, having faith and following your dream far more often leads down a blind alley than to fortune and success. But at the level Must operates at, it's the only way to do the things he does. Dedication isn't enough though, it has to be well judged dedication to viable goals backed with the right skills and talent.

I think Linux on the desktop would have been a better example though. Millions of hours of dev time have been spent on it and it's no closer to providing any competition to Apple or Microsoft now than it did in the 90s. I think there was a complacency in the Linux desktop world that success was inevitable given enough effort. I don't think Musk has ever been complacent about the success of his businesses. I don't think Jobs was either.

> If we didn't have critics we'd still have kings with divine right. This seems like an exaggeration, but it's really just to say that we need people to look at things critically.

That's an extreme straw man that trades a lot on what a "critic" is.

Martin Luther didn't criticize the papacy because he doubted the papacy's capacity to realize its ambitions. He criticized the way the papacy was then operating.

People holding forth on how something can't be done are best described not as critics but doubters (or haters). "I can't imagine a way to do X, therefore X can't be done." How many impossible things does Musk have to do before people take serious Musk's ability to realize his visions?

Hating is so easy. But today's capacity to develop technology is utterly unprecedented.

Lead. Follow. Or get out of the way.

People holding forth on how something can't be done are best described not as critics but doubters (or haters). "I can't imagine a way to do X, therefore X can't be done." How many impossible things does Musk have to do before people take serious Musk's ability to realize his visions?

We're talking about strawmen: nobody is saying that. Nobody is saying it can't be done. They are saying...let's wait until it is done, because right now it's just a video. Is that hating or an entirely reasonable stance to take?

Identifying risk is one of the most valuable things startups can be doing. Ignoring that risk can be one of the most detrimental things. Good entrepreneurs treat that risk as opportunity. Bad entrepreneurs are paralyzed by it.

"Reasons why not" are indeed a dime a dozen, but that doesn't mean they are useless. It may be a bit annoying to have to filter through the feedback that identifies the wrong risks, but we shouldn't use that as an excuse to ignore critical feedback. Some of the best feedback I've ever received that got my mind churning was from people who truly understood the problems and were able to identify "reasons why not" that I hadn't thought of.

Yeah, identifying risk is important. But thinking one can "identify risk" as some random dude posting on Hacker News, criticizing a guy with a lot of experience running cutting-edge tech companies that make stuff like cars and spaceships (ACTUAL tech, not these lame web sites that people call "tech" these days), is ... well, delusional would be a polite word for it.
So were not allowed to give our concerns because ultimately they may not be correct?

Also, there's a ton of companies with a ton of knowledge who have done things which failed spectacularly or have refused to do things that would work. Tesla's whole existence is sentiment to that.

Is Musk immune to making such mistakes? The consensus on his Hyperloop idea still seems to be that is infeasible.

Not sure I agree with you. I'd expect most of the users of this site would actually do a pretty good job identifying risks. The delusional part is probably assuming Elon Musk hasn't already thought through these risks, along with plenty more we aren't thinking of.
And here we have one of the most reasonable answers in this thread. It's not about the utility of identifying risks, it's the plausibility of someone as knowledgeable as Musk putting his money and name on the line without having already considered a lot of the things some random group of strangers on an online forum would've thought up in a couple hours.

On the contrary, it seems more likely that Musk would've not only thought about risks already for more than a couple hours, but that he would've consulted a lot of domain experts about such things before even deciding to take on such a project. Even the most optimistic business person isn't naive enough to take on something they see as a sure bet to fail. Not to suggest that there haven't been entrepreneurs attempting silly businesses before, but rather that one should pause and think about the possibilities of how something might work, before jumping to the conclusion that they already understand everything there is to know about a project, and that it definitely won't work.

As another comment mentioned elsewhere in this thread, a good entrepreneur's main skill is being able to figure out some unique/unorthodox way to make something work, and capitalizing on that. Now, that doesn't mean that everyone opposing these ideas are wrong or don't know what they're talking about, it just goes to show that a lot of people's default state is one of risk-aversion.

