Updated: Oct 5, 2018
Entrepreneur, Elon Musk is considered by many to be a real life Tony Stark. Neither the man or the character give into being told something can not be done. Musk has a vision for the future and he has spent his life working toward making it a reality. Most people already know about Tesla and SpaceX, his ventures into electric cars and the space industry, but more recently he has begun working on revolutionizing road and long distance travel. With his new ventures The Boring Company and Hyperloop One, he hopes to create systems of tunnels and tubes for transporting vehicles within densely populated areas and cars full of people between distant destinations in minutes that previously would have taken hours.
The Boring Company launched its website on Friday, which currently just shows a concept video and provides an email address to apply for a job (firstname.lastname@example.org). The concept video shows a city full of Tesla electric cars. The interesting part comes when one of the cars pulls off to the side of the road and onto a platform that brings it down into a system of high speed tunnels that run beneath the city. The platform doubles as some sort of sled that propels the car on its way at speeds around 120mph. Once the sled reaches its destination, it comes back up to the surface through the same type of shaft it came down on. Some of these sleds were equipped with what appeared to be booths, where pedestrians and cyclists could sit and be conveyed through the tunnel network alongside everyone else.
Some of the obvious issues with this plan have to do with the expense of boring all of those tunnels. Fortunately, that is what the “boring” part of the company name means. Elon Musk has decided to put significant effort into finding the inefficiencies in current tunneling methods and removing them. The first problem he has identified is that tunnel borers have to retrace their steps to lay supports. If he can create a new boring machine that can place supports as it digs, it will increase the speed of the process dramatically. Being able to dig tunnels more quickly will also prove useful for the hyperloop project because some portions of the tube will need to be underground.
The idea for the hyperloop has been around for a while, with ideas for tube transport going back even further than that. The technology for the type of high speed high volume tube transport that makes the investment worthwhile has only come about recently. The hyperloop incorporates linear electric motors and electromagnetic levitation with a low pressure environment in the tube to achieve huge speeds with relatively low energy input. Hyperloop One has been working on constructing a two mile long test track in Nevada to continue improving and streamlining the technology and manufacturing for the system.
As improvements are made by both these companies more concrete plans will undoubtedly be revealed. Potential supporters are wary of the engineering hurdles that remain between the idea and its execution. Many feel that pursuing plans like these seriously is a waste and that those resources could be put to better use elsewhere. Others feel that by not pursuing those plans so would lead to stagnation. Either way, the research being done can have effects on other industries that will be useful, even if the large scale projects that they were meant for never come to fruition.