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Boring Company to use Tesla’s technology for its tunnel project under LA (electrek.co)
139 points by doener 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 121 comments

Boring Company has a bigger potential impact on transportation than Uber or Google even dream about.

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[1], 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.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Transcontinental_Railroa...

What real estate? The railway companies got land grants because nobody (well, except the Native Americans...) owned the land they built on. The Boring Company is going to be drilling under already owned land no matter where it goes...

They could option or purchase land, and decide the route of the tunnel based on what they're able to obtain. That puts them in a position to capture value. It could also increase regulatory competition among localities.

I thought they didn't even need to own the land to build tunnels as long as they do it at the right depth?

I think the parent was saying that they would buy parcels of land where they planned to build stations, and then profit when that land appreciated due to the presence of the station.

The term they're using in Australia when politicians waffle on about an East Coast high-speed rail system that's never going to happen is "value capture".

This was, in large part, the original rationale for BART. You'd drive a few miles from your suburban home to the nearest station, and then take the train under the bay and get off near your office downtown.

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.

>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.

Good luck if you use the North Concord station, whose parking lot is going away altogether.

I wonder if this isn't more an effect of the poorly engineered BART still taking as long or longer than cars in most situations vs the specific location of the jobs.

Also, first/last mile is still a bear.

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.

>I think the killer combo is self driving cabs for first/last mile, plus rail for intercity travel.

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.

Isn't that Musk's (with Boring + Tesla) whole game plan? The demo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5V_VzRrSBI, I think is pretty explicit about that. The difference is that you own the 'cab' and you don't have to time any 'transit sync moment'.

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).

Yeah, this would definitely be more optimal than the current situation. I commute from SF to PA and would take the Caltrain except for the fact that first/last mile are as long (by bike, too expensive by parking/uber) as just driving to PA from my apartment.


There's currently 4 year waiting lists for many of those massive parking lots in faraway bart stations.

What BART parking lots are underutilized? My understanding is that all but the furthest stations fill between 6 and 7am. I wasn't willing to get up early enough to participate in the park-n-ride model. (Cynically, my office gives lots of credit for staying late, but no one is here to see you get in before 10 or so). Were there stations I missed?

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?

Interestingly or apropos, BART are looking into a second Transbay tube to fix the Transbay tube bottle neck (headway during peak times is like one minute and they can't add more cars to the trains).

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.

Transportation is only a part of the puzzle. Where would you fit more millions of people in downtown San Francisco?

The upside of this is decentralization, not more concentration.

Where would you fit more millions of people in downtown San Francisco?

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.

Singapore is the city to study. They build massive underground connections, malls, transport etc as they grow. They have massive setbacks to the buildings which allow for it to have a crap ton of trees and plants all between buildings... they plan to double their population and are building smartly.

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.

"Where would you fit more millions of people in downtown San Francisco?"

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.

I'm not sure where this notion that cities run out of space comes from. We've always had high land utilization in cities. But the cities still grow, they grow by replacing low density residences with higher density residences. So forth and so forth. If a city can't grow by building up then that's most likely a zoning issue.

Decentralization is not an upside, we should be _more_ concentrated, not less. It's much more efficient.

The result is both decentralization /and/ concentration.

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)

streets and parking are a waste because we dont stack them or require that every building include at least three levels of parking as the bottom of each building...

> They aim to have no impact at the surface by digging just about 20 feet (6 meters) in the ground.

Is 20 feet enough? I would imagine that a lot more depth would be required to support the above-ground structures.

A TBM doesn't just dig a hole. It installs tunnel ring segments to support the ground above. 6 meters down is no big deal. That's mostly to get below other buried infrastructure.

Here's a good explanation of how TBMs work from Crossrail.[1] 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.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z38JIqGDZVU

They've mentioned water when asked about Hyperloop, to point out that standard tunnels are waterproof to a specification that they could also support the level of vacuum necessary for Hyperloop, without modification.

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.

It's not keeping water out of the tunnel once built that's hard. It's building the tunnel through water and mud that's hard.

