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Transportation Businesses Hardware Technology

Elon Musk Posts New Video of 'Boring' Equipment and Company's First Tunnel (cnbc.com) 118

Elon Musk has posted a new video and several pictures of equipment that will be used to start digging tunnels beneath Los Angeles. There's a picture of boring machine segments that are being lowered into the start tunnel at SpaceX, a front view of the tunnel, an inside view of the tunnel, and a picture of the front of the boring machine that will cut through underground rock. Additionally, the video shows a version of the "skate" that will cary cars through the tunnel at a speed of 125 mph. CNBC reports: The project is one of Musk's latest ventures, which was inspired by a desire to alleviate "out of control" traffic in Los Angeles. He aims to first dig a tunnel from SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, to the nearby Los Angeles airport. Musk frequently flies from Los Angeles to the San Francisco area, where he runs Tesla. Eventually, he envisions a deep, multilayered network of underground tunnels spanning the city.
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Elon Musk Posts New Video of 'Boring' Equipment and Company's First Tunnel

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  • by bobbied ( 2522392 ) on Friday May 12, 2017 @06:04PM (#54407949)

    Until he actually digs a tunnel that leaves his property, all this is just fun and games with out much point. Not to mention, where is the exit to this billion dollar boondoggle and where are all those permits you require sir? This IS California you know....

    • by thule ( 9041 )
      Exactly! And don't forget that LA used to be a decent oil producer. There are still pockets of natural gas under LA. The current subway project has run into them.

      He's going to run into the same issues Google has running fiber in some cities. My guess is that LA much be at the top of bureaucratic nightmares compared to other US cities. I've seen first hand how it took months for fiber to get pulled into a building because they had to tear up a section of the street. That was ONE building and the fiber was
      • A purpose of The Boring Company is to avoid the issue of having to tear up streets, by going under. The main reason Arizona has an easier time building infrastructure than California is that it's mostly cactus and there's nothing to be lost and no worthwhile environment to harm by tearing it up.

    • by msauve ( 701917 )
      He doesn't need to build a tunnel which leaves his property. His troll is working perfectly as it is, just by posting a couple of animated gif loops.

      YHBT.YHL.HAND.
    • I think there's a point. I don't think California is his sole purpose in developing this technology.

      Keep in mind, given the solar radiation the surface of Mars is exposed to, at least initially habitats will need to be located underground. I'm guessing he has more than one objective in mind here.

    • by Agripa ( 139780 )

      That is a nice boring project that you have there; it would be a shame if something happened to it.

  • 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

    • For most places, urban planning is too late - the houses are built, offices are built, shopping areas are built.Unless you propose destroying one of these and moving them, urban planning is a wash - nothing can be done. What Elon Musk has proposed is a potential solution that will solve some of the commute issues - and if it actually takes off, we might see planning around this underground transportation. Imagine - shopping, offices, houses being built underground as transportation moves underground. No mor
      • by AvitarX ( 172628 )

        His tunnels, as described are low volume though.

        It will solve traffic for the rich, but make barely an impact for anyone else.

        at least as I gather from the idea of the sled stopping and elevatering up.

        Even without the elevator, I'm not convinced sled to still ground capacity can match road capacity (the sled has to stop at both ends of the tunnel).

        • It will solve traffic for the rich, but make barely an impact for anyone else.

          Well let's face it - while Elon pays lip service to "eventually" having a network of these tunnels, he's really only interested in his own journey between his business and the airport.

          Generally relevant stories from the past: Eric Schmitt saying "privacy is dead, get over it"; then getting upset when his own private information is made available on the web. Or Mark Zuckerberg talking about solving society's problems, but buying all the houses around his own so he doesn't have to deal with those pesky neighb

          • by AvitarX ( 172628 )

            I wish I could buy an entire company to cut my commute by convincing others it would save problems.

            I'm a little less cynical than you though, I think a network will be built, But it will have massive tolls and low throughput. It will solve the problem of traffic for the rich, and maybe along some routes for the doing very well and really want to save time right now. It will make money and provide a useful service, but not one for normal people.

            I just don't see the throughput being enough to reduce traffic f

          • It was actually Scott McNealy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, who said that. More accurately, the quote was "You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it." If Eric Schmidt ever said something similar he would have been referencing McNealy.
        • by Rei ( 128717 )

          His tunnels, as described are low volume though.

          Not with computer-controlled spacing between sleds and 125 mph travel speeds.

          By dramatically increasing the throughput per lane, and the necessary width of the lane (a typical lane is much wider than a car because people drift), and the need for shoulders, the tunnel diameter can be significantly shrunk for the same throughput. Half the diameter and you quarter the cross sectional area. Boring costs scale linearly with cross sectional area.

