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Transportation Technology

Elon Musk Outlines His 'Boring' Vision For Traffic-Avoiding Tunnels (axios.com) 171

Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed new details about his futuristic tunnel-boring project during his TED talk on Friday. Ina Fried, writing for Axios: In an appearance at the TED conference in Vancouver, Musk showed off a new video visualization of electric skates transporting cars in a narrow tunnel, then raising them back to street level in a space as small as two parking spaces. Inside the tunnels, Musk said cars could travel as fast as 200 kilometers per hour (roughly 130 MPH). "You should be able to go from say Westwood to LAX in 5-6 minutes," the Tesla and SpaceX founder said, adding he is spending only 2-3 percent on the tunnel effort. The Boring Company is currently building a demo tunnel in SpaceX's parking lot, but will need permits from the city of Los Angeles to extend beyond the property line. Musk added, "I'm not trying to be anyone's savior. I'm just trying to think about the future and not be sad." You can watch the video here.
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Elon Musk Outlines His 'Boring' Vision For Traffic-Avoiding Tunnels

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  • How about trains? They're remarkably efficient at transporting lots of people long distances in short periods of time. Seriously.

    I understand the obsession people Americans with cars, but there's a lot of extra materials required for a car that used just to allow people to keep their own personal bubble. It's really a waste of space and materials.

    • Re:Trains (Score:5, Informative)

      by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Friday April 28, 2017 @04:14PM (#54321621)

      Ok, so you get in a train that drops you off in the middle of LA. Now, how do you get to where you're going from there? LA is hundreds of square miles of urban area, all spread out so there's no way any train will take you to all parts of it. You'll need a car to drive yourself to your destination. Now you're looking at spending a bunch of time and money dealing with a rental car agency, instead of just using your own car to get you there.

      Trains are just like planes, only a lot slower. Planes are great for getting a medium number of people between two points all at once, in a short amount of time (except for TSA groping). But they don't help you much in getting from the airport to your final destination. Trains are worse because they're so slow, it ends up not being sensible to use them too much because if the distance is short, you might as well drive, and if it's longer, you're better off flying. If you happen to live in an urban downtown and want to travel to another urban downtown not too far away, trains make a lot of sense. That's about it though.

      What would make a lot more sense is if they'd build SkyTran, but no one believes that'll possibly work so we can't have it.

      • OK, so you get in a train that drops you off in the middle of London. Now, how do you get to where you're going from there?

        The answer is not "MOAH CARS!" The answer is better city planning.

        • The answer is better city planning.

          Keep in mind that the city is already there.

        • "OK, so you get in a train that drops you off in the middle of London. Now, how do you get to where you're going from there?"

          In London, there's already a Tube that will take you there. In Los Angeles, you will be able to take autonomous Ubers to your spread-out destinations long before this entirely new infrastructure gets built.

        • In other words, the whole world is like London. Who'd have figured?!
          • well it would have been, but somewhere along the line the concept of colonialism got turned into a negative.

      • Trains work fine in Tokyo, London, etc. And even in the US in Boston and NYC which have decent if elderly public transportation. LA is a different story. Its marginal public transportation pretty much vanished after 1950.

        But I have to have serious doubts about the economics of Musk's scheme. Even with relatively small diameter tunnels (a bit under 4 meters for the one in Musk's parking lot) it's going to be expensive. And it has to avoid a century's worth of infrastructure pockets of natural gas, and w

        • The US trains only work for shorter distances. Even going from DC to Boston is just too far: it's cheaper, and MUCH faster to go by plane (1.5 hours vs. 8 hours). So yeah, going from DC to Baltimore by train is OK (if you don't need a car on either end), or even DC to NYC, but that's about it, unless you have a lot of time. And Amtrak prices aren't cheap either.

