Technology 3 min read

Elon Musk is Building a Tunnel Boring Machine

SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk has suggested alleviating traffic congestion by using a tunnel boring machine underneath high-density cities.

Lookus | Shutterstock.com

Lookus | Shutterstock.com

In our world of absolute statements, none is quite as valid as “traffic sucks.” When the demand for road space exceeds supply, we all slow down, and Elon Musk just won’t have that. The Tesla and SpaceX CEO thinks that the answer lies in tunnels, so he is creating a tunnel boring machine to help make his future vision a reality.

Every year Elon Musk proposes using a tunnel boring machine to alleviate traffic congestion. Yet, this year is special, as Musk has taken his proposal a step further.

After tweeting a complaint about traffic-related frustration, Musk tweeted that he would be building a tunnel boring machine, and he even gave us a company name and slogan for his ‘boring’ new initiative. “It shall be called ‘The Boring Company,'” says Musk, and their slogan will be “Boring, it’s what we do.”

Elon Musk's proposed Boring Company slogan, 'Boring, it's what we do.'Click To Tweet

Just in case you thought this was just Musk blowing off steam, he later tweeted “I am actually going to do this.” The idea may sound a bit crazy, but it is more than just the rantings of a frustrated CEO.

Past Tunnel Boring Projects, the “Big Dig”

Some may remember the Central Artery/Tunnel Project (CA/T) megaproject in Boston, which rerouted Interstate 93 through the Thomas P. O’Neill Tunnel. It was a complicated project, beginning in 1982 and finishing construction in 2007 at the cost of $14.6 billion USD.

Not so Boring After all

Musk has been toying with the concept of an infrastructure based on tunnels for quite some time, but he started speaking more seriously about it earlier this year during a question and answer session that took place after the award ceremony for a competition to design passenger pods for the Hyperloop.

According to Musk, “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.”

“have 30 layers of tunnels and completely fix the congestion problem in high-density cities.” -Elon Musk

Digging beneath U.S. cities isn’t something to be taken lightly, but Musk’s position on Trump’s strategic policy forum may make Musk’s tunnel idea more feasible than ever.

Trump may Support a Tunnel Boring Machine

One of President-elect Donald Trump‘s promises during the election cycle was to invest in U.S. infrastructure, which is exactly what Musk’s tunnel systems would be.

Recently, technology leaders including Tim Cook of Apple, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, and Musk sat with Trump to discuss what kinds of tech-based policies should be adopted over the next four years.

It is unclear if the tunnel boring machine idea came up at that meeting, but it is clear that Elon Musk is at the administration’s table, so the potential is there for the idea to gain traction.

Such an initiative would undoubtedly create jobs for the manufacturing and operation of the boring machines.

Long ago, The Jetsons envisioned the human race traveling through suspended tubes. Sci-fi doesn’t always perfectly predict the future of technology, but perhaps the tube idea wasn’t so far off. Just imagine those tubes, big enough for your car, winding underground. Will Musk make good on his boring proposal? We’ll likely find the answer to that question in the next four years.

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Comments (3)
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  1. Christopher Miles January 21 at 10:36 pm GMT

    Throughout the 20th Century there were proposals made (and working experiments conducted) combining Maglev and Tunnel tech. http://theworksmith.com/2016/02/25/the-jet-set-hyperloop/

  2. Kevin C. Adams February 01 at 12:05 am GMT

    TBM’s have been around since the 1800’s. Glad to see Musk is going to “invent” it.

    • Alexander De Ridder February 01 at 12:17 am GMT

      Hi Kevin, you are quite right, but if current TBM are so great, then why don’t all cities leverage tunnels to a larger extent? I’m sure if Musk enters the TBM space, he will differentiate enough from existing companies to ensure a reason for existing. That differentiation will undoubtedly come through innovation.

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