          Hence one of the pu

          • He also plans to bore faster, but not all of the details have come out on this yet.

            An Elon Musk project where the engineering "details" haven't come out yet? Tell me it ain't so.

            One has, however, which is simultaneous casing and boring, rather than bore/stop/case. There's a number of changes to the head that they're looking to make, but they haven't been discussed yet.

            Simultaneous lining and boring has been a done deal for decades. I refer you to the Channel Tunnel.

            I don't know what kind of bedrock th

            • by Diamond Prospector ( 4959769 ) on Saturday May 13, 2017 @04:56AM (#54409811)

              He also plans to bore faster, but not all of the details have come out on this yet.

              An Elon Musk project where the engineering "details" haven't come out yet? Tell me it ain't so.

              One has, however, which is simultaneous casing and boring, rather than bore/stop/case. There's a number of changes to the head that they're looking to make, but they haven't been discussed yet.

              Simultaneous lining and boring has been a done deal for decades. I refer you to the Channel Tunnel.

              I don't know what kind of bedrock they would be boring through but they all come up against something they didn't expect. Doesn't matter if it's sedimentary or metamorphic rock in the case of the English Channel or igneous rock in the Swiss alps. Add to that an area that is prone to earthquakes....piece of piss, right?

              I think I've seen enough of Elon Musk to determine that he is full of shit and preys on people who know precisely fuck all about engineering...or anything else, for that matter. That includes the politicians who give him vast subsidies for whatever is the latest delusional bollocks he happens to come out with.

              Absolutely correct.

              As someone who worked on the Channel Tunnel at the dirty end, I can confirm 'simultaneous' lining and boring has been carried out for the last few decades.

              However, there will always be an cyclic element to the operation as the Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) has to push off of something to get thrust forward and that is usually done by hydraulic jacking off the leading edge of the lining behind the head. The TBM usually thrusts forward to the extent of its jacks, then grips the side of the tunnel and retracts the jacks to allow segment erection before jacking forward once again. The 'downtime' also allows for regular maintenance for replacing cutter heads, drilling forward exploratory holes, lubrication etc.

              The TBM also has a 'maintenance train' running on rails behind it, of up to 200m long of connected sub modules, which the head pulls along as it jacks forward. The train contains the logistics such as power packs, transformers, spoil handling, temp storage, grout pumps, spare parts, mobile workshops etc. As the lining has to be the full bore of the tunnel, it has to be broken down into sections that can pass through the centre of the train and then be re-erected behind the TBM cutting head. This erection of sections has to be carried out as close to the head as possible to minimise the length of unsupported ground behind the head for both worker safety and technical reasons i.e. the ground could collapse and trap the TBM from the sides. Add in any water issues or soft flowing ground and the erection has to carried out in a sealed/semi sealed environment as well. As a gap will also exist between the final outer surface of the lining and ground, this has to be pumped full of weak cement mix or 'grout' to fill the voids, both providing a waterproof annular surrounding for the tunnel as well as avoiding any point loads from uneven ground on the lining.

              With the TBM head (for a 8m dia tunnel) weighing around 200 tons (with a main bearing of around 30 tons) and lining segments to be handled of 1-2.5 tons ea, (maybe 8-12 segments per metre of lining) you're not playing with small numbers to shift around and construct. Appreciate that Elon's tunnels will be smaller diameter but current tunneling methods are continuously being optimized and the TBM design is matched to the predicted ground conditions, therefore there is next to no chance of increasing tunneling speeds by a factor of 10x as is quoted..

              As someone who has worked in hard rock tunnels 10,000 feet underground, where the rock was under some much pressure it was continuously 'spitting' small flakes at you, to shallow 'soft rock' tunnels where you worry about the TBM taking too much ground out and causing sinkholes to appear on surface, I have to call Elon Musk out as full of shit

              • by Rei ( 128717 )

                If you have an already-hardened "leading edge" to push off of, including a "downtime", I would not call that "simultaneous". Boring Company is seeking to achieve continuous movement, including the "regular maintenance". As for the details of "how", we'll have to wait. There's no shortage of different ways that concrete can be laid; precast segments carried in and placed is hardly the only one. I'd bet (based on no evidence whatsoever) that they're looking to cast it in place, and push off not some sort o

          • by AvitarX ( 172628 )

            How does the fast sled to road transition happen at faster than 5mph? That's the bottleneck I see for through put.

            1 car every 30 seconds is not more throughput, even at light speed. It's less latency.

            • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

              I would assume they would do it through fan-out. Have twenty tunnels in the last few thousand feet, with each one going to a different road so that you're adding twenty times as many cars onto the road system as you otherwise would.

