But part of the problem lies with transit advocates in the US, who think tech and Elon Musk are a threat to transit. 
If he was serious about mass transit there are existing, proven technologies he could get behind with his billions, rather than hyperloop. Instead he proposes a technology that is entrancing to people who don’t know enough about engineering and physics, and that is exciting. Unfortunately the tech isn’t workable, it’s just exciting, but it could take a decade or more for that to become apparent to most people.
Wikipedia has an excellent article which lays out the history of the concept going back to the 18th century. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vactrain
I love the understatement of “prohibitively expensive” too, very droll. Any experimentalist who has worked with strong vacuums knows how absurd the idea of a hyperloop is at this point. The expense, the maintence costs, the airlocks, the pumps, all would be an incredible expense that could never be recouped in the builder’s lifetime. The actual tunneling would have to be totally revolutionary too, with incredibly long, nearly straight sections. The turning radius would have to be on the order of of a commercial airliner’s turning radius, which is absurd.
Credit to the man though, it hits that sweet spot requiring specialist knowledge to see through the hype, much like promises of nuclear fusion as a major power source within a couple of decades. The big idea is so attractive, and the problems all involve technical details. It’s not quite a con, but it’s close.
When assessing Musk's success, note that Tesla has singlehandedly pushed the entire auto industry towards electric vehicles. Before Tesla, electric vehicles were funny experimental things for hipsters. Very few people bought electric cars, and when they did it was usually only as a second car that could drive 100 miles around town. Virtually no major manufacturer were planning on changing that.
After Model 3, all major car manufacturers are changing their product development and production lines to make electric vehicles. It's now clear to everybody involved that in a number of years, it will only, or almost only, be electric vehicles.
Even if Tesla were to end up being a company that only sells a few hundred thousands cars per year, their impact will have been several orders of magnitude bigger. At the end of the next decade, tens of millions of electric cars will be produced every year and Tesla is the company that not only showed the way but forced an entire industry to go in that direction.
Now, why on Earth would Musk not be interested in promoting mass transit? Tesla is unlikely to produce 50 million cars yearly anyways, and - so far - electric vehicles are more expensive than ordinary cars and not much more suitable for dense city traffic than ordinary cars (although the cost is going down and although self-driving capabilities may change that a bit). But for many years to come, it's unlikely that the Boring Company or the Hyperloop is going to cannibalize on Tesla's market.
You're forgetting the biggest competitor to all-electric, the oil industry which lobbied against all-electric cars. GM had an all electric car in the 90's but people were only allowed to lease them.
Telsa is what changed the industry. It wasn't subtle, it rattled every car maker into action. They demonstrated the technology was ready, such that you could build a full, proper replacement EV vehicle. A car people actually wanted to buy and drive. Further, the Model S being reviewed as one of the greatest cars ever made, made it clear that you could actually build an extraordinary EV vehicle. Not a hybrid, not a 30 or 60 mile battery joke, a full replacement. GM restarted their EV program entirely because of Tesla.
And then they still aren't good enough for electric cars to make much sense to people spending their money carefully. But that happens in years not decades.
Hyperloop is envisioned to run in 100Pa of pressure. According to the Wikipedia page on vacuum, that is considered "medium vacuum." It's also quite close to the region where offgassing and vapor pressure is going to be a major component of the ambient pressure, which is where you start needing complex vacuum pumps.
No, it hasn't. First, because the long-term arc was in that direction anyway, and second because the whole industry hasn't adopted that as the short-term arc.
Tesla has single-handedly raised the near-term prominence of battery-powered all-electric vehicles, sure.
The main competitor German car manufacturers see (internally) is Tesla. This is what they fear right now.
This does not comport with reality. The Nissan Leaf, for example, came out a full 7 years before the first Model 3. The only thing unique about Tesla's electric vehicles is their willingness to lose many billions of dollars producing them.
I would say they led the industry by 2-3 years because of capabilities of making losses (actually not, Chevy bolt came before model 3).
What made electric cars possible is cheap batteries, otherwise they'd have built model3 right out the gate. And Tesla didn't make batteries cheap, consumer electronics did. Tesla doesn't even make battery cells, they buy them from panasonic
Or that Apple didn’t innovate because they merely used known technologies like phones, batteries, and touch screens.