> [...] the plausibility of someone as knowledgeable as Musk putting his money and name on the line without having already considered a lot of the things [...] Musk would've not only thought about risks already for more than a couple hours, but that he would've consulted a lot of domain experts about such things before even deciding to take on such a project.

Three months ago, after the Bloomberg feature was released, he literally said that they had no idea what they were doing.

>I'm starting to believe the only difference between those who start their own companies and those who don't is that the latter convinces themselves that it is impossible, never builds anything, and from their own lack of having ever produced anything, concludes that their original supposition was indeed correct.

The latter are also aware of survivorship bias

> The latter are also aware of survivorship bias

While that may be true, it would be interesting to compare the frequencies with which successful founders bring up the topic of survivorship bias vs the rate at which those who never found anything bring it up.

A measurement, which itself would suffer from the same bias.
I don't know if there exists a proper antonym of "survivorship bias" but here is a nice "casualty" list of failed ventures from which plenty of good insights can be taken.

I think that taking advice from those who failed is as important as from those who might suffer from a "survivorship bias". I am sure most of these failed startups initially followed Musk's (et al.) "impossible is nothing" mantra before venturing out into the market.

Many people think and are incentivized to think about how to optimize for today.

Thinking about tomorrow can be counter-intuitive as to the way things work today, and it is pretty easy to construct negative arguments about tomorrow that are based on what we know right now.

I think the skepticism and pretty much well deserved. I would like to see both spaceX and Tesla being well profitable and sustainable without the need for direct/indirect taxpayer support.

Most of Musk's companies are about kicking the can down the road. I admire that he is mostly burning his own money on this but then skepticism of such ideas is natural. The man should probably stick to one thing and take it completion than starting 10.

It's amazing to me the amount of negativity directed toward his projects

His projects are cool.

The incessant "Elon is so smart and will save the world!" from this place is tiring. Everytime he tweets it makes the front page. Some people see there's more to these businesses than Elon being generous to us,and run a bit more skeptical. Perhaps it's you that needs to take a step back and assess what the other side is saying?

> Everytime he tweets it makes the front page

Not even close to true.

Who cares if The Boring Company fails? It looks cool! You know what happens if you don't try? Nothing. You never score for a shot you don't take!
But you can score if you take the right shot.

It's about wasting time and money and talent instead of directing it towards "winning" ideas.

If you learn how to take the right shot beforehand, let the rest of us know :)
If cities decide that The Boring Company is the way forward and it turns out not to be, that's lost opportunity cost and likely decades of people suffering increasingly poor transport infrastructure leading to more wasted time and less time that people can spend doing important things, like spending time being a productive member of society (not necessarily working a job - things like spending time with family and friends, educating oneself, etc etc, come under this).
Learning what strategies don't work well is being a productive member of society.
Society or a company of people operates like an organism at scale - it can get sick with the slightest imbalance of resources, so its collective experience builds antibodies to protect itself. If this was an idea for a portable gadget, it would probably be welcomed, but the underground tunnels and the risks that come with them (collapses, maintenance, infrastructure shifts, ecological impact) are scaring people. California's central valley and a lot of building foundations have been moving up and down with the drought and rains of late. Now imagine that happening with a mesh of concrete tunnels carrying people underneath.

That said, to assume feedback against one project is a testament to lack of entrepreneurial spirit, rings about as true as claiming people who don't like Justin Bieber are deaf.

One group convinces themselves that it is impossible and never builds anything. Musk's group convinces themselves it is possible and never builds anything. At least the former is honest.
>I'm starting to believe the only difference between those who start their own companies and those who don't is that the latter convinces themselves that it is impossible, never builds anything, and from their own lack of having ever produced anything, concludes that their original supposition was indeed correct.

And not because of socio-economic factors, obviously, no, it has to be that.