          Musk's scheme makes little sense because of the high cost of tunneling. It would make far more sense to embrace SkyTran PRT: it's cheap to build

          • Just wanted to say: Yay to SkyTran! Always liked that concept. What is the current status? I thought they were building a test track but I am not sure they have done this yet.
            • Their website (skytran.net) says they got a new CEO recently, with Jerry Sanders staying on the board, and last I heard they were building a demo track in Tel Aviv but that was supposed to be done at least a year or two ago and apparently isn't yet. The WIkipedia page says Israel Aerospace Industries contracted with them (Unimodal) to build a 4-500 meter test track, and if successful IAI will build a commercial SkyTran network in Tel Aviv, Herzliya, and Netanya.

        • Trains work fine in Tokyo

          Workers in Tokyo spend an average of 2 hours per day commuting.
          Not many of them would call that "working fine".

          • True story: my mom and I were riding the train home from Tokyo to Kamakura. I was two and not feeling very well; my mom had just fed me Kraft Mac n' cheese (she was obviously rather ignorant of nutrition). She was holding me in her arms while having to stand (nobody'd offered her a seat as Japanese culture didn't include provisions for doing empathic/non-sociopathic things like that)... and I suddenly leaned over a heaved freshly-digested mac n' cheese right down the neckline and into the cleavage of a lady
        • I'd never call Metro North or Amtrak decent.
      • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

        Trains are just like planes, only a lot slower.

        And sometimes jetliners are slower than bicycles [slate.com].

        Another nice thing about trains, besides not wasting time getting to altitude and besides being 3-5x as energy efficient as airplanes (if it's an electric train) and besides not making you stand in line to get groped and besides allowing to use your laptop and cell phone the whole trip, is that you can build a train station right in the middle of downtown where there's good transit and where a lot of travelers w

      • by gweihir ( 88907 )

        And you think countries with good train systems do not have that issue? And maybe they have solutions for it? All your posting shows how unaware you are of what is possible and being done in modern countries. (No, the US does not qualify as "modern".)

    • Trains are efficient on a cost-per-pound depot-to-depot basis... but the moment you want your trip to start or end somewhere other than a train station, or start or end at something other than the scheduled time, they suck.

      Now, if we all drove little electric cars and - when it made sense - drove them onto a train designed to carry them - that'd be efficient. And once you're doing that, you can eliminate the train and just have the little electric car run off rail-provided power during its trip.

      If the cars

      • by Altus ( 1034 )

        of course if the cars were self driving then you could have your "rail provided power" on the freeway be good to go. If we got to the point where freeway access required a self driving car then we could probably increase the speed of those freeways safely. This seems like it is avoiding those requirements by putting the self driving ability on these little carts, which is good in that it would let us get to this vision sooner, but it is bad in that it requires an amazing amount of infrastructure to be bui

        • >of course if the cars were self driving then you could have your "rail provided power" on the freeway be good to go. If we got to the point where freeway access required a self driving car then we could probably increase the speed of those freeways safely.

          The nice thing about rails is they're a lot better than asphalt if you want to deliver power with them, and they're also a lot better at steering. Inducted power and reliable self-driving tech just isn't there yet.

          >This seems like it is avoiding th

      • Not a dumb idea at all. Probably in a couple of decades batteries will be good enough to dispense with the track electrification. It'll probably take that long for the CARB, NTHB, EPA, etc, etc, to hold hearings, promulgate standards, run tests., dictate updated standards, issue the necessary permits, etc to allow your little cars to be actually be built.

    • Re:Trains (Score:5, Informative)

      by kamapuaa ( 555446 ) on Friday April 28, 2017 @04:23PM (#54321681) Homepage

      Why am I obsessed with cars? Because my crappy 35 minute commute by car becomes a 2 hour 20 commute by BART + Bus + walking (according to Google Maps). And trains can't take me to the hikes or parks I like, aren't really a practical way to bring around my kid and all the random shit he needs, etc.

      I suppose we could bulldoze the entire Bay Area to organize it around a train system, but that's not going to happen.

