Elon Musk is not backing off from his plan to build an advanced tunnel boring machine to drill holes in the earth’s crust. It began late last year when he announced the first tunnel had already begun in the parking lot of SpaceX headquarters. He suggested he could create tunnels 30 levels deep if need be to finally solve the intractable traffic problems that have beset the Los Angeles area since the Eisenhower administration.
Last year he said his engineers were going to take the current tunnel boring machine apart and figure out how to make it better. The objective is to make drilling holes in the ground ten times faster than present technology can do it. Musk likes ratcheting things up by a factor of 10. He says his new Model 3 factory will make automobiles 10 times faster than ever before, for instance.
Apparently, the engineers have finished figuring out how to make a better boring machine and the results will be unveiled to the world in about a month’s time.
Yup, machine arrives next month and we start digging the tunnel!
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 24, 2017
Musk’s stated objective for his first tunnel is Los Angeles international airport. “Traffic is driving me nuts!” he tweeted last year. The idea for the Hyperloop first invaded Musk’s brain while sitting in stalled LA traffic. For those who may have missed it, check out this video by a team of Lithuanian engineers in which they imagine what the journey from SpaceX to LAX might look like.
One of the drivers for this plan may be the Hyperloop itself. The idea is simplicity itself. Create a long tube from Point A to Point B. Suck most of the air out of it so passenger pods can speed along inside at up to 700 miles per hour with little wind resistance. Use magnetic levitation to power the pods and gather the electricity needed from solar panels. The whole idea sounds like the perfect eighth grade science fair project.
But there are practical considerations, not the least of which is finding an arrow straight line of contiguous parcels of real estate between downtown Los Angeles and San Francisco. There are all sorts of things in the way, from mountains to buildings. Eminent domain won’t be available to help the process. But if you run the tube underground, you could avoid all those impediments and eliminate much of the cost of land acquisition along the proposed route.
Musk has dubbed his new enterprise The Boring Company. If he can deliver what he promises, it will be anything but boring. Starting next month we will know if his vision is realistic or a mere fantasy.
Photo credit: SpaceX