The fucking pretentiousness HN can have never ceases to amaze me.

You're just not believing hard enough.
Both groups are real. Certainly there are many, many disadvantaged people who never had much of an opportunity. At the same time, though, there are also plenty of people who have had opportunities and could've created something but didn't due to defeatism, and they're often the most vocal naysayers.
Well, that's a well-deserved negativity: they are the Juicero of mass transportation... they are trying to solve a problem that is already resolved with a very complicated and frankly ridiculous solution.

The lack of good mass transit is a political problem: why European mass transit is in general so good and why American mass transit is problematic? It's not a problem of technology. It's Politics, stupid. :)

The play on words in the name is used also used by a charity: Well Boring, who digs wells in rural Africa. The fact that we, as a species, have failed to deal with challenges like providing global simple access to water, make me think that a project like this is unrealistic in many ways.

Post-war London tried something similar, a futuristic vision of pedestrian walkways ("pedways") to separate people from the traffic. This failed, for various practical reasons, and you can see the remnants of the experiment throughout parts of London to this day.

This scheme would come at an unimaginable cost, surely changing planning laws to create less car-centric cities is a more realistic approach to the problem?

There is often enough a clear understanding why something is stupid.

Freaking solar roadways got 2 Million and more. A City payed them 500k to install that stuff. It is not hard to calculate the stupidity of this. Especially of a couple who is doing this in a garage. There is a reason why big companies are not doing it. It has to make sense and money.

This video above looks nice but if you think just a step back, it is probably 1000x cheaper and a much better solution to make the existing streets automaticly drivable instead. How much does it cost to build this? How much does it cost to build automatic driving into every car who wanna use a highway which is only accessible to automatic driving?

You can't have cars driving at 200 km/h on city streets.
I was not talking about city streets. And it doesn't matter. How long do you think does it take for a car to go to a highway?

It doesn't take to long is still much cheaper.

In munich you have a autobahn/cityring in the city. It takes perhaps 20 Minutes in city traffic to get onto the autobahn / highway.

There is a reason why we have only underground trains and why it takes years to build a new tunnel for them.

Also having the city traffic more autonomous would increase the traffic flow.

It's possible to start your own company and still think Musk's ideas are foolish. People are giving millions of reasons why they won't work not because they are haters, but because there are millions of reasons why they won't work.
I think it's both, actually. There's lots to criticize and there's also lots of hate/jealousy/whatever.
> and still think Musk's ideas are foolish

With Musk's established track record I think it's pretty arrogant for anyone to call his ideas foolish. He has achieved things that people thought were impossible or bound to fail. You can say: “I can see this potential problem”, or “I wonder how he's going to deal with this physical limitation” or similar sorts of statements. That's feedback and analysis given with respect. Simple dismissive negativity against ideas put forward by a person who would already rank in the top 10 in the world today for technological and engineering achievement is arrogance and narrow-mindedness.

Backing a few good ideas doesn't mean he will never back a bad one.
So because he has a "track record" of founding companies that achieved impressive feats he it's now forbidden to call out his ideas as foolish?
You know about the word "evidence"?
> it's now forbidden

I dislike this sort of miscasting of what I just said. I'm a very strong proponent of free speech and the right of anyone to say anything. But with my support for free speech comes a commitment to try to be considered and careful in what I personally say and I'm encouraging others to do the same in this particular context. You can take it or leave it and of course you can go on calling him foolish if you like. Musk doesn't probably care a whole lot and in the end, I would say that the negativity simply reflects back on you.

You dislike the miscasting of what you said, then go on to miscast what the parent says (that Elon himself is foolish, rather than that he has foolish ideas).
Maybe forbidden isn't the right word, but the fact is that so far I didn't see you address anything in the substance of the criticism towards this project, only criticise the people for criticising Musk. Also, if you read my comment you will find I never did call Mr Musk foolish. He is clearly a bright person. That doesn't make his ideas out of bounds for criticism for eternity, though, nor does it stop him from saying things that are clearly foolish, every now and then (the whole "the universe is a simulation" thing).
The Genius of the Crowd:
I wonder if these naysayers realize that their modern lives stand on the shoulders of giants like Musk, and that Musk's predecessors had to deal with the naysayers' predecessors.

