Elon Musk Says Boring Company Line-Storm Could Be Active 'In a Month or So'
Musk's tunnels are making progress.
The Boring Company, the tunnel-digging venture set up to solve city traffic, is nearing the completion of its next major machine. Founder Elon Musk revealed on Tuesday that “Line-Storm,” the expected name for the company’s second tunnel digging machine, could be “active in a month or so.”
The new machines form a key component of Musk’s plan to reduce the costs of tunneling and enable better transportation through cities. The company’s initial tunnel, the 1.14-mile construction in Hawthorne, California first unveiled in December 2018, was built at a cost of $10 million, around 10 times cheaper than the average cost of regular tunnels. Building a high number of tunnels for cheap will solve the induced demand problem of building more infrastructure, Musk explained at the unveiling event, as the city of Los Angeles could theoretically build enough tunnels to transport the whole population of the United States at once.
The company’s first tunnel was built using “Godot,” a reference to the Samuel Beckett play Waiting for Godot. During the tunnel’s construction, “Godot” raced against a snail called Gary, as snails move around 14 times faster than regular tunnel digging machines. The second machine sticks with the literary theme with a reference to Robert Frost’s poem “A Line-Storm Song.” Musk plans a third machine, “aspirationally 10X better,” dubbed “Prufrock” in reference to T.S. Eliot poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” Musk claimed in December 2018 that “Prufrock” would launch in 2019.
The company, first detailed at the start of 2017, has a number of proposals to make tunneling cheaper. The goal is to develop machines capable of mining continuously, as current designs can only dig for 10 minutes per hour. Another idea is to develop machines with modified cutters and automated segment erection, while also providing triple the power to the machines. The tunnels themselves measure 14 feet wide, around half the diameter of a regular single-lane car tunnel, and Musk estimates that leaving one diameter between each tunnel would provide sufficient support.
Musk, who revealed the progress on Twitter to machine number two, explained however that the current focus is on getting to higher speeds and tighter follow distances in the test tunnel. The company’s goal is to send autonomous electric vehicles through at speeds of up to 150 mph, using guide wheels to steady the vehicle — although Musk claims that Tesla Autopilot is good enough to not depend on the guide wheels for turning. While any automaker will be welcome to add support for the system, Tesla plans to provide a fleet of Model X SUVs to ferry pedestrians and cyclists through that otherwise would not be able to move through the tunnels.
The Boring Company has proposed a number of tunnel ideas, like a connection in New York City to the airport, a connection in San Jose, and a tunnel to downtown Chicago. The latter project, approved by mayor Rahm Emanuel in June 2018, is facing stiff local opposition with a mayoral election days away, and a report from The Verge suggests even its supporters are cooling to the idea.
As “Line-Storm” approaches, it’s unclear what its first challenge will be.