At 200kph, with no traffic, all that empty land near San Rafael or beyond the Berkeley tunnel can be minutes away from downtown San Francisco. This could be a huge impact on housing and our everyday life.
The transcontinental railroad was paid in part through land grants to the railroad, for parcels along the route. That land was instantly valuable once the railroad was completed. Real estate could be a bigger part of Boring Company profits than user fees.
But then jobs in the bay area became much less concentrated in downtown SF, and those massive parking lots in faraway BART stations went underutilized.
Have you been to a BART parking lot recently during a weekday morning? Even the stops furthest out on the PBP line have nearly completely full lots.
I think the killer combo is self driving cabs for first/last mile, plus rail for intercity travel. Push a button 15 minutes before you want to leave, a cab sits outside your home for up to 30 minutes, you get a warning before each transit sync moment, hop in the cab, get dropped off directly at the platform, get picked up at the designation platform and then dropped at your destination.
It's basically optimal in terms of carbon, throughput, and convenience. Maybe total transit time is no better than a personal car, but you could punch through traffic so at peak times it would be better. And with high speed rail, it could beat personal car even in off peak... At least for some geographies. Obviously if you're not near rail it won't be an improvement in Transit time.
If I'm not mistaken you are basically thinking of a circuit-based network (with ad-hoc 'datagrams') while Musk seems to be going for a completely datagram based network. It's an utterly genius idea, at least from a theoretical standpoint (I have no knowledge of the economic aspect).
Millions of tech nerds daily grinding through a hellish commute so they can spend the day sitting in front of a computer. 99% of them doing nothing that they couldn't just as easily do from a computer at home.
Clearly optimized transportation is the best solution here.
Something something... better horses.
There's currently 4 year waiting lists for many of those massive parking lots in faraway bart stations.
Even if a really far-flung station is, say, 3/4ths utilized now, won't the next decade or two of housing development create more users to fill those spaces?
If cheap enough they could bore a second one from SF to the East Bay and an additional from the Peninsula to the Fremont area. to east-west commutes in the south bay.
Pure fantasy would be to have direct point to point routes consisting of the SF-Oakland-SJ triangle with outward spurs from the respective terminuses.
The upside of this is decentralization, not more concentration.
In buildings. It's really not that hard: https://www.vox.com/a/new-economy-future/urban-sprawl-housin... or http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2013/05/03/silicon_valle... . It's just illegal, right now, to build the buildings that people want to occupy. Make it legal and lots more people will live in SF and environs.
But, as with any city - the income disparity and the cost of living is high - but all cities need affordable labor as well as economic opportunity.
What has led you to believe this is a difficult problem? The impediments to density in San Francisco are regulatory. At Brooklyn's density the city would have 1.6 million people. At Paris's density? 2.5 million.
I deliberately chose those places because they're not dominated by skyscrapers.
People talk about the "housing crisis" using the language of natural disasters. But this is just people deciding not to build more housing. No more or less.
Streets and parking are a huge waste of space, so higher concentration will be better livability (less noise, pedestrians can own the surface, and let's face it, streets full of cars are ugly)
Is 20 feet enough? I would imagine that a lot more depth would be required to support the above-ground structures.
Here's a good explanation of how TBMs work from Crossrail. They use two types of TBM. There are also hard-rock TBMs, used in deep jobs like the Gotthart Base Tunnel. For some hard-rock jobs, a tunnel lining isn't necessary.
Most of the problems in tunneling involve water. Mud, leaks, underground rivers, etc. The Boring Company doesn't mention water much. So far, the Boring Company just seems to have bought a small TBM and is learning to use it.
The SpaceX rep mentioned this in the recent Hawthorne city council meeting, and I believe Elon said the same thing in one of his presentations.
I cannot see that Elon can get around the need for proper geomorphological study here.
There was supposed to be a Crossrail 2, running north-south, but it looks like that's being canceled. After Brexit, London will be much less of a banking center, and traffic is expected to drop.
However, they don't appear to want to tunnel in arbitrary places but more along roads. Roads have a relatively fixed amount of infrastructure "under" them (around here that seems to be a sewer pipe and cable/fiber/copper cables along the edges (not very far down though, at most about 10')
I can imagine a very efficient public transportation system if you combine the self driving aspects with elevators. At what would now be considered a bus stop would be an area where a 'pod' can be summoned. You tag your card and your destination. After a short delay, the elevator lifts and on it is a 'pod' with seating for four. You step in, sit down. The doors close, the elevator lowers, and the pod drives along easy to navigate tunnels to your destination. Then queues for the nearest elevator, rises, and the doors open. Done.
The beauty of such a system is that you can do autonomous faster because the lanes/signalling/weather conditions are all normalized to the tunnel. There are no 'manual' drivers or bicycles or pedestrians. Its a much more constrained environment so fewer things to worry about. It can re-use the right of way under the street so there isn't any need to use emminent domain to seize property for a right of way. All of the 'stations' are above ground and can re-use existing bus stops so very low cost.