Sure, but groundwater flow has to be accounted for. Hard engineering can lead to very bad outcomes. The Soviets tried to ignore the effects of disrupting thermal equilibrium in their attempts to build cities in permafrost areas. Their solution was prodigious volumes of concrete. It failed badly. These days geotechnical engineers try to work more harmoniously. For example, in areas with saturated soil one approach is to excavate an equivalent weight of soil to that of your construction, thus the building effectively floats, and there is no disruption to the local dynamics.

I cannot see that Elon can get around the need for proper geomorphological study here.

In the video two comments up, they explain that a different kind of TBM is used for waterlogged boring. Bentonite is used to keep pressure on the tunnel face instead of the bored material, the slurry is then separated with a centrifuge and piped back to the face/out of the tunnel.

I was also thinking about Crossrail, and how it's going to cost $20+ billion for 73 miles of track...

Some of the engineering is terrifying - less than a metre separation between the tunnel they are boring and adjacent tube lines!


Look at the route. There are twists and turns to avoid various underground obstacles. Most station work involved acquiring and demolishing something before work could even start.

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.

So that's a bonus for the environment then, what with all the concrete it would have required.

Given expected passenger numbers and the fact that Crossrail 2 (as Crossrail) would stretch to outer parts of London with a high share of care ownership, the reduction in car traffic would probably outweigh emissions created for concrete.

This was a question I had as well. I could easily see pilings for a multistory building going more than 20' under the surface.

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.

That's a neat idea. I can imagine most of the potential problems can be solved by requiring a credit card to sign up, and image recognition software - if the pod is supposed to be empty, then the onboard camera can check if it really is (could also measure the pod's weight, use infrared and ultrasound "vision"), and alert a human operator otherwise. Bombing a 4 person pod does not make much sense to me, since there is not that much damage that can be done underground, with the exception of starting a bomb right beneath a huge building. I'm not sure a potent enough bomb can actually be carried around though.

The problem with following roads is that you don't want to do a 90 degree turn at 200 km/h or whatever speeds they're imagining here. From what I understand it's supposed to be more of a hub system rather than a point A to point B system, i.e. you drive to the nearest entry point, go down with the elevator and have it ship you to the exit that's nearest to your destination. This means it will probably mostly be straight tunnels, similar to a subway which will eventually have to go under buildings.

Nope, modern subway stations aren't necessarily deeper than that. Plus TBM's bores are much smaller diameter than traditional holes. Plus they don't need the peripheral infrastructures needed with subways systems just elevators and I'm assuming emergency stairs.

Musk said something at TED about it being related to tunnel diameter and I imagine this test track having a pretty small tunnel compared to say a subway.

It's still unclear to me how their technology is different. Did they just slap the Elon Musk brand/allure on regular boring machines for SpaceX/Tesla's own use?

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?


As I recall, they go for 2x smaller diameter tunnels. This gives 4x less dirt to move. Beyond that, they aim to get something like a 2x or 3x improvement by switching to electric and being better about strutting walls and boring at the same time. The 4x less work done 2x faster should be about an order of magnitude better.

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.

It's a concept completely wrong in a lot of details starting from the premises. Their primary objective is to build a tunnel for 100M$ a mile saying that currently a tunnel costs 1B$ a mile. And as I linked in a previous thread London crossrail is already on that price range while boring full-size tunnels for underground trains. So I'm not really sure what they are trying to accomplish here given that the crossrail is already cheaper for tunnels with double the size of the ones than their are trying to build.

The costs quoted are USA costs. Massive infrastructure projects cost more here.

>Massive infrastructure projects cost more here.

Middle of London isn't exactly a cheap place either

Indeed, you have a couple of thousand years' worth of plague pits etc. to contend with.

Which is not a tech or labor cost problem but a management problem.

>currently a tunnel costs 1B$ a mile

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

Keynes would be proud!

London Underground tunnels are less than 12ft.

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.

Musk's proposed tunnel size is 14 feet, slightly bigger than London Underground deep tunnels. (Crossrail's tunnels are about 20 feet inside diameter, large enough for full-size English passenger trains.)

14 feet probably means that standard containers couldn't be transported? Containers are close to 10 feet, not sure if that leaves enough room.

A tunnel just for passenger cars would be a bit of a waste.

