Elon Musk Tweets New Tunnel Boring Machine Coming Next Month


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.


tunnel boring machine

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.

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

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I have been a car nut since the days when Rob Walker and Henry N. Manney, III graced the pages of Road & Track. Today, I use my trusty Miata for TSD rallies and occasional track days at Lime Rock and Watkins Glen. If it moves on wheels, I'm interested in it. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.
  • Joe Viocoe

    Hey Steve, Elon’s idea for the Hyperloop was not magnetic levitation. He said that’ll be too expensive per mile of tube. His idea was forced air cushion.

    • Steve Hanley

      Thanks for that clarification, Joe. The Hyperloop is 20+ years away from commercial feasibility. It may travel via beams from a particle accelerator by then. The early test vehicles that used the SpaceX test track recently still use old fashioned wheels.

      I still think the Hyperloop is a great science project. Is it realistic? Put me down as “skeptical.”

  • Joe Viocoe

    Watch the Nova special on building London’s Cross Rail addition to their existing subway system.
    They use several of these mega boring machines. Really cool stuff. As it digs, it lines the wall with concrete behind it.

    • The Apocaloptimist

      the one time that “mega boring” = “mega amazing”. 🙂

  • Kieran Delaney

    It feels like every day Elon Musk does something to make me feel like a completely inadequate human being…

    I wish all of us were more like him. Not 100% though because I enjoy watching football and lazing on the beach too much to stop it completely haha…

    • The Apocaloptimist

      He’s a hero, no doubt. But he was smart/hard-working/lucky enough to have a gigantic windfall of money from being part of a startup in Silicon Valley that hit the jackpot, to give him time, investment, and connections to make all these amazing things happen. Not all of us have that chance. But we do all have spheres of influence–all of us leveraging our abilities in those smaller spheres will move the world further than 100 Elon Musks put together. So be a hero in your own space, and rock on.

      • Kieran Delaney

        Well said!

  • kevin mccune

    Does anyone realize a potential spinoff from this ? Just maybe this will make tunneling more affordable and the benefits of not having to deface mountainsides and the associated maintenance and weather problems of these mountain roads, plus the energy savings would be significant.
    Elons spinoffs my help in other areas .