Elon Musk’s boring company is not just an ironic name. It is named The Boring Company because one of the largest parts of the company bores holes. Although it is a fair name for the whole company as it continues to show us it is anything but boring. The latest exploits of the company have shown this as well.
Elon Musk’s dream is that tunnels can solve all traffic problems. As someone who spends a lot of time in Los Angeles, he became increasingly frustrated with the traffic the city faces. The key problem in his mind was the two-dimensional nature of traffic today. Cars are largely on single streets and while we continue to widen these streets to add more lanes it is not enough to solve any traffic problems. While we can build motorways to add an extra layer on top of the additional cost of building these roads is too large to really consider modern road solutions as a three-dimensional space. This is what led Musk to consider tunnels. He has stated in the past that his end goal is to build tunnels that not only have numerous lanes but have significant depth with one quote suggesting up to 30 lanes deep.
That goal may be a long term plan that is many years away but the company is not sitting idle at present. They are already on to their second large tunnel operation with many more in the pipeline (pun intended). Despite the coronavirus delays, the company is continuing to work to build a massive underground tunnel that will allow attendants to move quickly across a convention center in Las Vegas.
The boring is well underway and the tunnel is scheduled to be complete by January 2021 in time for the Consumer Electronics Show. The CES is attended by almost 200,000 people every year and is a massive undertaking in transport, logistics, and facilitation. When the project is complete it will be possible to transport people from one side of the convention center to the other in around two minutes. Without this speedy transport, it would take fifteen minutes to walk the journey.
Digging a tunnel this large to save a fifteen-minute walk may sound like a lot of work for little time saved, and it is. The money being spent is significant too. Cost estimates for the tunnel are around $50 million dollars.
Yet the boring company is continuing to win a number of contracts and is receiving a lot of interest in the claims that they can solve numerous traffic problems. In June 2018 the company won the contract to build a tunnel from downtown Chicago to the airport showcasing another excellent use case. The system will use automated electronic cars to transport people to and from the airport at 200km / hour. Despite being originally granted the contract it has since come under a lot of criticism. Local politicians argue it is a waste of resources, bad for the environment, and untested. To date, it has not been given final approval to build.
Elon Musk is a man with a mind like no other. He clearly lets no idea off the table until it has been attacked from every angle. There is no problem too great or too small to be solved with an out of the box idea. Yet this same approach sometimes limits the usability of the application in reality. 30 underground tunnels are a fantastic idea, in theory. Whether that idea will ever become a reality is another question altogether. Only time will tell if Musk is able to transform another part of the transport industry as he is already doing with space and automotive.