Posts tagged with "Boring Company":

Catch up on Elon Musk’s summer rollercoaster ride

Elon Musk has had a summer of ups and downs in 2018, even after putting aside all of the twists-and-turns of his personal life and turmoil at Tesla. In May, Musk announced that The Boring Company would be turning its excavated dirt and rock into bricks for low-cost housing. What started as an attempt to sell more Boring Company merchandise ala their flamethrower—in this case, “giant Lego bricks”—soon morphed into an unspecified commitment on Musk’s part to build future Boring Company offices from muck bricks. Future Hyperloop tunnels might be able to swap out concrete for the seismically-rated bricks, but they’re unlikely to lower affordable housing costs much; land and labor are the most expensive aspects of new construction. While The Boring Company hasn’t actually constructed much except for a short test tunnel in Hawthorne, Los Angeles, Musk scored a win when the City of Chicago chose the company to build a high-speed train route connecting the city's Loop to O’Hare International Airport. Or did they? After a lawsuit was filed against the city in mid-August by the Better Government Association (BGA), the city claimed that the plan was still “pre-decisional” and that no formal agreement had been struck yet. If the loop is ever built, The Boring Company would dig two tunnels under the city and connect Block 37 in the Loop to O’Hare. Electrically-driven pods, with capacity for up to 16 passengers, would arrive at a station every 30 seconds and complete a one-way trip in 12 minutes. There are still major concerns over the project’s feasibility and cost, as Musk had pledged that construction would take only one year if the company used currently non-existent (and unproven) tunneling technology. The project could cost up to $1 billion, which The Boring Company would pay for out of pocket and recoup by selling $20 to $25 tickets, advertising space, and merchandise. On Tesla’s end, problems with the company’s much-vaunted solar roof tiles have bubbled over. Production has slowed at Tesla’s Gigafactory 2 in Buffalo, New York, as equipment problems and aesthetic issues have prevented the factory from rolling out tiles on a large scale. Tesla is pledging that they can ramp up production at the state-owned factory by the end of 2018, as the company tries to fulfill the $1,000 preorders placed after the tiles’ reveal nearly two years ago. Not to let the end of summer slip by without one last announcement, Musk took to Twitter to release a Boring Company proposal for an underground “Dugout Loop” in L.A. Several conceptual designs were included for different routes between the Red Line subway and Dodgers Stadium that would use technology similar to what Musk has proposed in Chicago to ferry passengers along the 3.6-mile-long trip in only four minutes. It’s unlikely that the Dugout Loop will come to pass, as L.A. is already looking to realize a $125 million gondola system that could carry up to 5,000 passengers an hour. What the fall will bring for Musk, we can only guess.

Chicago chooses Elon Musk’s Boring Company for high-speed train connecting the Loop to O’Hare

Ahead of a formal announcement later today, the Chicago Tribune has confirmed that Elon Musk’s The Boring Company has been chosen to dig a high-speed train route from Chicago's Loop to O’Hare International Airport. Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration has selected Musk to build out an underground rail system from Block 37 in the Loop to O’Hare, potentially cutting the transit time from an hour by car or 40 minutes on the Blue Line down to 12 minutes each way. The route is part of the recently announced $8.5 billion O’Hare rehabilitation. Under Musk’s proposal, The Boring Company would dig two tunnels along an as-of-yet undetermined route under the city, and transport passengers in autonomously-driven pods that would “skate” on electrified rails. Each pod would carry up to 16 passengers, and Musk has promised that pods would leave each station every 30 seconds. The promotional video for the proposal seems nearly identical to the one Musk previewed in March for traveling to the LAX, except with different station names. While no timeline has been proposed yet, the Tribune reports that unnamed sources have cited the potential cost as under $1 billion. The Boring Company will be paying for the project out of pocket using revenue from advertisements, the $20 to $25 ticket costs, and selling merchandise on the trip itself. Boring will also fund the construction of a new station at O’Hare and finish the scuttled Block 37 station, and ownership of the tunnels themselves is currently an open question. Boring has pitched the system as being buried 30 to 60 feet underground with 12-foot-wide tunnels, but there are still serious feasibility hurdles that will need to be cleared before the project gets the go-ahead. The route still needs to be approved by Chicago’s City Council, and Boring technically hasn’t completed any full-scale route yet. While the company is building out a similar network of tunnels in L.A. and has received an exploratory permit for their D.C. to NYC hyperloop, the autonomous pods being proposed haven’t been tested in real-world conditions. Another concern is capacity; a 16-person pod stopping every 30 seconds means that the system would run at a capacity of about 1,900 passengers per hour. For comparison, the Blue Line, which Boring’s link is meant to compliment, likely handles twice as much hourly traffic for $5 each way.