Reminds me of the "Are we the Baddies?" sketch (I'm not calling anyone nazis)

It's not about what is or isn't possible. This video participates in an awful kind of ignorance about the ecological impact of tunneling.
This can work if you are starting on blank slate aka building a new city from scratch. It won't work with an existing city.
This 'boring company' is one of the worst ideas ever.

The intelligent criticisms I have read of this concept don't claim that it "won't work" or that it isn't possible.

Its just a really bad solution to a problem we have at least a dozen other, easier, cheaper, simpler solutions for already.

Imagine we wanted to go to the moon, but the shuttle and all its parts had to be made of platinum. We also have to make sure all the astronauts have at least a 40 BMI and will bring everything they currently own with them. It might still be possible, but its stupid.

edit: don't feel like arguing. Best of luck to Musk.
> The fact that people feel the need to defend unfinished (and very unproven) projects of a billionaire says a lot.

The fact that people think they can spend two seconds evaluating and dismissing an engineering idea from someone who literally sends things into space is hilarious.

> If you live by hype at some point you gotta start delivering.

If putting cars on the road and rockets on the launchpad doesn't count as "delivering", I don't know what does.

Where have you been exactly? He receives the hype precisely because he has delivered after people insisted he couldn't.

He and his companies have delivered the Falcon, Model S, Modex X, and a concept Model 3 set to be delivered soon, along with a Falcon Heavy.

If any person were able to deliver even one of those products, they'd be deserving of attention. And that's not even everything he's delivered.

If delivering three groundbreaking products (as in you can go out and use them right now) is hype, then I think maybe you need to revise your definition of "hype".

The SpaceX stuff is actually amazing.

The Tesla stuff is over-hyped by people who think that it's currently the global leader in everything they do, be it manufacturing or self-driving tech. In reality, the EV space is competitive as all get out and Tesla is a pretty small player.

The boring stuff? I have no idea.

If you live by hype at some point you gotta start delivering (edit: this is overstated, but whatever).

He's delivering to the freakin' International Space Station. What have you delivered lately?

> Musk is a master of hype. > If you live by hype at some point you gotta start delivering

In your book, Musk hasn't delivered enough yet? But why am I arguing with a Ph.D student. I wish you that your life is as fullfilled as Musk's.

>The fact that people feel the need to defend unfinished projects of a billionaire says a lot.

I'm confused as to who exactly you're referencing here seeing as Musk has no stake in any of the hyperloop companies currently operating.

You don't have an argument.
> The Hyperloop was supposed to be a revolutionary form of transport, turns out it was overblown.

He didn't launch the Hyperloop, though. He explicitly said he wasn't personally going to pursue it, he was just putting the idea out there. You can't put the fact that it hasn't yet been implemented (even though there are people working on it) on him. I've seen no evidence that the concept is infeasible, or poorly thought out.

It is infeasible, if it's going to be vacuum, for a pile of practical and safety reasons:

Maybe it will pivot into something not-as-originally-hyped by the same name.

What a terrible video. "I can't imagine anybody can make this work, so it is absolutely impossible"
Did you miss the bit where he says the idea of travelling fast in a vacuum is fundamentally sound and workable?

Did you miss the bit where he never at all claimed it was 'impossible', only that it was bullshit that it would be doable within two orders of magnitude of the claimed price, with the claimed speed advantages, or with any acceptable amount of safety?

What a terrible misrepresentation of the video.

Ya, but he doesn't actually justify his position. And to the extent that he does, his calculations are inaccurate. The only legitimate criticism he makes is the one about depressurization (all the others are trivial and can be solved trivially in ways that have already been addressed in the whitepaper). And fotunately for the hyperloop, his calculations on that one issue are off by six orders of magnitude, per the videos that respond to his video.
Thunderf00t always comes up in these discussions - here's a counter video.