Tesla made cars at loss, which others really couldn't.
But at the core of it, Tesla has the hype of Elon musk, and no other car manufacturer can pull that off.
What is the Gigafactory doing then? I thought it was all about batteries.
Musk is brilliant at this kind of marketing. Did you know he actually didn't found either Tesla or SpaceX himself?
Whether hyperloop is feasible, he's pretty clearly gunning for future, unproven technologies, and very much on purpose.
There's nothing wrong with wanting to spend your billions on trying to find new technologies.
Musk's Tesla package is performance based. He only get 'paid' by stock if he meets some ridiculously hard performance benchmark (ie, literally have to make Tesla the the most valuable company in the world). Not only that we won't get stock options if he doesnt meet those goals, he can't sell stock for a long period of time to make sure the stock valuation is not a temp spike. Also he doesnt get paid a single penny even if tesla stock performs somewhat better or even stays the same.
Frankly, even just delivering one innovation of this magnitude is impressive, being able to do it again and again deserves respect and admiration.
Wait satellite internet business is new? What have you been smoking?
So we’re all in agreement then, very good.
However, what he's actually done is make slightly better rockets and slightly better electric cars. He's not working on hyperloop, he's working on the more certain stuff.
It isn't unreasonable for a tech billionaire with civilization defining aspirations to want to make better cars, build better batteries, and improve public transit all at once.
No, you’re just a run-of-the-mill conspiracist, and cynic.
To note, he actually hasn’t thrown in with hyperloop, he open sourced he idea for people to iterate. He literally just thinks he can build a cheaper tunnel, and I haven’t seen any serious proposals to run hyperloops through them.
May be those are not really bad. We are living in a time where stuff that conspiracist, and cynics have been saying for years turning out to be true...
Also, while you accuse them, are you sure you are just not being a true believer of the cult of Elon Musk
In a time where just being skeptical of Musk gets you attacked, I am not sure you have the authority to say anybody else is run-of-the-mill. He may be a cynic, but the mainstream sentiment towards Musk is almost church-like, so generally people outside of that are not in the majority.
Look, I get it, nobody else seems to be doing exciting tech lately and Musk is certainly not doing CRUD apps, so I see where the excitement is coming from, but I also see a lot of fanaticism and PR bullshit around Musk, so I'd say some amount of skepticism is well placed.
> Look, I get it, nobody else seems to be doing exciting tech lately and Musk is certainly not doing CRUD apps, so I see where the excitement is coming from, but I also see a lot of fanaticism and PR bullshit around Musk, so I'd say some amount of skepticism is well placed.
Skepticism is always healthy, but dropping false facts like this is not: "He making his money on cars with lithium batteries, and chemical rockets. That’s where he’s spending and making his billions. He’s dropping 3.8% of his recent $2.6 billion award on this project"
Also, aren't we getting infinite streams of what Google, Amazon, FB, Apple, Microsoft are up to? Count how many articles on HN about Tesla vs. Google?
Even people blaming/skeptical or even hating on Elon Musk is doing good PR for Musk and his companies.
What something like Musk cannot afford is indifference from people. So the important task for something like Musk is to get people talk about them. It does not really matter if it good or bad.
We also live in a time where stuff that conspiracists and cynics have been saying for years is absolute bullshit. Don't fall victim to confirmation bias.
We are also living in a time where things like ubeam and Theranos can get millions in funding..and various nefraious schems that intend to take the naive public for a ride...
May be, don't fall for that..
When I'm worth $20Billion+ from building technologies that have already impacted the world, then maybe people will take me seriously!
No car company, particularly in the US, is in even the same league as Tesla when it comes to advancing electric cars. “Oh, but it’s just a niche”... the Model 3 is already outselling the Bolt, and the Model 3 has a lower base price and is just at the beginning of the ramp up curve.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Other car makers are perfectly capable of building EVs & the associated infrastructure. Musk isn’t magic, but empirically no one else really seems to care. So of course people just tear down the only company actually doing something significant here, because modern intellectual discourse is primarily about “deconstruction” and cynicism.
Assuming you're not fixated on "car company" per se (because why should corporate form matter), then Janette Sadik-Khan and NYCDoT have probably made a bigger difference in greening US transport than Tesla to date. And worldwide, of course, there are countless contenders.