      Good username/comment synergism, though. I will say that even in NYC, taking the subway to go between my brother in North Brooklyn to my friend in South Brooklyn is like an hour, even though they're just about 4 miles away. Even NYC needs cars, although it makes more sense to use Uber/taxi for many people.

      • This, in Miami I could drive 35 minutes pre-rush, or 55 minutes for the same commute during rush hour in a car. Or, I could drive 20 minutes in the car, park at the rail station, take a train for 20 minutes, transfer to the people mover for another 10 minutes, then walk exposed to sun and rain for 1/4 mile to work, paying $4 per day for the privilege of riding the trains.

        Gee, what would you do?

      • by antdude ( 79039 )

        What we really need are t(ele/rans)porters. :P

    • How much would they need to charge to break even?

      Toronto is looking at building a 1-stop 6.2km subway for a current price of $3.35B CAD. They are projecting ridership of 7,400 per hour when the breakeven is 15,000 per hour. Our bulk fare is $3 per trip.
      • by gmack ( 197796 )

        Break even is $45 000 CAD per hour? I think you need to rethink your math.

        The subway runs 20 hour a day from Monday to Saturday and 18 hours a day on Sunday that's 138 hours a week or 7176 hours a year.

        The TTC cost $1.795 Billion to run last year. [www.ttc.ca] Divide that by 7176 and you get $250 139.35 per hour to run the entire system / 69 stations and you get $3625 per hour for each station to run.

    • Trains are great, if you're going from station A to station B on their time table (and back) and they have enough passenger cars. Trains are less great when it's >15 minutes between trains and/or your final destination is >1 mile from the nearest station.
    • Trains are fine if you happen to be near one that is going to where you want to go. Otherwise taking the train adds a lot of travel time, even in areas with a dense network of them. And sometimes they are overcrowded and/or inhabited with inconsiderate asshats.

      This tunnel idea is cute and the lifts are a nice solution to the problem of on/off ramps that require a huge footprint. The lifts don't allow a large volume of traffic though, even if they only take a few seconds to cycle (all existing car lift
    • It's really a waste of space and materials.

      Or it would be in a densely a populated country; definitely not so much out here in the Western U.S.

      Granted, the Bay Area is another story... but the problem there is excessive bureaucracy and NIMBY's... which make engineering and even physics challenges look easy to overcome by comparison. Of course, you won't find me entering a tunnel in one of the most seismically-active zones in the world... but I'm just weird like that.

    • by k6mfw ( 1182893 )
      I think Americans first need to change their mindset. Unlike developed countries around the world that view trains as transportation systems (called high speed rails), Americans view trains as those clackety-clack things their grandparents rode. And those things that cause gates to come down and block traffic.
    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      The US is not a modern country in many regards. Its lack of a good train system is just one of them.

  • Cities Skylines (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MangoCats ( 2757129 ) on Friday April 28, 2017 @04:11PM (#54321607)

    The single best solution to traffic in Cities Skylines is tunnels, lots of tunnels, put those freeways underground. I put my tunnel on-off ramps on the inside of big roundabouts, then the surface traffic is tremendously diminished, the freeway traffic has ready access to most areas, and the freeways don't add noise to neighborhoods or bisect and separate them.

    • no pillars mods and over head

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Guess how we fixed that problem over here?

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quebec_Autoroute_720

      Yes, a 3-5 lanes highway (each direction) digged under all the city sky scrapper
      with many entrances / exits all over downtown.

      It gets you in the middle of the city or through the entire downtown area in no time,
      so instead of being stuck at 5 mph in a 30 mph dense street city zone,
      you can safely drive under all this crowded area at 45 mph
      (even though most people actually drive up to a max speed of 60 mph on it).