Hostile acts are an issue. If you carry on a backpack bomb into your pod and blow it up you're going to block that tunnel until maintenance can clean it out. And people sleeping/living in pods would no doubt be a nuisance. Same thing with summoning a pod that the previous occupant had just been massively sick in or defecated in. Probably needs a button on the summon station to say 'send this pod to maintenance' but there is an interesting denial of service attack then of people sending all the pods to maintenance. Perhaps some operator / NOC ability to look record/evaluate the users would be required.
edit: Well I guess they have a pretty clear FAQ on their site, but I'm wondering if the small tunnel diameter can be used for anything other than cars. Would subway cars fit?
The reason they can go for smaller tunnels is using 'skates' as opposed to letting people drive. 'Skates' are kinda like a bus for your car. As the environment is controlled, the skates can be controlled by self-driving technology a lot easier. The added precision and control allows for smaller 'roads'.
That is the argument from Musk as I understood it.
Middle of London isn't exactly a cheap place either
I've always thought that maybe it'd make more sense to just give pickaxes to a bunch of people from a 3rd world country
There's no reason you couldn't do trains instead of cars.
It's weird to me that you'd do this with cars if you believe self driving cars are the future. Trains between hubs give higher density (which means building fewer tunnels), then (if strictly necessary) switch to a car at the other end to get to your final destination.
A tunnel just for passenger cars would be a bit of a waste.
If you ran trains, people would buy fewer cars, and that's bad for Musk.
If self-driving is fully developed, people would buy fewer cars, and that's bad for Musk.
Maybe on the long run but it looks like Tesla might have self-driving cars about 12-24 months before anyone else, that's lucrative. I think a lot of the interest in Tesla cars (esp. those with the v.2 autopilot hardware) comes from the full self driving prospect. The economics of full self driving could be awesome for Tesla - they can operate a taxi network wherein sell the cars and the service.
And Tesla earns ~$8k-$10k from people who upgrade their car to full self driving - that's probably the highest gross margin option in the automotive industry because all the new cars have the hardware built into them. There's one fixed cost: the software. If they build the software right, upon regulatory approval, they can cut down the team to a skeleton crew that just makes sure the system is self-improving.
Given that they are behind almost all other car makers, that's highly unlikely.
[Source: self-driving disengagements per 100k miles from CA DMV]
I think Volvo and Ford have the next commitment at 2021. Most other automakers see themselves licensing it by 2024-2026.
There are no other sources. Everything else is marketing and tweets.
So, by the only actual existing data, Tesla is far behind most other carmakers.
Car and Driver saw an Autopilot 1 Tesla require half the interventions of BMW and Mercedes and ~1/4 ofthe interventions on an Infiniti.
The title seems to imply that the technology for boring the tunnel is Tesla derived, while it is related to the whatever vehicles that will be used in the tunnel once it will have been bored "traditionally".
EDIT: actually, from looking at , Tesla says it was based on licensed Lotus tech, but most definitely not an electrified Elise. TIL.
 - https://www.tesla.com/blog/lotus-position
And they need an amount of power that very doubtfully can be delivered by batteries.
It is a bit of time that I don't deal with those smallish diameter TBM's, of 14 feet or so but to give you a comparison, a 22 feet one has usually a head (just the head) driven by some 6 x 300 or 350 kW electric motors.
In the FAQ of the boring company:
they mention diesel locomotives, but personally I have only seen electric (battery) locomotives used during TBM excavations.
And the plan is to make their TBM's speedier by augmenting the power (to the head), besides optimizing cycles and what not, thus most probably the TBM itself will be powered "traditionally" by cable electricity.
The Boring Company FAQ only says 3x. They also want to do cutting and ring installation simultaneously, rather than alternately. TBMs have already been built which do that.
Here's the fastest TBM in current use. Best month, 702 meters. Worst month, zero, when they hit a cavern and had to stop to fill it with gravel and grout before proceeding. Tunneling has surprises like that. That machine has both a hard-rock and a pressure-balance mode. Switching is a big deal, with lots of cutter changing.
One place Tesla might make progress is at the back end of the TBM. There's a huge amount of activity in back. Behind the TBM, there's usually a narrow gauge railroad track, and two tracks if there's room. Dirt cars are brought forward, filled with dirt, and sent back out. Ring segment cars bring ring segments forward. Work cars bring workers, tools, and spare parts. Track cars bring more track sections, to be laid behind the TBM. The TBM has machinery for laying track, loading and unloading cars, and moving cars from one track to the other.
What if all those work cars were self-driving battery-powered vehicles? Get rid of all the tracks, use self-driving vehicles with 4-wheel steering, and have them position themselves exactly where they're needed. Dirt cars stop under the output conveyor, fill, and leave. Segment cars maneuver into position
to where the segment assembly arm (a big robot arm) can remove the segments. No more track section cars.