"Greening" is only half the battle: the other half is liveable cities and streets. Personal motor transport makes that worse, whether electric or internal combustion. If Musk delivers on better public transport then Tesla can claim some credit there, but as yet there's nothing to show.
Seriously, put a bigger battery in an old Prius, add a charger, and hack the firmware to keep the engine off (and enable higher speed electric), and you have a full EV at even highway speeds. So why didn’t they do it but Tesla has? It’s amazing how much crap Tesla gets even though they’re the only ones with the guts to go full electric (and thus potentially zero emissions... already better than Priuses without being, you know, Priuses).
Because fanboys don't buy vehicles if somebody else sells it, just look at Chevy bolt. They need the futuristic hype of full self driving and the patented saving the planet. And also, Tesla can afford selling at a loss, nobody else can.
But suppose you’re right, that the only way Tesla has been able to sell so many EVs is by fanboyism, by Musk’s hype machine. But that then deserves your praise not derision, as Musk has been able to make EVs cool to the masses. If EVs must be hyped to gain traction, and Musk successfully hyped them, then Musk deserves the credit even more.
For lies about self driving, for horrible working conditions, for the endless stupid statements about v automation/ai in general, and for causing an obnoxious fan base, there is criticism.
Just because Tesla made cars cool doesn't mean they get to create the narrative that no one else wants to make electric cars
Tesla isn't creating that narrative, their competitors are. None of the major US car makers really do want to make electric cars, that's just a fact. And few others do, with the exception of maybe BMW, chinese firms, and nissan, but even there you have slow-rolled updating to EV. Porsche is serious about it, but also are not trying to make a mass market anything.
Now you'll see that dozens of electric cars will roll out in 2018-2022. But you'll come out and tell me that Tesla showed these guys that electric cars were possible.
Ever wonder why Nissan leaf always had a small range and wasn't "fun" to drive? because batteries and motors are costly.
And Telsa, whilst more innovate than a Prius seems to have created latest generation of smugness (at least it seems that way on Twitter and their new model 3).
as opposed to you, who very rationally spews the cult of musk kool-aid.
Cars are not efficient machines. The engine is limited to around 50% efficiency, the heat is wasted. And you're typically propelling 1600+kg of mass which is almost purely overhead.
If you do the calculations similar to those done in http://withouthotair.com/ you'd see your first worldly habits put your heating and cooling at the top, and probably your diet at the second place.
That's why the call it a 'loop' rather then a 'hyperloop'.
The tunnels however could letter be used for the hyperloop if the tech pans out.
As someone who closely follows Tesla, I would love to hear your critique of its current state and likely fate.
Metros, suburban light rails, BRT sound good in Urban areas.
Better than building thousands of underground tunnels.
I wasn't thinking the engineering of the tube, more the vehicles operating within. Assuming that there's a desire to have plain-clothed passengers.
On mars or the moon you might have separated habitats connected by rail, the cars themselves could utilize the mature tech from that old hyperloop thing we've been relying on for decades and millions of passengers use every day, etc..
There is still regular air pressure in a HSR. My question is why run something in vacuum when you can just run it in the regular low pressure
Couldn't have said it better. Another real life manifestation of this is the vertical rocket landing thing. People are flabbergasted when they see one landing, despite the fact that we regularly employ control systems that are as sophisticated (or more) than required to land a rocket vertically.
When they see them landing. they "feel" like they are witnessing sci fi, for real, and they worship the man behind it as their new (false?) prophet.
And then there is the mars thing, and space tourism. But the most blatent display of this I have yet seen is the 'bio weapon defense mode'  in Tesla cars.
Do you have examples of equally sci-fi looking control systems?
Engineering students build inverted pendulum control systems all the time for fun and for class projects: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWJHcI7UcuE
If it helps, bear in mind that John Carmack's Armadillo Aerospace was landing rockets vertically about 17 years ago. And that was a garage operation of about 5 people.
Never said it was their intention.
There's no indication that The Boring Company is capable of meaningful cost reduction in this regard. The actual cost of physical material in constructing tunnels is a relatively small cost of the project (note that most of the cost in a subway isn't the subway tunnels themselves, it's the subway stations). The only meaningful idea I've seen about cutting costs from The Boring Company is recovering TBMs, which strongly suggests there's no sense of why tunnels themselves cost money .