I was wondering if these were viable in San Francisco, but it looks like they bore tunnels 20 ft in diameter [0] to fit their inefficiently large Muni Metro cars. Another example of SF overspending on things they didn't properly think through.

0: http://archives.sfmta.com/cms/apress/documents/CentralSubway...

> There's no reason you couldn't do trains instead of cars.

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.

>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.

> "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"

Given that they are behind almost all other car makers, that's highly unlikely.

[Source: self-driving disengagements per 100k miles from CA DMV]

That's not a good source. It looks like they only drive on public roads in challenging conditions, they're committed to self-driving by 2019.


I think Volvo and Ford have the next commitment at 2021. Most other automakers see themselves licensing it by 2024-2026.

> That's not a good source.

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 TBM (Tunnel Boring Machine) seems pretty much a "standard" one and in a note on one of the photos it is stated how it has been alredy used (in some project in San Francisco).

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".

Tesla started out by converting an existing lead acid electric car to lithium ion. It's smart to try to understand and optimize the already existing thing before you redesign it from scratch.

They didn't start from a clean slate ?

The tesla roadster started with a Lotus Elise body and frame. The S was the first tesla that was entirely their design (AFAIK).

EDIT: actually, from looking at [0], Tesla says it was based on licensed Lotus tech, but most definitely not an electrified Elise. TIL.

[0] - https://www.tesla.com/blog/lotus-position

Ha, I never knew that

They originally got venture capital by shopping around an existing handmade electric car, the AC Propulsion tzero.


wow amazing, I never read about anything involving musk prior Tesla incorporation.

While the two subject seem to be confused in the article I assume that Tesla tech can be used in both the tunneling and the sleds. Musk's aim was to increase boring speed by two orders of magnitude so presumably they'll find inefficiencies by converting the boring machine to run on electric motors over what I presume to be diesel engines in existing machines.

Rest assured, all existing TBM's are already operated by electric motors.

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.

Musk's aim was to increase boring speed by two orders of magnitude

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.[1] 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.

[1] http://www.therobbinscompany.com/news/2017/07/10/mexicocityb...

That seems like the last thing that is keeping us from having more tunnels under our feet.

I'd be surprised if they use diesel engines. Seems like dealing with the exhaust in a closed environment like that would add too much risk and complexity.

Right, though the issue is not much about risk and complexity, but rather by sheer power needed to push the air in a tunnel.

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.

So that's enough airflow to make the engine exhaust be half a percent CO2, which is right about at workplace limits. And extreme overkill on the per-person air if everything is mixed together. (If it's not mixed together it makes sense to over-ventilate the humans for comfort.)

I am not sure to understand what you mean "not mixed together", the tunnel is a single environment to which you provide air.

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.

So yes it's all mixed together from the second the air leaves the duct.

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.

Not really everyone.

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.

Yes, the video mentions the machine is a used one, formerly used in SF. They mention it wasn't altered at all to keep the certificates but they try to learn and in future may improve it. The Tesla reference is about a vehicle that would autonomous drive in the tunnel, it will not resemble a Tesla car but feature a cabin and use some components like battery/etc.

I don't think we should pay much attention to this stuff until they actually start building TBMs or have some technological breakthroughs.

Agreed - they're a pretty boring company until they get some real tech going.

Pretty cool how Musk's companies reuse technologies amongst themselves. Back in 2015, SpaceX shared welding techniques and machinery with Tesla:


Don't all companies do that? GE will also share basic techniques between departments. And if you don't have another department to get the knowledge you contract other companies. There's no need to invent everything yourself.

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.

Perhaps strap a rocket to the back of the boring machine?

Can anybody comment on how technology transfer between two firms works where one firm is say 80% musk + a + b and the other, say, 40% musk + x + y + z ?

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?

Law school answer: if Musk is on the board of Tesla and wants a deal to happen with BoringCo, but also has an interest in BoringCo, Musk discloses the conflict, recuses himself from the vote, and a + b plus x + y + z have to approve the deal.

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.

Very well explained, thank you. I was assuming things will happen as if they were "separate companies" but had no clue about the recusal and how the board room operates vis-a-vis new deals and voting.