      The be

  • by fiannaFailMan ( 702447 ) on Friday April 28, 2017 @04:36PM (#54321763) Journal

    Solutions like this are classic examples of tech-rich people thinking they have all the answers when there's a whole bank of qualified specialist people already working in that field who know what's really needed to fix the problem but have only been stymied by politics.

    If traffic is driving Musk nuts then the solution is not to find innovative new ways to handle more traffic. The solution is to ask why is traffic so bad in the first place.

    Recommended reading: The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jacobs

    Or if that's too heavy, try Suburban Nation: The rise of sprawl and the decline of the American dream.

    Only then will you come to see the culprit: Single Use Zoning, aka the BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything) rules. Single-use zoning forces everybody to make several car journeys just to get through a typical day. Going to work? Car. Going out for lunch? Car. Going home form work? Car. Need to go out for a bottle of milk and postage stamp? Car. Going to a movie? Car.

    No bloody wonder the place is flooded with traffic. You try to build a city around the automobile and it becomes a hostile environment for pedestrians and cyclists. You try to widen roads to accommodate more cars and the laws of induced demand kick in, resulting in even more traffic and roads as choked as they were before.

    Learn a few things about urban planning, Elon. Don't arrogantly assume that you're the first person to want to address this problem. Smart growth and sustainable, walkable, transit-oriented development is a far better solution than drilling holes in the ground and cracking puns about the word "boring." It requires years of tedious work and politicking to build support for smart growth. A city is not a private company with which you can do what you like. There are elected councils, public advisory committees, public hearings, tax implications, and all manner of complex bureaucratic hoops that you have to jump through to fix these things.

    • What are the ecological impacts of boring thousands of miles of tunnels? What is the cost? Do we really need to get places that fast if we are in automated cars and can use that time to be productive or be entertained?
      • by Khyber ( 864651 )

        "What are the ecological impacts of boring thousands of miles of tunnels?"

        In SoCal? Quite heavy, given we're sitting on a ton of oil and gas.

        Good luck doing this without hitting a gas pocket by accident and blowing everything to shit.

        • by Khyber ( 864651 )

          Oh, and then to boot, in Los Angeles and many parts of SoCal, lots of those tall nondescript buildings Elon might want to tunnel under are actually hidden oil rigs. Again, good luck with that, or even thinking about tunneling anywhere NEAR them.

          I think Elon simply has no clue about this state's geology.

        • by taustin ( 171655 )

          Not to mention that it doesn't take a genius to figure out that building subway tunnels in wet sand that is geologically active is a bad idea.

          Welcome to LA.

      • Maybe his plan is to fill in the bay with all the dirt from his tunnels... wait 'till Lex Luthor hears about it though. It'll take Superman to break up a fight between the evil genius and the benevolent genius.

    • Perhaps there's another solution here. Today's traffic is mainly moving *people* around. Perhaps we can reduce/replace those trips.

      The last one on your list is a good example: going to a movie. The vast majority of movies I see now are in my home. I don't go to the movie theater. Didn't even drive to a BlockBuster. No travel involved at all.

      Other things are harder to replace, but we're getting there. With technology, having lunch or your shopping delivered is becoming a practical option- and there's a l

    • by Khyber ( 864651 )

      "The solution is to ask why is traffic so bad in the first place."

      That's an obvious answer; nobody knows how to fucking drive in the first place. Have you driven SoCal highways? The only place I've seen worse is the LBJ.

      • Never been to Boston?

        • by Khyber ( 864651 )

          Boston Traffic can at least get past 15 MPH most times of the day.

          Come on over to the 60/15/10 junction strip and let's see what you think of 3 hours for 2 miles just to switch highways.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      > Smart growth and sustainable, walkable, transit-oriented development...

      Transit-oriented development is exactly what is being proposed. From the fine summary:

      "[The system would contain] electric skates transporting cars in a narrow tunnel, then raising them back to street level in a space as small as two parking spaces... cars could travel as fast as 200 kilometers per hour [through the tunnel.]"