If Musk just talked about being able to build tunnels cheaper, even transit enthusiasts would have a hard time bringing themselves to care. But between Hyperloop and his underground road conveyance thingy, it's quite clear that he has no idea how to build any high-capacity transit . It seems as if he cares far more about "how do I get me from A to B most effectively" rather than "how do I get a million people from A to B most effectively," and moreover, that he doesn't even realize that those are different questions that necessitate different answers.
 TBMs are largely unrecovered because it costs too much to recover them. You can't back them up without risking geological stability of the above ground, and digging a cut-and-cover shaft to reach them is quite expensive.
 On fixed-guideway systems, the capacity is largely dictated by station dwell time and switch fouling time, which governs the minimum headway between adjacent consists. Consequently, you need high capacity through consist to get any meaningful capacity. But the Hyperloop pods and the road sleds both envision ultra-low consist capacity, consequently killing total throughput. Incidentally, higher speeds also reduce capacity.
Labor: they want to increase automation so there are fewer workers needed, and tunnel faster so they can pay for fewer hours of work.
Stations: they do not want to make expensive subterranean stations, and instead just want small stations at the surface. People have questioned the throughput, but I think throughput appears reasonable if 1 car can leave every 0.5 minutes vs a normal station in which 10 cars leave every 5 minutes
Musk has not had a great track record of reducing costs by increasing automation.
This is essentially saying "let's save money by cutting costs on the cheap part of the project and increase the most expensive part of the project several fold."
The cost of a bored tunnel is largely dictated by its length (essentially, length determines how much infrastructure you need--cabling, shielding, drainage, etc.; cross-section determines the scale of this infrastructure) . A car elevator access shaft is going to be a very time-consuming vertical cut via excavators, where depth is going to be the driving dimension in cost.
Of course, throughput comes back to bite you: how long does it take cars to make it up and down the elevator shaft? A vehicle elevator might make 1 foot per second, or somewhere in the region of a 4 minute round trip per vehicle if the tunnel is 100 ft deep . A regular highway lane has a capacity of ~2000 cars per hour, so you need 266 elevators to fill and empty it . Of course, the capacity of rapid transit is ~20,000 people per hour in the same tunnel space, so you really need over a thousand elevators. When you take into account acceleration/deceleration lanes for well over a thousand elevators, is that really cheaper digging than a dozen cavernous stations?
 Cutting the diameter of a tunnel in half does not cut its construction costs by 75%, more like 25-50%. Construction costs are closer to linear in diameter than linear in cross-sectional area.
 The other really, really big omission in the FAQ is the lack of discussion of the consequence of depth. Vertical circulation is already a tricky issue with what we construct today, and the space-hungry nature of SOV-centric design compounds the problem tremendously. 100 ft is sort of the highest level I'm assuming is in play here, since that's about as high as you can go without running into the sewers and extant mass transit lines. Going deeper of course makes the vertical circulation numbers even worse.
 This assumes that you only build one elevator to service both directions.
Combined, those factors imply your numbers are close to an order of magnitude off, and imply a reasonable number of elevators in the 30ish range. There are real challenges they need to solve, but I don't think elevator times or count are one of them.
>Firstly, there should be no real reason for the tunnels to be deeper than about 30-50 feet because sewers and utilities are all concentrated at backhoe depth, which is shallower even than that and building foundations are pretty easy to avoid.
Well, this assumes a flat geography. At highway speeds, nobody likes steep grades in either direction, so at the top of a hill, you'd need a deeper elevator to get to the tunnel network. Today's metro systems also prefer to move people down to the trains with escalators or elevators at hilly areas.
>Combined, those factors imply your numbers are close to an order of magnitude off, and imply a reasonable number of elevators in the 30ish range. There are real challenges they need to solve, but I don't think elevator times or count are one of them.
Even if the elevators teleported you to the tunnel, there is still a loading and unloading time involved. This is true of human transporting elevators as well.