Elon Musk wants to turn the Hyperloop’s “excavated muck” into housing materials

Hot off of a flamethrower fundraising sale for Elon Musk’s side project, the Hyperloop tunnel digging The Boring Company, Musk has announced that the muck, rock, and detritus produced by the company’s tunneling would be turned into usable bricks. The first announcement from Musk came on March 26, when he tweeted that the rock mined from the company’s California test tunnels would be turned into “Lifesize LEGO-like interlocking bricks made from tunneling rock that you can use to create sculptures & buildings.” The bricks would be sold as The Boring Company merchandise and are supposedly rated for California’s seismic loads. Responding to critics on Twitter who were wondering why the tech entrepreneur wasn’t using his vast wealth to address the nationwide housing crisis, Musk followed up on May 7, indicating that those same bricks would now be sold on the cheap for low-cost housing. A Boring Company representative confirmed the plans to Bloomberg, saying that the bricks used for housing would be made from the “excavated muck” of the company’s tunnels. These bricks would also go towards building any future Boring Company offices and could partially replace concrete in The Boring Company’s tunnels. Of course, as Bloomberg points out, Musk’s plan to lower the cost of housing assumes that material costs are driving the price of construction, and not land or labor. Brick is expensive to lay because of the associated time and expertise it takes, not the bricks themselves (and this is before factoring in any type of structural reinforcement). It remains to be seen if The Boring Company can produce enough blocks to actually build any homes, especially as many of the prospective Hyperloop tunnels would be churning out dirt contaminated from years of industrial runoff.

Elon Musk to bypass environmental review for test tunnel in L.A.

Billionaire Elon Musk and his Boring Company are moving forward with plans to build an underground network of personal vehicle tunnels below the streets of Los Angeles.  After drilling a preliminary tunnel below the Tesla and SpaceX company headquarters in nearby Hawthorne, California, the company is now moving forward with an additional 2.7-mile “proof-of-concept” tunnel for a “zero-emissions, high-speed, underground, alternative means of transit for personal vehicles and/or single-rider use” that will run under Sepulveda Boulevard on L.A.’s Westside. The test tunnel will begin at 2352-2356 South Sepulveda Boulevard, a property owned by The Boring Company, Urbanize.LA reports. From there, it will run roughly 30-70 feet below ground to an area below the intersection of Washington Boulevard and Sepulveda Boulevard in Culver City. The tunnel will not daylight at this point, according to initial documentation.   The tunneling depth will allow the engineers to avoid underground utilities and other potential obstructions and is subject to change as conditions closer to the surface permit. Though the route has been vetted for the potential existence of archeological and paleontological materials, plans for independent monitors will be put in place should any sensitive resources be discovered over the course of work on the tunnel. In order to build the tunnel, The Boring Company has received a preliminary reprieve from California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) restrictions at the behest of the Los Angeles City Council, which will also take up the final approval for the concept on behalf of the Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering if the test tunnels are successful. Further sections beyond the test tunnel will be subject to a variety of environmental and community reviews.  The test tunnels will not be available for public use and will be used solely for testing of a proposed “skate” technology that could eventually be used to ferry automobiles and passengers throughout the system.  The test tunnel is expected to be completed in nine months; a final timeline for approval and construction of a usable tunnel has not yet been released. 

Elon Musk does a 180 on mass transit and makes Hyperloop buses his first priority

The Boring Company, Elon Musk’s Hyperloop tunnel-digging side company, may have a new mission after Musk claimed that he would be shifting towards expanding mass transit. Although research into digging a traffic-bypassing “urban loop” under Los Angeles will continue, Musk tweeted that instead of moving cars and personal pods, the Hyperloop network would focus on moving 150-mile-per-hour buses before anything else. The Hyperloop system has been proposed–though nothing has been built yet–as an underground transit network where small levitating pods would be accelerated up to hundreds of miles an hour through a vacuum to eliminate air resistance. Where the Hyperloop differs from high-speed rail is that Musk has proposed scattering Hyperloop entrances along connecting cities more akin to subway stops rather than train halls, and that it was more for “personal transit”. In a string of tweets last Friday, Musk appeared to change his tune, saying that, “Adjusting The Boring Company plan: all tunnels & Hyperloop will prioritize pedestrians & cyclists over cars.” He then explained that the tunnels “will still transport cars, but only after all personalized mass transit needs are met. It’s a matter of courtesy & fairness. If someone can’t afford a car, they should go first.” Musk also released a new video of the theoretical system in action, showing a bus-sized transit pod descending into a tunnel and reaching speeds up to 150 miles per hour. The move is a surprising one from Musk, who has publicly railed against mass transportation in the past. “It’s a pain in the ass,” Musk told the audience at a Tesla event in Long Beach, California last year. “That’s why everyone doesn’t like it. And there’s like a bunch of random strangers, one of who might be a serial killer, OK, great. And so that’s why people like individualized transport, that goes where you want, when you want.” It may also be a response to the extreme backlash the tech mogul received from transit planners and advocates afterwards, many of whom he got down in the dirt with and called “idiots”. While Musk’s fans applauded the decision, skeptics pointed out that repositioning the Hyperloop’s mission towards public transit garners the company good will from the municipalities that The Boring company needs permission from for the Hyperloop. Though Musk has promised that the D.C.-New York Hyperloop route would follow a similar model, actual construction on any network is years away, even if the project can gain the local and federal approvals needed.

