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Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is known for his megaprojects. But his newest one might be the craziest one yet. Support this channel on Patreon!
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So back in January of 2016, Musk was speaking at SpaceX’s Hyperloop pod competition, when he said this:
“It’s a really simple and obvious idea and I wish more people would do it: build more tunnels. Tunnels are great. It’s just a hole in the ground, it’s not that hard. But if you have tunnels in cities you would massively alleviate congestion and you could have tunnels at all different levels – you could probably have 30 layers of tunnels and completely fix the congestion problem in high-density cities. So I strongly recommend tunnels.”
But it was something he just kinda said off the cuff and nobody but the most ardent Musk-watchers paid any attention to.
He claims to have built a machine that can dig tunnels for transportation 500 to 1000% more efficiently than current boring machines.
And his logic is that people in cities live and work in a 3D space, in vertical buildings that can house more people. But our city transportation is on a 2D plane, meaning all these vertically packed people are now crammed into a horizontal space.
By creating a 3D transportation grid, we can alleviate the congestion and drive like civilized human beings.
Now, there are a couple of criticisms of this plan, one is that this idea’s been around for over a hundred years, it’s called subways.
And subways are great for densely packed urban areas like New York but for cities like LA, or Dallas for that matter, where things are spread far apart, not so much.
For example, it’s a 20 or 30 minute drive just to get to my closest light rail station, at that point, I might as well just drive the rest of the way. It’s just not practical.
But underground highways under strategic high-traffic arteries could make a big difference. And reducing the time cars are idling in traffic could cut down on pollution as well.
The other criticism is that building tunnels is not nearly as easy as it sounds, even with a giant high-tech earthworm machine doing all the work.
Obviously in urban areas there’s all kinds of things we’ve put under the ground in terms of sewers, gas lines, telecommunication lines and so forth.
But we at least know where those are, what we don’t know is other things like pockets of gas, unstable rocks, hidden fault lines, and so forth.
But… I’m sure all those things will be addressed before any large-scale tunneling begins in LA., there’s a mountain of bureaucratic red tape to get past before that happens.
Which should put completion around the Fall of… never.
A side benefit of this tunnel machine would be for SpaceX’s future Mars colonies, since boring underground would be the best protection against cosmic rays.
Now this is of course nowhere near Elon’s first foray into transportation, I mentioned earlier his hyper loop competition, well, he just hosted another competition in January.
27 teams entered designs, of those, 3 were picked to actually run, and of those, two won awards, one for design, and the other for speed, maxing out at 90 kilometers per hour, or 55 miles per hour.
That’s a far cry from the 900 miles per hour predicted for the hyper loop, but it’s early yet, and it’s only a one-mile stretch of track, so it’s probably not getting up to top speed.