              • I would assume they would do it through fan-out. Have twenty tunnels in the last few thousand feet, with each one going to a different road so that you're adding twenty times as many cars onto the road system as you otherwise would.

                Simplistic idea beyond belief.

                Nobody has explained yet how they turn the sleds around for a return journey.

                You either run a double decked tunnel (BTW larger diameter tunnel required than the car widths being quoted) or two tunnels with a loop or runoff tunnel arrangement with rail switching between. A fan exit arrangement multiplies the complexity by the number of exits, so is not really practical.

                Alternatively run each one way route in isolation with a double deck tunnel, with the lower deck used fo

          • He also plans to bore faster, but not all of the details have come out on this yet.

            Even if this is the only thing to come out of the project, it's a big win.

      • Not true; small scale mixed use infill development can make a big local impact, and do it long enough and you start to have regional impact. With dense walkable communities mass transit becomes viable, even as an afterthought.
      • Seriously, have you ever been to a costco car wash? Have you ever seen how much trouble many of the people have just driving into the track?
        How the hell are these morons supposed to drive their cars onto some "sled" that will drop down into a tunnel?

        Not to mention the fact that it would like 5 fucking minutes for ONE car to get down there and cycle the next sled to be moved up to the deck. It would take hours before it was actually your turn to go down.

    • by ccguy ( 1116865 )

      Learn a few things about urban planning, Elon. Don't arrogantly assume that you're the first person to want to address this problem.

      Well, he seems to be trying to fix the current situation. Los Angeles is what it is. Sure, if the city could be rebuilt the traffic problem could be avoided completely.

      Yes, lots of people have tried to solve the problem. But solving it on paper and actually having the resources to do something are two very different things. This guy can solve the problem technologically and

      • The real problem for Los Angeles traffic is that places like Temecula and Palm Springs are starting to become "bedroom communities" for people working in Irvine, El Segundo, and Santa Monica. Transit only makes the problem worse.
    • Since we're not going to knock down and rebuild Los Angeles then the option is to find a solution for the city as it exists.

      You post also ignores one key fact: the focus is on inter-city travel, not inner city travel.

      From Phoenix to Los Angeles there is a good 300+ miles of I-10 that takes up a good 4-5 hours of driving.

      Putting in a tunnel between the two cities avoids the most important problems of putting solutions on land:

      You have to own the land

      You have to work around existing infrastructure.

      300 miles a

    • by Tx ( 96709 ) on Friday May 12, 2017 @07:05PM (#54408225) Journal

      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.

      I think you've just lost an argument with yourself there, buddy. As you said, it would take decades of tedious effort and politicking to turn a city around to your "smart growth", and with the vagaries of politics and finance, there's no guarantee of success; you're always only an election away from some numpty cutting funding for the projects and spending the money on something else. I wouldn't want to get involved in that, and it seems Elon doesn't either. You can, however, start building tunnels today, as Elon has done. The idea may or may not pan out, and it may or may not play a significant role in urban transportation even if it does pan out to some extent, but it's something that you can start the ball rolling on right away, and have a reasonable degree of control over. That's exactly why Elon goes for that kind of solution, and personally I'm all for it. It doesn't preclude any other kind of development, so if others want to pursue "smart growth", great, it doesn't have to be Elon's job.

    • by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Friday May 12, 2017 @07:09PM (#54408249)

      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.

      You might be completely right about this but I suspect the traffic tunnels is the excuse he's giving to develop his own machinery. I think the primary interest here is actually to develop the machinery that would be needed to mine for minerals on Mars.

      Alternatively, he may be secretly planning to create a bunch of tunnels to connect the continents and then make a rail line that can transport goods faster and cheaper between the east and the west faster than huge boats could ever hope to travel. Something like this would take at least a decade and giving a non-threatening "traffic tunnels" excuse prevents the existing transport industry from putting up their guard and blocking his progress with paid off politicians.

    • by Rei ( 128717 )

      The ability to travel where you want, when you want, at minimal sacrifice, is otherwise known as "quality of life".

      And I will always be opposed to people whose "solutions" involve sacrifices to quality of life, as will most people in the world.

    • by Z34107 ( 925136 )

      I thought I read this pretentious garbage somewhere else [slashdot.org] before. It's bad enough when the stories are dupes, but, even worse, /. has declined so far that it's taken at least two stories for someone to inform you that LA is already built. Your suggestion to "build it better" is a hundred-odd years too late to be anything other than cock-stroking.