I think it's more nuanced than that.

You can break down the world into the 99% that "know" that it's impossible. They'll never invent that world-changing thing.

That leaves 1% that "don't know" that it's impossible. Of that 1%, 99% will try and fail.

The remaining 1% of the 1% succeed, like George Dantzig (who came late to a Stats class at UC Berkeley, thought some problems on the board were homework, and a few days later handed the professor solutions to some famous open problems in statistics), and Jack Kilby (who, seeing computer performance limited by the number of wires soldered by hand, demonstrated -- against the protests of his "we-know-better" co-workers -- that you could get rid of the wires, resulting in the integrated circuit).

It's important to remember the 99% of the 1%. There are probably people on HN who have tried and failed. But rather than simply saying that it is impossible, we should encourage people to share share how and why the problem is difficult, so that hopefully the next person to try won't waste their time retracing the failures of the previous generation.

I agree.

The only way to justify a good idea is to have people argue that it is a bad idea. It's up to the person behind the good idea to prove the arguers are wrong.

Sometimes (usually?) that proof comes only in the happening of the impossible thing.
The 1% of the 1% had a good idea that no one else has ever had. This is not such an idea. This is a video of "what if subways were much less efficient?".
I find it hard to believe the common case for the 1% of the 1% always succeed because of sheer luck, brillance (although those things certainly can help).

The 1% of the 1% succeed because they are driven to find success, because they are relentlessly applying logic to the problems they face, because of determination - because they don't give up. I think the term thrown around these days is grit.

So yes, share what happened before, but more than likely those with 'grit' are going to figure out what has been tried before on their own and sometimes they'll reapply what failed in the past and make it work.

Those things are not mutually exclusive.
How many people in the world have tried this, let alone people on HN? Very, very few people even attempt things on this scale.
I love Elon as much as the next guy. I think SpaceX, Tesla, OpenAI and even Neuralink are great companies tackling meaningful problems and wish them the best.

The Boring Company however, yeah, he messed this one up.

HN is full of Elon fanboys. I'm one myself. The die hard, willing to say "the world is flat" fanboys are out here defending him. Look, I like Elon. But the sane fanboys are trying to save Elon a lot of headache by not pursuing this venture.

Care to explain how he messed this one up?
Because you are now more dependent on private cars for transport.

Why would you use this instead of a system where you take a neighborhood bus to the local transit station & shopping center where you can pick up a light rail to the closest subway station, where you take the express train downtown to the high-speed rail station, where you take that to visit the next state for the day? No cars, and you can sit and read a book or take a nap or enjoy the view if you wanted to.

The only scalable transit solution is mass public transit. The world can't afford to pave a private luxury road for everyone to go wherever they want to go. They need to learn to sit next to random strangers on the subway or the bus. If people can't sit next to random strangers on the subway or on the bus, they should be seen as dysfunctional and sociopathic.

This really is one of the worst things I've seen. It may possibly be worse than his Hyperloop, another truly awful idea.

Elon Musk strikes me as one of those guys that defunds mass transit, and then wonders why mass transit is so bad. "It's always breaking down and never on time hurr durr.. So, therefore, buy one of my shiny new cars!"

He really hates mass transit for some reason. Maybe he just can't stand the general public? Is that why he's so into Mars, because he hates everyone here?

We need less pampered and coddled people like Musk, and more people with grit that has the ability to interact with the general public.

I really don't think cars are going away any time soon for several reasons. Cars offer individuals far more freedom, go anywhere when you want. Also people live in rural areas, I'm not going to wait 3 hours for a bus to take me to my mom's house in the country, I'll just drive. In addition there is probably not a bus that goes there.

People go shopping, they don't want to carry on $200 worth of groceries onto public transportation.