I would think that everyone (besides Musk) in the two companies would prefer clean lines of origination and transition for IP between the two companies. This means there would be a typical contract between two companies: Company B licenses for a fee the tech from Company A; or Company B acquires for a price the tech from Company A; or, as I saw at my previous startup employer, some kind of partnering arrangement to further develop, together, Company A's tech. I have no idea how it's decided which company owns what in the case of additional development between both companies.

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.

Would it be ok for the companies to agree to license (non-exclusive perpetual bla bla) all technology free of cost? Would that be legal?

Most certainly legal. If certain investors don't like it, they can try to change it or maybe sue the company over the decision, but there's nothing about a "non-exclusive, royalty-free, perpetual" license that has questionable legality.

They're not flexible. They want their pound of flesh. That said, if the contract terms between the two companies are agreeable to those people, or if the contract was negotiated under a process no prone to conflicts of interest, then all is good.

What about a contract signed between two parties (Tesla, TBC) in which TBC acquires some of Tesla's technology for a symbolic price? Would that have any problem?

Other Tesla shareholders could well have a problem with this, up to the point of suing Tesla management for it. Tesla management has a duty to make the deal with terms that are as beneficial to Tesla as possible, and if they breach that duty, the shareholders can sue them for the loss.

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.

I think the Tesla board is fine with the technology sharing between Musk companies because Tesla often also benefits from SpaceX technology sharing.

Didn't Tesla open all of their patents?

Tesla opened some of their patents, and only if you in return give all of your patents to Tesla.

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.

All patents are open.

Tesla offered to share them with other auto OEMs, if they sign up to agree to Tesla's terms.

If Tesla 'merged' with SpaceX and Boring Co. on the public market you're talking about a company that could have a $100B mkt cap as soon as next year, the slight and continuing unofficial convergence of all of his companies is a bit odd

Not odd at all for someone bent on retiring on Mars. Airtight underground dwellings are the current best bet for Mars habitation.

I wonder if he's thinking of building a space gun.

Does anyone know the ownership structure of The Boring Company? Is it a spin-off of Tesla or SpaceX or a brand new standalone entity?

Standalone entity founded by Musk.

What I'm not clear about is how BC plan to overcome American cities tendency to sprawl. It seems there's a huge risk of building tunnels at enormous expense which travel between places where people, at some indefinite point in the not too distant future, no longer really travel to.

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?

Isn't that true of any capital expenditure? You make a model, cross your fingers, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but you make it up on the margin.

I guess but I'm making the presupposition that Elon Musk is smarter than me, therefore he wouldn't have overlooked this, and am curious to know what I'm missing or what my mental model of how American cities grow and sprawl is failing to take account of.

It takes decades for a population center to empty. Plenty of time to recoup an investment. If he starts with low hanging fruit, like transit between deadlocked parts of LA he'll be making money. Maybe eventually he gets down into boondoggle territory, but I don't see why that should be a concern. As part of a larger fund, a few boondoggles are no problem—learning experiences.

They must be careful. In Germany, tunnel construction just caused major train track damage: http://m.spiegel.de/reise/deutschland/a-1162727.html

What happens to all the material tunneled out?

What happens when TBC wants to tunnel where secret government tunnels already exist?

The secret tunnels are much deeper.

...secret government tunnels?

It's long been rumored that there are tunnels cross crossing the us, connecting deep underground military bases.

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.

The government will probably release information about areas and depths were no one is allowed to dig. This can be vague enough to not disclose information about where tunnels actually are while still ensuring their safety.

It's funny how must cross breeds his ventures. Solar energy, electric vehicles.. probably some high end engineering talent from SpaceX too. It's a bit like Apple maybe ? he bootstraps it's own vibe.

You are probably being downvoted due to your terrible typo.

I deserved hit.

Oh, "Tesla" the company, not the man, as I expected. :-/

Yeah, for the past five years I've been like, "Oh look, Tesla! Aww. Oh look, Tesla! Aww."

I keep thinking, if this is really just for research and development, why are they doing it under LA?

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.

They have property that they can dig on in LA.

That doesn't sound boring at all.

"Boring" is the process of excavating a tunnel. Play on words :)



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