The Boring Company FAQ

4 weeks ago by Steven Loveday 52

The Boring Company

The Boring Company: Heading down below in a Tesla Model S!

Everything you wanted to know about The Boring Company, even if you didn’t ask.

Obviously, with such an innovative idea, and now growing evidence that it may actually come to be (at least in some capacity) there is a plethora of questions out there.

The Boring Company put together a FAQ page to fill us in on the details (watch video demo below as well). We have included some of the questions on the FAQ page, and some of our own follow up questions below, in order to summarize and clarify.

First and foremost, although the site doesn’t list it first:

The Boring Company

Gary the pet snail can dig 14 times faster than current, traditional boring machines.

Why hasn’t this been done before?

The answer to this one is simple. It’s just too expensive. We’re talking about upwards of $1 billion per mile.

So, what’s the difference now?

If The Boring Company – or any other company –  can reduce costs by a factor of 10 or greater, tunneling makes financial sense.

How do we reduce the costs?

With the “sled” concept, a much smaller tunnel is needed, which costs three to four times less to bore, and takes less time, saving even more money. Added to this, if the boring machine can bore faster, the savings begin to be exponential.

What is an electric sled?

A flatbed on wheels powered by an electric motor. It allows for a smaller tunnel diameter than would be needed for a car that is being driven. It means safer travel, and higher speeds. The sled can also handle a variety of payloads and applications, and can be transferred to a vacuum-based hyperloop system which can travel over 600 mph.

How can a boring machine be made to bore faster?

Ask Gary the pet snail …

Actually, continuous tunneling – rather than intermittent tunneling – is a big step. Electrification and automation are the other key components. Power can be tripled, and safety and efficiency are increased.

What about earthquakes?

Apparently, earthquakes impact tunnels less than above-ground infrastructure. The Boring Company even provides some past examples during which an earthquake didn’t destroy subways. Subway systems have been used in the past as one of few modes of safe transport following an earthquake.

Why not flying cars?

Flying cars are up against weather and create more noise. They may also cause anxiety to those below. Tunnels are weatherproof and silent. Traffic control is also a substantial consideration when it comes to flying cars. Surely this is only the tip of the iceberg on this one.

Where does all the dirt go?

Currently, dirt and debris is transported to offsite locations for disposal. This is another major expense, and it takes time. The means used to transport it can also be noisy, cause more traffic, and create further emissions.

What does The Boring Company plan to do with all this dirt?

SpaceX intends to dump it on Mars …

No. In reality, the company plans to recycle the dirt, by finding constructive uses for it. The hope is to make it into earth bricks (not unlike those used to build Pyramids and other ancient structures). This could potentially replace concrete for use in the tunnel lining. It could also be used to build Trump’s border wall (wasn’t the Great Wall of China partially built with earth bricks?).

Did this answer all of your questions? Let’s get our own list of questions together for The Boring Company. Send us your questions in the comment section.

Source: The Boring Company

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52 responses to "The Boring Company FAQ"

  1. Koenigsegg says:

    LOL

    Gotta love Elon

    1. SJC says:

      We don’t HAVE to, if he keeps coming up with half baked ideas he loses credibility.

      1. Windbourne says:

        what half-baked idea has he come up which is a loser?

        1. SJC says:

          I don’t know about “loser” I never said that. This idea has not been fully thought through IMO. Credibility is what could be lost.

  2. Dan says:

    Elon is clearly spending too much time bored into auto-dominated LA to see where the world is actually heading.

    Cities like Beijing and Shanghai each have 500km of tunnels each carrying 3billion public transit trips per year. Forget matching China, if US west coast cities could even match what the east coast cities like New York or European cities like London spend on public transit, there would be no need for boring companies.

    A combination of public transit and autonomous ride share systems is the future of the world. File Boring co. under eccentric billionaire pet projects.

    1. Fugee says:

      Have to agree. Only in the US, people would think this is a good idea. Concepts like CargoCab make much more sense than this.