You'd need vehicles which run well on the bottom of a round tube without being centered, so they can pass each other. That could eliminate about half the gear at the back end of the TBM.
The smaller the tunnel is, the smaller is the size of the ventilation tubes that can be used, and thus you need more power to push the air inside.
The amount of air needed by an electric motor is "0", whilst the amount of air needed by a combustion engine is something that needs to be evaluated on a case by case basis, normally the rule of the thumb is 4 cubic meters per minute for each Diesel HP (i.e. with kW's 5.4/KW).
And you have to assure anywyay some air to the people, usually 3 cubic meters per person per minute is used.
And there is anywyay a limit to the pressure with which you can pump air in, because the "return speed" is usually limited to a maximum of 0.5 m/s (as higher speed may cause the transportation of dust and particles).
And then of course the longer the tunnel is the more powerful must the ventilating fans be, we are talking of several hundreds of kW to power these fans.
The method generally used is "positive pressure".
I.e. there is a single pipe or duct through which the air is pushed till the excavation front.
The air, having no possible way out is forced to go back towards the tunnel opening.
Since usually the most activities are near the excavation front there is concentrated the clean air, while the one returning back is "contaminated" by the CO2 and other fumes at the excavation front.
The 3 m3/min per person and 4 m3/min per HP are common rules of the thumb to calculate the amount of air, and is in practice a "large" allowance since it is calculated with the maximum possible number of people and with the theoretical power of diesel engines (that never run at 100% throttle), and it has to take into account the said effect of contamination so that people working in the tunnel (not a the the excavation front) still get enough clean air.
Moreover it is not a "continuous fine regulation", fans have normally a finite number of speeds, so you are always using the speed (and the number of fans) calculated for the "longest stretch". As an example for the first 200 mt of excavation you have one fan at 1st speed, the next step, switching to 2nd speed is good up to (say) 400 meters, and you switch to 2nd as soon as you get past 200 mt, and so on.
Which makes it interesting that the 4 cubic meters per HP is about 10 times the allowance for contamination as the 3 cubic meters per person. Everyone shares the higher contamination level whenever the engines are active.
In such a ventilation scheme during the works most personnel is near or in the immediate vicinity of the excavation front, they have "non-contaminated" "fresh air" at all times.
You get some "contaminated" air only during the time it takes from the tunnel entrance to the excavation front, and in some circumstances people making maintenance or other works far from the excavation front.
As said the quantity of fresh air fanned in is much more than what actually "needed", there are sensors for the contamination and all in all the air you breath in any modern tunnel during construction is much, much better than what anyone breaths everyday in a trafficked city.
To me the whole thing sounds more like a marketing stunt. Tunneling is extremely expensive. Musk knows how to make products more efficient but the improvement needed in this case is probably far more than what he achieved with Tesla.
Both firms are technically separate, right? I suppose x,y,z would mind if Musk just took the tech to Boring company. And a,b would mind if he chose Tesla (if it were not the best)?
Or are people flexible in this regard? In the initial stages?
Conflicts of interest are common for board members -- you choose board members for their connections. So it's not surprising for a board member to bring up an opportunity that is advantageous to the company, but where they also have some personal interest on the outcome.
That's a problem, though, because there are divergent interests: Musk should rationally vote his 80% in favor of the deal even if it decreases the value of the company, as long as it increases the combined value of his share in the two companies. If he did that, a+b would have a winning shareholder lawsuit, because it violates a board member's duty of loyalty to put personal interests above the interests of the company.
So we neutralize that possibility by disclosing everything and allowing the non-conflicted members to vote on the deal. If both sides approve it, we can assume that it individually increases the value of both companies, Musk has done his job as a well-connected board member, and no one has a legal claim based on the conflict of interest.
The point is: they agree on a contract that hopefully keeps ownership well delineated in the event of an ownership change, or outside lawsuit, or ... whatever legal event may come up.
For the initial projects, it's possible that Tesla will license tech to TBC for a nominal price, because they can justify it as expanding the market -- if TBC is initially successful, it will greatly expand the market for that tech.
This is also why no carmaker except for Mercedes has used Tesla patents at all, and Mercedes simply bought 5% of Tesla to get the patents.
Tesla offered to share them with other auto OEMs, if they sign up to agree to Tesla's terms.
Either that, or you build tunnels in highly concentrated places like Manhattan that just act as a supplement to existing metro networks. What am I missing here?
What happens when TBC wants to tunnel where secret government tunnels already exist?
We know for a fact there are numerous tunnels in DC, some that go to places to support / maintain continuity of government in the event of nuclear war.
I think it's erroneous to think that they are no longer in use, but nobody really knows their true extent.
The point was simply that if the amount of tunnels needed for this type of transport were dug, through the US, they would reveal, somehow, if such tunnels did really exist.
It seems like there would be some place more remote and a little safer for drilling giant tunnels.
Also, I'm surprised to hear it's only going to be 6m deep.