Finally people have kids. Kids require a plethora of specialized items including car seats. I dont want to put my kid in a car seat a prior kid just urinated in. Kid's are also messy and require snacks and water bottles.

People who can afford it are going to take cars. I hope The Boring Company is a rousing success.

You make plenty of good points but also ignore a whole bunch of bad ones you've made.

Your point about rural scenarios is pointless because this video and idea are clearly aimed at the urban transport problem which needs to be solved due to the fact that, around the world, people are increasingly moving to cities rather than the to rural areas.

When it comes to shopping, I don't know about you but I often find myself looking at other peoples trolleys and asking myself "Why would anyone buy 10 2L bottles of coke? Do you really need all those doritos? My word random stranger, do you subsist entirely on junk food?". There are times that one does come away with a large load of shopping but my wife and I have found that when you start planning your meals for the week and optimising what you buy to fit that plan you tend to come away with a lot less shopping than if you just go in an randomly buy stuff. Would would have guessed?

Your point about children is good but ignores the fact that there are huge numbers of people throughout the world with children who somehow manage to make life work despite not owning a 7-seater SUV...

I think it's better to say that people who can afford it might want to use a car now and then but they'd probably also love to have access to viable public transport for all those scenarios where getting into a car is more trouble than its worth.

We're talking about LA, not rural areas.
Guess what rural areas don't have? Traffic. I love the way that Musk hacks the American economy, government subsidies, value system, marketing engine, and the capacity of the public to fall for bullshit, because that is how truly new things get made in this country. But this amusing semi-joke is just reflective of the fact that LA proves car-based transport doesn't scale, no matter who is driving. Mass transit is the answer.
you need a car unless your life plan is just to limit yourself to only urban areas. If you ever want to leave the urban area you will need a car. If I have my own car, even if there is public transportation I will likely take my own car for the convenience of it being my own space.

I am not arguing against the need for mass transport but I see no reason we cant have both.

Why not rent a car when you want to go on trips outside of urban areas? Seems far cheaper if you can actually get away without a care in the city.
Um, what? Tunneling costs are blocking​ mass transit in high-density regions.

Light rail and subways are key to effective public transportation and affordable connected cities. Buses are best for last-minute/first-mile transport.

Commoditization of tunnel boring technology around a couple standard sizes for any soil condition would radically reduce subway construction costs around the nation. That same technology could be leveraged for commercial transportation as well.

I strongly suspect "tunnels for cars" is just marketing. Elon is known for doing his research, and the research shows that traffic is reduced by getting people off the road... Traffic is the equilibrium of convenience and discomfort, adding roads just puts more people on the road.

Making mass transportation more convenient and cheap is vital to reducing traffic... the other piece is zoning for high density to support mass transportation.

>Because you are now more dependent on private cars for transport.

The video shows an electric rail system, that isn't incompatible with moving larger numbers of people. Look at the high occupancy car at :47.

>If people can't sit next to random strangers on the subway or on the bus, they should be seen as dysfunctional and sociopathic.

Mental illness is probably not going to disappear any time soon. Viewing them hatefully isn't going to get them to like riding the bus. It's just going to make you a hateful person.

> Why would you use this instead of a system where you take a neighborhood bus to the local transit station

Because I don't want to walk four miles in weather that could be 90 degrees or 9 degrees to get my "neighborhood" bus, and then waste hours of the day because I have to change to other buses (sometimes going in the wrong direction) to get somewhat close to my destination. I especially don't want to do that carrying heavy or fragile things, or in the rain or snow.

As long as the US continues to be a sprawl, personal transportation will be important.