    2. Windbourne says:

      Actually, due to the great earthquake, we found out that CHina has more than 3000 (possibly all the way up to 9000) miles of underground tunneling. It is known that at all the spots that we could see that it was at least 6 lanes wide.
      In addition, it appears to have missile carriers in there. Of course, once china admitted to having the tunnels, they claim that the hidden missle carriers are just for regular missiles.
      The fact that over a 1000 ppl with nuke bunny suits came pouring out of the south side of Three Gorges Reservoir did not mean anything.
      And the fact that the tunnel connected to that nuclear site als means nothing.
      According to CHina anyways.

    3. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      Well said.

      The recent episode of PBS’s “Nova”, entitled “Super Tunnel”, was a very interesting documentary on using a giant boring machine to dig a new tunnel for London’s “Underground” (subway) system, and how engineers are handling all the problems with that.

      That project is, of course, an expansion of a high passenger density mass transit system. Spending billions of dollars on that makes economic sense. Elon’s very low passenger density “Boring Company” concept makes no economic sense at all.

      But I’m fairly sure Elon is not actually serious about it. It amazes me that several people posting here think he’s actually serious!

      We need an “I GOT PUNKED BY ELON” T-shirt to give these people! 😀

      http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/tech/super-tunnel.html

      1. Jim Whitehead says:

        Short Answer: Boring will be a necessary half-step or mislead, to setting up a cheaper Hyperloop system. See below.

        I think it quite likely that this is a “Half-step” to take politicians with little imagination, to Musk’s promised land of a Hyperloop system that should cost way less above ground. (Giant Plexiglas tubes, extruded in large quantity in special molds, are going to be cheap). IF (and only IF) the political system grants the necessary approvals.

        SCENARIO: Step 1. The ridiculous CA rail system can’t be extended at almost a billion dollars a mile. Politicians scramble. Step 2: They study this underground idea but find it will take over 10 years to build at about half the ridiculous cost. So its half ridiculous. Step 3. Hyperloop One or another company rides into rescue them at 10 Million a mile or less for the tubing, provided that the politicians grant airspace rights and use EMINENT DOMAIN to cross corners and edges of private land. As its likely to be at over pass heights (about 10 to 12′) it still going to be WAY CHEAPER to buy air rights than land. Cattle and cars into private property can pass underneath. In rare cases, the BORING COMPANY can be used to tunnel into the sides of smaller hills to keep the Hyperloop tube on a straight track.

  3. agzand says:

    I think he needs a new excuse to collect the next few billions from investors. Anyone with little experience in this industry knows this is complete BS. The sled concept is not new. It is called train, and it was invented in 19th century, and it is being used in every country in the world, and it is being used to carry cars (the Channel Tunnel, anyone?)

    1. MikeG says:

      The tunneling cost-reduction by 10X is a joke–deep bore tunneling is a high-risk activity. You spend millions to monitor ground subsidence unless there are no structures above where you are tunnelling, in which case, why not build on the surface?
      In Seattle, we just completed a 1.7 mile deep bore tunnel two years late after the TBM broke down, requiring a launch pit to be dug to repair the machine.

      Tunneling is easy.

      1. MikeG says:

        My sarcasm tag (waves hand) was cut from my reply.

        1. agzand says:

          Exactly! Tunneling is done in an uncontrolled environment. You don’t know what is laying 2 ft ahead until you get there. There could be a fault, expansive ground, underground stream, asbestos, methane and so many other hazards. Sending a rocket to space is easy in comparison.

      2. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        Somebody certainly does need to invent, or figure out how to make, a giant boring machine with a cutting head which can be removed in sections from the inside, to eliminate the problem of repairing a damaged or worn cutting head without having to dig down to where the machine stopped. If Elon wants something practical to work on, that would be one goal.

        Another goal would be to figure out how to stabilize ground which isn’t stable enough to support a large tunnel, and how to do that in an economical fashion. (I’m envisioning a drilling technique similar to fracking, which would squirts hydraulic cement into holes deep in the ground to stabilize it. But I have no idea if that would be practical.)

        Those would be some practical things that “The Boring Company” could work on… if Elon actually wanted to do something practical with this new hobby of his.

        1. Dan says:

          That’s how it’s done today. Tunnel boring is preceded by months of soil testing to figure out what speed and what kind of bits to use. They usually squirt a slurry of concrete when they encounter more water logged soil than they had planned to make sure that all the spaces in the soil are filled up. If they get caught by surprise and don’t slow down, you end up with sinkholes and buildings with damaged foundations. Tunneling is painstaking work.