Elon Musk receives exploratory permit for D.C. to NYC Hyperloop

Seven months after Elon Musk claimed that he had “verbal governmental approval” from the Trump administration to build an underground Hyperloop from Washington D.C. to New York City, it looks like his plans might actually come to fruition. Musk’s The Boring Company has received a permit to begin exploratory digging in Washington, D.C., for what could one day be a stop along a D.C.-Baltimore-Philadelphia-New York route. Musk has made some ambitious claims about the Hyperloop, a high-speed rail system that would reach nearly 800 miles an hour and cut the 229-mile trip between D.C. and NYC to only 29 minutes. For contrast, the fastest train in the U.S. is Amtrak’s Acela Express, which tops out at 150 miles an hour and makes the same trip in three hours. Unlike Amtrak’s light rail network, the Hyperloop system would be more akin to a supersonic subway, moving small pods of up to 16 people, or vehicles, on electrically-powered sleds between widely dispersed stations scattered through each city instead of one centralized train hub in each. Now, The Boring Company will begin excavating a vacant parking lot at 53 New York Avenue NE, near the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives headquarters, after being granted a somewhat vague permit by the D.C. government. The initial exploration is just one piece of navigating a logistical boondoggle, as The Boring Company would need to tunnel under buildings, infrastructure, utilities, roads and just about everything else if an interstate Hyperloop network were to come to fruition. The city’s Department of Transportation has reportedly been trying to determine what other permits Musk’s company would need. Still, every piece of regulatory go-ahead has helped the Hyperloop inch closer to reality. In October 2017, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan gave Musk permission to begin excavation of a 10-mile stretch of Hyperloop track for the future New York-to-D.C. line, although city leaders along the way expressed their surprise at the decision. The federal government would also need to grant the Boring Company the appropriate permits to dig under federally owned land, of which the proposed route crosses several stretches. While testing of the Boring Company’s drilling technology and ability to tunnel under urban areas is still ongoing in Hawthorne, Los Angeles, at least the company will be able to fund its endeavors; at the time of writing, Musk had sold out of promotional Boring Company flamethrowers.

Elon Musk’s Boring Company receives approval to build a test tunnel in L.A.

Elon Musk’s The Boring Company—a tunnel-focused start-up aimed at reducing the overall cost of building underground tunnels in urban areas—has received approval from the Hawthorne City Council in Los Angeles County to build an initial two-mile-long test tunnel under the city’s streets. The approval was made this week and would allow Musk’s Boring Company to extend an ongoing pilot tunnel being dug on the site of the company’s headquarters in Hawthrone, near Los Angeles International Airport. The company is building the tunnel using a second-hand boring machine that was originally used to dig a sewer tunnel in San Francisco, Daily Breeze reports. The souped-up boring machine is named “Godot” and is designed to dig tunnels that measure 14 feet in diameter, 50 percent narrower than traditional subway tunnels. The smaller diameter is expected to bring costs down considerably, reducing costs three to four times compared to traditional methods, according to The Boring Company website. In recent weeks, the company took to building a shaft and a 160-foot-long tunnel on the property, a passage that will be extended underneath local city streets as soon as is feasible. With the approval comes a series of new details surrounding Musk’s plan, including a proposal for a new type of autonomous vehicle system that would allow the entire system to function seamlessly. The 14-foot wide vehicle would consist of an automated platform that can hold pedestrian passengers and bicyclists. These so-called “Skates” would travel in the tunnels and be capable of carrying people, vehicles, as well as other types of freight. The tunnels are also being planned to reuse excavated dirt from the construction process into site-cast building blocks that can be used to line the tunnel interiors in lieu of conventional concrete coatings. Musk also expects that the tunnels will be a useful way of extending a proposed Hyperloop network into dense urban areas.  Brett Horton, SpaceX's head of construction, said in a statement, "We won't have construction crews walking down the street, we won’t have any trucks or excavators working in those areas." Instead of performing labor-intensive and traffic-snarling decking procedures like those involved with traditional subway construction, "Everything that we’re doing is underground," Horton explained. For now, construction on the tunnels continues.