It takes 9.5 seconds for an average car, say a Toyota Corolla, (https://www.caranddriver.com/toyota/corolla) to accelerate onto the highway today. The elevator needs to beat that time (loading, accelerating to move down, decelerating, unloading, and accelerating into the tunnel network itself) or throughput is no better than on a standard highway. And on an on-ramp today, cars don't have to wait for the other car to fully enter the freeway.
Depth is trickier to reason about. The Boring Company's FAQ explicitly states that "There is no practical limit to how many layers of tunnels can be built, so any level of traffic can be addressed." This suggests that they generally want multiple layers of tunnel. As a matter of practice, most major cities already have underground rapid transit systems that already occupy space. As you go higher, you have to worry about the complex geometry. Because of the inherent lower capacity of the system, you also need an order of magnitude more tunnels, which is going to push you deeper anyways.
Even if you think my numbers are close to 10× off, the capacity advantage of rapid transit is still looking closer to 10×. The advantage of transit over SOVs is simply that large.
If you are paying a laborer $3/hour it may not be cost effective, if you are paying $50 w/benefits it may be a huge cost saver.
TBM: Tunnel Boring Machine, the main piece of equipment in building deep tunnels
cut-and-cover: a way of building tunnels that consists of building a trench and then putting a roof over it
fixed-guideway: basically, anything that's a railroad or has similar constraints (such as a monorail)
switch fouling: fouling a switch means to have a train over it so that you can't change which direction it goes to
headway: time between successive consists. 5min headway means one train arrives every 5 minutes
consist: a set of cars that all move together as a fixed unit
I think that's all the terms that people might not immediately understand.
What is special about America's underground bedrock, compared to Europe's, that today's existing tunnel boring technology cannot solve in America, leading to high costs?
>But part of the problem lies with transit advocates in the US, who think tech and Elon Musk are a threat to transit. 
Transit advocates, like Jarrett Walker (as you linked), who view public transit in the US (of the "put a bunch of people on a bus or train" type) as a service that is already useful but often deficiently funded and poorly maintained, are extremely rational to be wary, especially when technologists like Elon Musk view transit as primarily a highway-building exercise. Elon's original vision for The Boring Company was basically a re-skinned highway tunnel. Instead of onramps and offramps you have elevators, and instead of "cars" traveling on "roads" you get high speed cars traveling inside tunneled roads. His most recent announcement, to "prioritize pedestrians over cars" (https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/972245615735222273), looks an awful lot like a bus that runs on a freeway. To transit advocates this just looks like more of the same.
SpaceX gets you there.
Tesla gets you around there and batteries store power.
Solar City because batteries.
Boring Company to dig tunnels and create radiation safe locations for humans on mars.
Hyperloop cross country transport that doesn’t work well in our atmosphere but makes much more sense on Mars.
I think he is all consumed by his vision of humans surviving on mars and thriving. And when you look at things from this view suddenly his crazy becomes less crazy.
By all means, speculate on Elon Musk's hidden psyche, but don't expect everyone to agree when the man himself says something different.
...That means fix Earth too. We / he certainly doesn't want to trade Earth for Mars. Mars is just a good place to store a backup of humanity.
If you think Musk doesn't care about Earth problems, check this out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKCuDxpccYM
Wait But Why is certainly popular, but it's not good at delimiting where Elon Musk's words end and Tim Urban's speculation begins. I also found oversimplifications and even downright inaccuracies. I'd recommend treating it as an introduction to Elon Musk's thinking, not as some final revelation.
Sort of like a battery?
He seems to think AI is coming very soon and could destroy humanity if it isn't handled correctly. It would be hard to colonize Mars with humans if they are all extinct. Neuralink is part of his solution to AI.
I just can't imagine that there will be masses trying to leave this planet in search of that dry red hellhole. This is a cool endeavor, it's an impressive undertaking, I'm glad we are doing it. But fuck, the Earth is awesome.
Add to the list the StarLink project. Allows them to have worldwide communication on mars.
This is certainly connecting the dots.
Is it Musk's approach of making a traditional company and flipping it on its head?
The company name is somewhat tongue in cheek, but also apparently straight up literal in some sense.
Recently in an interview he said he was sleeping on the factory floor of Tesla because he didn't have time to go home. That's going to lead to burnout, mental and physical issues. I am a big advocate of work smarter not harder.