        2. unlucky says:

          The cutting head doesn’t actually do cutting. The cutting is done by (relatively) small discs (like a disc harrow) that are attached to the head. Those wear down and are replaced. So the issue you are imagining is already thought of and solved.

          The thing you speak of with injecting slurry is also already used when the ground is too unstable.

          There have been a lot of problems solved, the issue is there are a lot of problems that can occur. And it’s unclear that tunneling will ever be predictable. The materials and situations down there just vary too much.

    2. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      I think he needs a new excuse to collect the next few billions from investors.

      Do let us know if Elon ever starts inviting investors to throw money at this whimsical idea of his. Unless and until that happens, I’ll continue to presume it’s somewhere between a joke and a hobby.

  4. David Murray says:

    Will a tunnel be able to support more than one vehicle moving in it at a time? For example, the tunnel is several miles long, will there be many cars all moving in the same direction?

    Also, will there be more than one tunnel per route so that you can have vehicles moving in the opposite direction as well?

    If so.. how will the sleds be recycled for use again once they get to the end?

    1. Roy_H says:

      Yes, the concept is to build a pair of tunnels for traffic in each direction.

    2. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      “…how will the sleds be recycled for use again once they get to the end?”

      The video shows the sled rising to a surface street, the car which was being carried then driving off, and another car on the street already waiting to drive onto the sled as soon as it’s vacated. The sled and its new car could be routed into a different tunnel for the return trip, if that’s the intended destination.

      There are quite a few ways in which this appears to be a fantasy, and not a real attempt at a practical plan. Here are a couple:

      1. No provision for parking extra sleds at various points in the system, to create a buffer to allow local fluctuations in the demand for sleds.

      2. Elevators which carry individual cars up and down from individual parking places on existing city streets, which would require an enormous number of individual elevators, and also reduce the number of parking places in the city. (Others have pointed out that these elevators also are not shown to have any sort of safety bars or walls to prevent cars or pedestrians from falling into the elevator shafts, altho arguably those barriers are not shown simply to make the operation visible.)

      Problem #2 could be solved by installing entrances and exits at parking garages, where cars could drive down to, or up from, the tunnel level, rather than having to use elevators to enter and exit the system.

      Please note I didn’t say that would make the idea practical; merely slightly less awesomely impractical!

  5. SJC says:

    I don’t see the car elevator coming down when the other sleds are going 120 mph. At the end you have to park them or take them to the surface, traffic jams.

    1. Roy_H says:

      Watch the video.

      1. Mark.ca says:

        So many legit questions, SJC found the only question that had already been answered.

        1. SJC says:

          They did not answer how they are merging with ground traffic, they are suppose to create a special lane for this, not going to happen.
          If you don’t merge, you have to park, cars with exhaust pollute the air down there.

      2. SJC says:

        The video shows an elevator every 40 feet, you have to queue to take off from 0-120 mph which is more than a quarter mile, then you have people getting off, they did not add up jam time.

        1. Mark.ca says:

          Dude, what is wrong with you?! The vid is very simple to understand. All is automatized so you won’t do no merging, no accelerating or breaking, the system will de these for you at high speed…computers can actually make these computations in split second. This is probably the easiest problem to solve. What exhaust? Do you not see a Tesla on the lift?

          1. SJC says:

            The video shows merging, you have to have margin distance at speed. You also have to get off the main rail onto a side rail.
            Dude, it seems like you drank the cool aid.

  6. Four Electrics says:

    The FAQ presents a false choice: it is not tunnels vs. flying cars, it is tunnels vs. self driving cars on existing streets.

    When most cars are autonomous, stop signs, onramp metering, and street lights will be obsolete. By indicating your intent in advance, you’ll even be able to take left hand turns in traffic without stopping: opposing cars will make a precisely timed hole for you, automatically. Similarly, highway ingress, lane changes and egress will be negotiated at high speed.

    Once driving, a car *will not stop even once* until it reaches its destination. Highway speeds will be in excess of 100 mph, as cars will be built for high performance cruising. All in a much more scenic, flexible, and safer environment than a tunnel.

    Musk lacks vision here.