      Unless your suggestion was actually to bulldoze everything and start over, now that you're around to plan things properly. It's not too late for that, but it real

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Not that I disagree with the obvious problems with Elon's project, but a few words in defence of jumping in and trying stuff. It's extremely easy to start reading about the complexity inherent (social, political, technological) and therefore decide the way things are is the only real practical way things can ever be. Sometimes it's better to jump in, try something, and see if it works. Accepted wisdom is right far more often than wrong (hence accepted) but it's still not 100%, and we should try the corner c

    • It seems like an even better solution would be to eliminate commuting for the 50% of people who don't always need to be physically present to do their job.

    • The problem with books like that is people like to live in the suburbs. They want to own their own home instead of living in an apartment complex.
  • What happens when an earthquake collapses or changes the course of a tunnel, so people travelling in it abruptly reach a dead end?
  • The article says: "Eventually, he envisions a deep, multilayered network of underground tunnels spanning the city." I can't believe we call someone who takes this long to envision something an innovator! Why can't he have envisioned this already? It seems like the CNBC reporter beat him to it. Or, perhaps, the CNBC reporter doesn't worry about grammar.

  • That CNBC link has 14 trackers and about the same number of scripts. I don't bother counting cookies or ads any more. Is that the best link we can find? No slashdotter, properly equipped with malware protection, will be able to see the pics or videos. And if you do see the pics & vids, be aware that you are not alone as you cruise the web.

  • What I want to know is what happens when someone gets into this high speed tunnel, rolls their window down, and jumps out?

    What about people throwing their trash out of their window?

    What about pickup trucks, do those fit in this sled? What about the stupid fuckers that have shit in their bed that flies out at speed, potentially impacting the vehicle in the sled behind?

    The only way I see this working is if a car that has wirelessly controllable features where they can lock your windows and only all
  • best way to build a moon base is to bore into the side of a crater that is perpetually sunlit at on of the poles of the moon. Solar panels + boring machine = moon base. For those of you who think this is just to alleviate los angeles traffic -- this is why you are not a billionaire like elon musk.
  • I actually like the idea of a lot of tunnels under a city. Since it's basically a subway what is not to like?

    The only thing Im not as sure about, are tunnels in California where earthquakes are not totally uncommon. I'd be interested to know what mitigation they have for that...

    But apart from that, keep digging!

  • This brings to mind the Caldecott Tunnel fire.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

    I am not particularly claustrophobic but I'd hate to be in a tunnel in CA during an earthquake, or in case of the inevitable car crash and subsequent vehicle fire. I've always had bad feelings in the BART Transbay tube. That would be a bad place to be stuck in an emergency no matter what platitudes and assurances they post about emergency exits and safety procedures. I was living in the bay area during the Northridge quake, and t

  • and (might be a shock to some) not batting 1000 still gets shit done

  • by Baron_Yam ( 643147 ) on Friday May 12, 2017 @10:02PM (#54408829)

    He wants to retire on Mars, so he's building rockets to get there.

    Mars has no fossil fuels, so everything's going to be electric and the source will be solar or nuclear. So he's got Tesla working on solar power and storage.

    Mars has a nasty surface, so underground is the place to be. Either you build and heap surface material over you... or you bore tunnels. Enter the Boring Company.

    Mars has no communications infrastructure... at all. Enter SpaceX worldwide Internet. You think those same satellites couldn't orbit Mars? Probably with less worry of orbital impact or atmospheric drag, too.

    Mars has no transportation infrastructure... and the surface (as previously mentioned) is not human-friendly. Mars ALSO has very little atmosphere, and Elon has a boring machine. Enter the Hyperloop. With less gravity and less atmosphere to deal with, the Hyperloop concept seems like it's a perfect fit for a well-bored tunnel.

    Each of the things he's working on is part of a future Mars colony, and they all have the potential to make him money here (which helps him get there).

  • Google Maps says that if he leaves right now, the trip from his HQ to LA airport takes 12 to 16 minutes, by road. Going by his tunnel, maybe half that, if the car elevators at each end are really quick or if he leaves his cars pre-positioned at the tunnel level. If we assume he uses the tunnel twice a week, say 100 times a year, for the next 10 years, that's 2,000 trips, or about 14,000 minutes, or about 200 hours. If he can built it at 1/20th the cost per mile of the chunnel, that would be right aroun

    • Try seeing what Google maps says the time will be at 8AM on a Wednesday. It will be easily double to triple the time.
    • I think his argument is he can dig tunnels cheaper than anyone. Can he, and by how much? I don't know. I think he is mostly just fishing around for next low hanging fruit. Not a bad strategy, when you have more money than you know what to do with.
  • What happens if/when a significant earthquake hits?
    (Which, I believe is unpredictably overdue.)
    Is it safer to be in a tunnel, or on a surface road?
    (I know - bridges/overpasses aren't any safer!)

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