If I'm not wrong, there's actually a scheme for Tesla owners to rent out their cars while not in use(still in development). So, I envision these tunnels as part of his broader vision of having mass transit for everyone, except the biggest thing being that the mass transit need not have time tables. That's the worst thing about mass transit. Having to plan your day completely around it. Fine for the most of us, but isn't going to end private transport. I totally see the vision he has. It's a 30 year game he's playing, not a 5 year one.
Think of it with 100year horizon. Where it will outlast Musk. Where all cars are self driven autonomously. Where all cars are electric. We already have all the bits and pieces of it... The boring company is attempting to stitch it all together.
> He really hates mass transit for some reason. Maybe he just can't stand the general public? Is that why he's so into Mars, because he hates everyone here?

> We need less pampered and coddled people like Musk, and more people with grit that has the ability to interact with the general public

Spot on.

> Why would you use this instead of a system where you take a neighborhood bus to the local transit station & shopping center where you can pick up a light rail to the closest subway station, where you take the express train downtown to the high-speed rail station, where you take that to visit the next state for the day? No cars, and you can sit and read a book or take a nap or enjoy the view if you wanted to.

I'll take that one.

Because I love my car - not the car itself, although I really do think it's beautiful - but the freedom that it gives me. I can get in it right now, without any planning or waiting and drive almost anywhere using exactly the route I choose. While sitting behind the wheel, I'm forced to not be able to do anything else than driving. That is a very nice time to think and just be. Some of the most beautiful scenery I've ever seen was in places where the nearest public transport option was a hour's drive away.

I can leave stuff in the trunk if I buy it one day and then need it the next day. I also do grocery shopping weekly - carrying 5 bags of food by hand gets old really fast.

The car is also where my younger kid's car seat is. I'm pretty sure nobody else would put their kid in there, the shape of the chocolate and cookie crumb mountain is exactly the shape he fits in you know.

So, yes, you can do what you described. In fact, you can do it already today, but having a car? There's a reason people buy and repair and like them.

Your beautiful automobile is also a multi-ton death machine. Worldwide around 1.3 MILLION people are killed by them every year. At that rate they should be banned, or, at a minimum, have much stricter licensing and renewal requirements (every year a challenging written and driving test, much easier to lose license and have car impounded).
> I can get in it right now, without any planning or waiting

That's how a proper public transport network works too. For example in London, when I want to go somewhere, I just whip out an app that plans for me the best combination of busses/subway/train/walking to accomplish that and I'm immediately on the go. The wait times are minimal (under 2-5 minutes) most of the time.

That's only economical in very dense urban areas, though.

I live in the Netherlands which is a very densely populated country, and anywhere outside the city center or early/late on the day, the busses go every 30 minutes or hourly. At night there are barely any options, esp. between 2 and 6 AM.

Sure, but in areas that aren't densely populated, you don't have the same traffic problems, so why do you need it?
>> The only scalable transit solution is mass public transit.

This is the idea I was responding to. I think cars are mostly practical in suburbs and rural areas (I live in a city and basically only bike and walk), mass transit isn't the best solution for all personal transit.

Those things aren't free, though. You're paying $500-$1000/month for the luxury of doing those things, compared to the $100-$150 cost of a monthly transit pass.

When you consider the costs, cars just don't have the appeal they used to, and you can spend money elsewhere that'll make you just as happy if not happier, especially as more services orient themselves to remove cars from the picture, such as Amazon & grocery delivery services.

Besides, do you want a system that forces the rest of the public to buy cars? The congestion alone should be enough to discourage people from cars.

Yes, of course they aren't free. I also live in a house, that's more expensive than an apartment because I like it more this way.

I often don't buy the cheapest food, but the food that I like.

I don't want to force cars on anyone - it should be an individual choice of course. What I'm saying is that there are a lot of reasons people want to own cars.

It's the choice between working with the existing system to make it better versus demanding that everyone adapts to a new system that you claim is better.

Maybe it is, but getting the whole world to change at once to a completely different and in many ways harder system is very un likely to happen.

> It's the choice between working with the existing system to make it better versus demanding that everyone adapts to a new system that you claim is better.

Indeed, which is why we need as a society needs to pay for more rail systems, a tried-and-true mass transit system that's been around a lot longer than the more inefficient cars.