    1. Doggydogworld says:

      But robotaxis will be so cheap usage will go up 5x, bringing congestion back.

    2. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      Four Electrics wrote:

      “Musk lacks vision here.”

      LOL! I see Elon isn’t the only one trying to punk us. 😀

  7. SJC says:

    Once you run queuing theory on this with ONE lane people getting on a off, accelerating and decelerating you end up with much less than 120 mph. You also end up with cars waiting on elevators for their time slots.

  8. Four Electrics says:

    I wonder how many toddlers and bicyclists will fall down those elevator shafts–or else get pinned by the retractable cover.

    1. Mark.ca says:

      Yeah, that is the biggest problem…not! How about a rail that raises around the lift area right before going down?

  9. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

    “…growing evidence that it may actually come to be (at least in some capacity)”

    Wut?

    The live-action video shot to promote this concept was shot inside the Hyperloop test tube… not any tunnel dug by “The Boring Company”!

    The only “evidence” I see here is that (1) Elon has money to throw it away on his hobby of promoting a fantastically impractical dream, and (2) some people are easily fooled!

    “Did this answer all of your questions?”

    No. I want to know how any educated person could confuse Elon’s half-joke, half whimsical idea, with something he’s serious about. He labeled this concept “The Boring Company”. That should have been enough of a clue. Does he need to put up a sign spelling out “J-O-K-E” to make it more clear??

    1. unlucky says:

      He would have to do something like that to make it more clear to me. Maybe it’s a joke, but I can’t tell for sure.

      Personally, I’m skeptical going into this business is a good idea. It might actually be practical but I just don’t see the point of building a TBM versus just buying one. Even if you have improvements to make work with an existing TBM company to improve theirs and take a cut of the money.

      1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        One of my first posts about this concept — a comment to a previous article on this subject here at InsideEVs — asserted that Elon (or his engineers) needed to invent a tunnel boring machine which would install the tunnel liner as it inched forward, rather than requiring workers to do that as a separate installation behind the boring machine.

        But the “Super Tunnel” documentary on PBS’s “Nova” shows their boring machine doing exactly that! So this tech is more advanced than I realized.

        More improvements still need to be made, to prevent the machines from getting stuck for long periods of time, and to allow tunnels to be constructed anywhere, including places where the ground is soft or sandy. And also, as Elon said, to increase the tunneling speed, altho simply using multiple machines along a given route would accomplish the same purpose.

        1. unlucky says:

          The liner cannot be installed within the machine, because the machine has a liner. The installation must be done behind the liner. And that’s where it is already done. The equipment to install the liner is integrated into the machine, that is equipment which moves the liner segments to the cutting end of the tunnel, the equipment to lift and place the segments. Humans are involved to secure them.

          The machine even records how it is steered during drilling (to adjust direction) and indicates that slightly varying liner pieces must be installed on the left, right top or bottom because the tunnel is turning away or toward that direction.

          While you know now that you were suggesting something that already existed (over a decade ago, I linked to a video of it from 2006) you were reinventing the wheel. And you’ve now suggested three other things (grouting, in situ replaceable cutting elements, using multiple TBMs) that already exist. There’s nothing terribly shameful but you have to understand that to a person who knows this stuff already exists it looks rather odd when you or Musk suggest how you’re going to improve TBMs when it’s clear you don’t even know what they do already!

          It’s unclear what Musk has to contribute here. And I don’t see why starting from ground zero is a win. If he wants to improve the situation I think he’d do well to look at what’s already been done and patent improvements which he then can license to existing TBM makers.

          Additionally, I don’t really get it, are you now suggesting he is serious? Or are you just working both sides of the street on this?

          If it’s a joke it’s a joke and any kind of unnecessary reinvention or seeming lack of understanding of the current state of the art is very understandable. If it’s not a joke it’s a different matter. But which is it?

    2. ItsNotAboutTheMoney says:

      I would remind you that Tesla has cars with Insane and Ludicrous modes and that SpaceX’s drone ships have strange names after strange names in science fiction novels.

      The name says nothing about how serious he is. What suggests that he is serious about _trying_ is that he has said, _repeatedly_, for years that he’s a fan of tunnels and that tunnels could help relieve congestion.