      This is a subway for cars, which is _exactly_ the sort of short-to-medium-term fix that you need in a metro a

      • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

        > Smart growth and sustainable, walkable, transit-oriented development...

        Transit-oriented development is exactly what is being proposed. From the fine summary:

        "[The system would contain] electric skates transporting cars in a narrow tunnel, then raising them back to street level in a space as small as two parking spaces... cars could travel as fast as 200 kilometers per hour [through the tunnel.]"

        This is a subway for cars, which is _exactly_ the sort of short-to-medium-term fix that you need in a metro area that is obscenely car-heavy, has next-to-no underground rail system, and next-to-no political will for constructing one.

        Musk understands the political realities on the ground in the LA metro area far, far better than you do.

        Bollocks. An underground train/elevator for cars is way less efficient than building a city where people can walk from point to point.

    • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

      The solution is to ask why is traffic so bad in the first place.

      Because people tolerate that traffic enough to create it and sit in it at the same time. Because sitting in traffic is more desirable than the alternatives available to them.

      Because traffic congestion is a sign of prosperity, and so the only thing worse than having congestion is not having congestion [strongtowns.org].

      • The meme you've posted is a sarcastic image of a desolate road. It mocks the people who say that congestion is good.

        You can have prosperity without congested roads, you know. Try visiting Europe once in a while.

    • by taustin ( 171655 )

      What he really needs to do is find out how impossible it is to dig under other people's property in a heavily populated city like Los Angeles. Building an above ground highway in LA is a billion dollars a mile, or more, plus decades of lawsuits. That's with government backed eminent domain to seize property.

      Now translate that underground, where you have power lines, sewer lines, water lines, traffic light control lines, all manner of existing tunnels, all belonging to other people, going down dozens, if not

    • Now the question is what to do about it.

      It's easier to build tunnels than rebuild an entire city organically.

      It's basically a subway system with individual cars rather than trains.

    • This is an excellent presentation delivered to the City of Austin about exactly what you outline. I highly recommend it! http://www.austintexas.gov/blog/false-prosperity-hidden-cost-suburban-sprawl [austintexas.gov]
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      A nice compromise they have in Japan is to allow small shops and businesses in residential areas. They also have a lot of elevated and underground public transport.

    • Learn a few things about urban planning, Elon.

      Now it's time for your lesson. When dealing with an existing city that has the problems you so beautifully and correctly described, what do you do:

      a) Rezone everything. Raze buildings to the ground, dissect shopping centres and spread them throughout the suburbs. force mass relocation of corporations, move skyscrapers and campuses. Reclaim even more land ripping even more houses and buildings down to redesign roads for better access for alternative transport. Put in more public transport that is able to nav

  • by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Friday April 28, 2017 @04:38PM (#54321781) Homepage

    I want a Tesla Roadster with a drill on the front, so that I could create my own tunnel on my way to work at 125mph. It would be the most boring car ever!

    • by Khyber ( 864651 )

      Just give me any machine that could actually full-tilt bore without stopping at 125MPH. Just one machine like that would make me the best prospector on the planet.

      • by tsqr ( 808554 )

        Just give me any machine that could actually full-tilt bore without stopping at 125MPH. Just one machine like that would make me the best prospector on the planet.

        That's been done (in a movie, [wikipedia.org] anyway).

  • Bad Location (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kwiecmmm ( 1527631 ) on Friday April 28, 2017 @04:46PM (#54321827)

    This is a nice idea, and it could be practical in 50 or so years. But why would you start in or around any city on the west coast. One earthquake during the early stages and this will die a terrible death, as would anyone buried in those tunnels.

  • by Ichijo ( 607641 ) on Friday April 28, 2017 @04:57PM (#54321913) Journal

    Google Maps says Westwood to LAX takes over an hour during rush hour, or 18 minutes when traffic is light. So all they have to do is charge a variable congestion toll on the 405. If the price is set correctly, this would permanently eliminate traffic congestion on the 405 without overcharging anyone, and as a bonus it would replace taxes as a revenue source for maintenance or even, if people want it, to build the tunnel.