Right now roads are such a wasteful government mess that's completely unprofitable. The personal automotive transport system is a failed experiment that society needs to move on from.

And we need to stop subsidizing the wasteful and destructive suburban lifestyle.

How much more of my money do you want me to pay for your roads so you can have the luxury of riding in comfort?

Is there anything else that you would like me to pay for you?

> I don't want to force cars on anyone - it should be an individual choice of course.

Ah, and this is where we come to the root of the discussion. Because ultimately the question isn't "Why would ANYONE want to drive cars" (though I confess it was originally presented to you as such), but rather "Why should society and governments INCENTIVIZE continued use of cars."

The Boring Company's proposal here directly benefits people like you (and by the way me - I also love my car), those who can afford that privilege.

But our tax dollars and policies should be going towards systems that benefit the most people, and that will only happen in North America if we fall out of love with the "freedom" promised by our cars and realize that waiting 2-5 minutes at two different transfers, with a total trip length of 15-25% longer (optimistic, but that is realistic in cities with good public transport) is a worthwhile tradeoff for the greater good.

> I don't want to force cars on anyone - it should be an individual choice of course.

Ah, and this is where we come to the root of the discussion. Because ultimately the question isn't "Why would ANYONE want to drive cars" (though I confess it was originally presented to you as such), but rather "Why should society and governments INCENTIVIZE continued use of cars."

The Boring Company's proposal here directly benefits people like you (and by the way me - I also love my car), those who can afford that privilege.

But our tax dollars and policies should be going towards systems that benefit the most people, and that will only happen in North America if we fall out of love with the "freedom" promised by our cars and realize that waiting 2-5 minutes at two different transfers, with a total trip length of 15-25% longer (optimistic, but that is realistic in cities with good public transport) is a worthwhile tradeoff for the greater good.

I used to get a lot more reading done when I used public transport too. I miss those days :-(
What about the effort of finding parking spaces (and the effects those large parking spaces have on urban environments), actually having to concentrate on driving, having to keep in mind to bring the car home again, fueling (or charging), servicing your car, etc etc. I find there are a lot of inconveniences related to having a car, even without considering the huge effects of congestion, real estate, climate change, air and noise pollution, etc etc.
Everybody is trying to invent shit and make things better. It's true from your waiter at your restaurant who will try to find a way to be more amiable to you, or it's true from the public researchers who just invented the artificial utero when they're being paid nips and wont become billionaires out of their invention. This is not Atlas Shrugged. This is the real world.
You're missing the point: This isn't simply about those who are trying to make things better, which is truly many people and is wonderful. This is that subset that go down road others have abandoned or won't go down because the solution is "known to definitely not be down that road."

Those people get flack -- they really do. Despite the inundation of aphorisms all over Facebook and LinkedIn belaboring the concept of radical thinking, when it happens in this, the real world, it's still met with rolled eyes and often anger.

This particular example is not like other inventions though.

We know we can create lifts that do underground and then connect entry points and exit points by tunnel networks. We already have very miniature things like this.

What the video shows is a vast network of underground tunnels with a tram system for personal vehicles and some public transit connecting different points in the city or connecting other cities. I can kinda see why you might do this and it sounds like a fun ride.

But even a layman can see this is going to be incredibly expensive and you have to wonder why would build this ahead of other types of mass transit. I'd like to see a business plan. Until then, I'm a sceptic.

Definitely. Musk is not immune from the same socio-political factors everyone else faces.

The problems of zoning alone make this a massive undertaking. Much of the counter-criticism in this thread is misdirected. Very few people are doubting Musk's technical ability to pull this off, they are suggesting it worn't work for practical reasons. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to understand those, just have to have lived in a city, or simply lived.

I have to point of out that over-criticizing stuff is an important part of the human psyche. People "who follow the rules" get as much flack as people who don't. Example in mind: your tax administration officer that you will probably criticize once a year for following the rules.
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