A cheaper tunneling technology would be very much solving plenty of transit problems in a country like India.
I hear TBMs are just crazy expensive. They used two TBMs for the Bangalore Metro. One broke down and it took them months to fix it.
As of now cheaper tunneling tech would be the greatest thing ever for may cities in non developed countries.
For example, Mumbai Metro's line 3 is totally underground, and is in the costliest City of India. It is planned at 3.5 billion $ for 33 know. Around 100 million $ per km. And this includes the cost of stations, rails etc.
In comparison, recently completed Delhi metro phase 4 took 6.7 billion $ for 100 km at 67 million $ a km. A proposed Delhi metro project to UP outside the city (and hence cheaper) is around 1 billion $ for 35 km (and fewer stations).
From the looks of it, I don't think cut and cover for making tunnels has any significant expense at all.
It looks like India can construct metros (including stations which are the bigger costs) at 30 million $ per km. This is far lower than the tunneling costs of 100 million $ per mile that Elon plans to achieve, and 1 billion $ / mile that he thinks it costs (it doesn't, the major cost is stations and labor, and he can't bypass unions with political access).
Edit: Looks like India does use tbm. The cited Mumbai metro line is using 17 tbm.
A TBM costs like 10 million euros to buy, 5 million euros per month to operate. And move 50 feet a day. So, all combined it costs like 14 million dollars per mile to tunnel. But as in Mumbai's case (17 tbm for 33 km!), These are done in parallel for speed and to reduce costs, it's sound 30 million dollars per km. Which is almost the difference for mixed grade Delhi phase 4 and Mumbai's line 3 costs.
TLDR: tunnel boring costs 15 million dollars per km in material/operation costs, rest is probably rails+stations etc.
People complain the pace of Metro construction is low. But for the money these people get, its already nothing short of a miracle that they are even building this much.
And I'm just pointing out that in India we are tunneling at around 10-15 million dollars per mile, far cheaper than what Elon musk thinks it costs (1 billion per mile), and what he plans to achieve (100 million dollars per mile). Essentially, the breakdown is complex and different for different geology, labor prices, tunnel sizes etc. Musk's salesmanship of selling byte sized numbers without context is stupid.
>Over 90% came from Elon Musk, with the rest from early employees. No venture capitalists or outside investors are involved according to the company.
1. To diversify their finances. Going all in means every bet, if it fails, could be your last. (Less applicable for someone with Elon's name recognition.)
2. Some ideas don't scale down. Building a big rocket is a different game from building a small one. The lessons from the latter will apply roughly, at best, to the former. Same with tunnels.
3. To get intellectual and political buy-in. When people invest in something, they take ownership--financially and emotionally. Having shareholders who you can deputies to fight your battles can sometimes beat a hired hand.
Loans are the simplest to understand -- it's leverage. If you think you can double your money in a few years with a business plan, and that opportunity scales passably well to more money than you have in your bank account, you can take out a loan. To use your language, leverage is just "betting on yourself" even harder.
Taking on investors is different in that you can't ruin yourself doing it, but similar in that it increases your resources in a way that you hope will more than pay off over time against the cost.
Musk probably doesn't feel like he needs that validation, so the main reasons to take outside money would be leverage and diversification. The downside is some loss of control.
Boring under LA to relieve congestion creates a MASSIVE opportunity that, when refined, can be deployed into other markets and eventually used in space. It's a genius move.
Musk is a definite bad ass.
The nature of shorting is that you make money only when stock drops significantly in a short period of time.
If stock is flat, you loose your money. All of it.
If stock drops less than premium you paid for the option, you loose money.
If stock drops a day after your option expiration date, you loose money.
This year there were a couple of dips (~20% in short period of time) where you could have made money shorting. Caveat: if you timed it perfectly and good luck with that.
To put real numbers: a 3 month short will cost you about 10% of stock price. To make money stock price would have to drop more than 10% and you would have to execute the short at the right time in that 3 month window (as opposed to waiting for even bigger drop and loosing because the stock went up).
Even with TSLA stock gyrations in the last year, that's a bet very unlikely to have been profitable for most people.
Edit: you’re also more likely to have lost money buying Tesla over the past year vs shorting it, so it really hasn’t been “expensive” to short it.