    Lower taxes and congestion-free travel at the cost of a toll. That's two benefits for the price of one, and who doesn't like 2-for-1 deals?

    • by vux984 ( 928602 )

      If the price is set correctly, this would permanently eliminate traffic congestion on the 405 without overcharging anyone

      Because everyone going home after work would... what... exactly? Not go home after work?

      Rush hour here is already 3+ hours long... so your plan is for me to finish at 5pm and then sit around at the office until 8:30pm or so to save how much in tolls exactly?? And do I come in at 5:30am to avoid rush hour starting at 6? So Now the middle class spends 15 hours a day 'at the office'? But getting paid for 8? While the executives pay $250 each way in tolls and get to and from work in 20 minutes during rush hour?

      • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

        Because everyone going home after work would... what... exactly? Not go home after work?

        That's one alternative to (1) commuting (versus telecommuting), (2) during rush hour, (3) in a car, (4) solo, (5) on that congested freeway, when you (6) work at one end of that traffic jam, and (7) live at the other end of it.

        As you can guess from my numbered hints above, there are many other alternatives.

        • So, you're saying I should (1) telecommute to my construction job. No wait, that's not going to work.

          I know, I'll (2) show up 2 hours late to work to miss rush hour. Oops, boss doesn't like that one.

          Hmm, I could (3) bike to work with a minimum of 200lbs. of tools and materials on my back. No, that won't work either.

          And 4, 5, 6, and 7 amount to relocate.

          What wonderful alternatives you've offered.

          • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

            Why do you need to take 200lbs of tools home every night?

            • Why do you need to take 200lbs of tools home every night?

              Because (1) they're yours, and (2) that's the only way to guarantee they won't disappear before you return in the morning.

        • by vux984 ( 928602 )

          (1) commuting (versus telecommuting)

          -- yeah, most jobs in the real world do actually require going to work. you know to meet customers and/or build/install/repair/sell/ship/ a thing.

          Telecommuting is only applicable for a small number of people, and even of those people that could do it, most of them are not given the choice. You think upper management cares what your tolls are to get to work?

          (2) during rush hour

          Most people work business hours because they need to do business. They need to interact with customers and vendors etc. Most people do not choose the ho

          • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

            You think upper management cares what your tolls are to get to work?

            What would upper management do if nobody can afford to commute to work at the current wage? Clean the toilets themselves?

            • by vux984 ( 928602 )

              "What would upper management do if nobody can afford to commute to work at the current wage? Clean the toilets themselves?"

              I'd expect them to Lobby government to lower the tolls, give them an exception to the tolls, demand local taxpayer subsidized housing for imported mexican indentured servants, or threaten to move their "job creating" "tax revenue" business somewhere else.

    • by tsqr ( 808554 )

      So all they have to do is charge a variable congestion toll on the 405.

      Judging from the number of single-driver cars I regularly see in the 405 HOV lanes, the congestion toll would probably have to be pretty onerous to be effective. Probably so high as to raise objections about being discriminatory against the 99%.

  • Just need to an have high lighting level 24/7 to keep the bums out. Or an speed limit of 60-70+

  • Swarms of self driving car orbiting the city. Call and get one to take you to the store or the train station or the restaurant, wherever you need to go, release it to join the swarm/flock/herd and do your thing, calling for another just few minutes before you need to go. Automated monitoring could have enough cars at the train depots to take the occupants to their final destinations, and if done right a transfer from the train could cover the final mile cost just like a single bus bas does multiple transfer

  • It's just a matter of cooling... once you get to hot magma if you can provide enough cooling it will harden naturally and you can create a tube right through the earth.

%DCL-MEM-BAD, bad memory VMS-F-PDGERS, pudding between the ears

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