Elon Musk is hard at work digging into his new project. The Boring Company, revealed late last year, seeks to reinvent transport by making tunnel construction easier than ever. Musk envisions a future where cities have up to 30 underground tunnels stacked on top of each other, serving road, hyperloop, and other transit needs.
On Friday, Musk took to Twitter to ponder the name for his company’s first tunneling machine. The machine, emblazoned with the company logo and revealed in an Instagram photo last week, could be used for a project announced back in January: a tunnel from Musk’s desk at SpaceX to Crenshaw and the 105 Freeway.
The company’s main challenge will be to make tunneling more efficient. Boring technology has barely progressed over the past 50 years, and Musk sees an opportunity to design a machine that removes dirt from the tunnel more effectively, while also allowing tunnel walls to be built at the same time as digging. Tunneling is an area that needs innovation: Boston’s “Big Dig,” a project to move a section of road underground, cost $12 billion more than expected.
So, what to call the Boring Company’s first machine?
For the company’s first machine, it’s not a name that makes a whole lot of sense, but Musk reasoned that calling it “the second” gives it more credibility.
“I know what you’re thinking … then why not “the Third”?” Musk said. “Well, I’ve learned my lesson about 3’s.”
Musk has faced an uphill struggle convincing the public that Tesla’s upcoming Model 3 car is not a new generation of Tesla. The $35,000 car will be a cheaper alternative to the existing $68,000 Model S, but Tesla has still been forced to issue clarifications that the Model 3 will not feature a more advanced semi-autonomous Autopilot mode.
Technology consultant Keth Cohen suggested “Displacement Activity,” a reference to Iain M. Banks’ novel The Hydrogen Sonata. Musk is a well-documented fan of Banks’ work: last week, he explained that his brain-computer interfacing company Neuralink will aim to avoid the nightmare scenarios depicted in Banks’ novel Surface Detail. Musk has also named two of his SpaceX droneships Just Read the Instructions and Of Course I Still Love You after the starships in Banks’ novel The Player of Games.
“I do love Banks, but perhaps we should reserve his names for the droneships,” Musk replied.
Thankfully, the future success of the company is unlikely to hinge on what the machine is called.