      But it all starts with trying to build cheap tunnels so that the economics allow for more tunnels. Like SpaceX, but underground.

    3. Priusmaniac says:

      If I remember well, the last time he did a “JOKE” was when he said he would send a satellite in orbit and then bring back down the rocket to launch another one.

  10. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

    My sarcasm tag (waves hand) was cut from my reply.”

    You can’t use actual HTML brackets in posts here. If you do, the software ‘bot will “eat” them and anything inside.

    If you want a fake tag in your post to actually be seen by the reader, then use / or [ brackets, but not < brackets.

  11. Alan Drake says:

    This convinced me that Elon Musk is a scam artist who sells flash auto raise billions and will never make a profit.

    I have been involved with major projects (54 km of 6 & 7 m diameter tunnels) built using TBMs (tunnel boring machines). TBMs have their own “Moore’s Law”. Inflation adjusted costs for TBM drives drop by 3% compounded per year. Elon knows NOTHING about tunneling – The Boring Company is just the next step in a Ponzi scheme to raise more capital.

    1. Mark.ca says:

      Skeptics have been saying the same thing over and over about all his businesses. Maybe running a profit is not his real goal. This tunneling biz seems a bit crazy but not as crazy as SpaceX seemed when it first started.

    2. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      “The Boring Company is just the next step in a Ponzi scheme to raise more capital.”

      Don’t you think it would be prudent to wait until Elon actually starts inviting investment money, before complaining?

      If I’m right about this being just a very rich man’s hobby, then he’s never going to ask for investors.

  12. AlphaEdge says:

    Considering the money he spent so far, it’s certainly no joke.

    Some of the objections here are just laughable.

    1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      AlphaEdge said:

      “Considering the money he spent so far, it’s certainly no joke.”

      You apparently have no idea the lengths (and expense) that some people — especially the very rich — sometimes go to create a hoax or indulge a hobby.

      For example, a 1910 hoax was arguably the best practical joke of all time, and apparently inspired at least one or two later imitators. It was pulled off by the British “King of Pranksters,” Horace de Vere Cole, and is described as follows:

      He staged the “Pulling Up Piccadilly” prank (as he called it)… He and a group of accomplices dressed up as workmen, walked over to London’s Piccadilly Street, and started digging a hole in the middle of it. They asked a policeman to direct traffic around them as they worked, and the policeman, thinking they were real workers, did as requested. After half an hour of work, they all dropped their tools and retired to the nearby Ritz Hotel to watch the mayhem they had created.

      Every time I read of Elon using a tunnel boring machine on his SpaceX property just because he had a permit to dig there, I can’t help but think of this prank. Perhaps Elon just wanted to one-up Mr. Cole!

      http://hoaxes.org/weblog/comments/the_pulling_up_piccadilly_prank

      1. AlphaEdge says:

        Right, cause spending millions on a huge boring machine is equivalent to hiring a few men with shovels.

  13. fpk says:

    The idea of using the excarvated rock for construction is not new. It was already done at the gotthard base tunnel.

    1. unlucky says:

      In general the Swiss already know a ton of tricks on this front, one would do better to look at what they’ve done than try to redevelop it blind.

      If think you’ve thought of something new and haven’t checked in with Swiss digging companies to see if they’ve already done it already you probably should investigate before crowing about what you’ve come up with.

  14. SJC says:

    Some posting online have sighted traffic jams when tunnels reach the surface. You could eliminate the jams by parking underground, but parking means electric, no tailpipes.

  15. Priusmaniac says:

    The system of tunnels can be interesting but the sleds should be replaced by the Tesla cars driving themselves in a special fast automated mode. That would still be good for 100 mph and with super fast very accurate insertions. The sleds are an inconvenience rather than an added value. An adapted form of autopilot can do the same thing. Of course only electric vehicles would be allowed and in the beginning even only Tesla vehicles but afterwards all compatible electric vehicles could use it if they can go 100 mph and have the specific autopilot system.
    I would also ditch the lifts since electric vehicles have much more traction they can take steep slopes to get in and out of the tunnel system. That’s an extra simplification and a big economy.

  16. Priusmaniac says:

    On a side note. There are interesting new technological possibilities to potentially make tunnels.

    Here is one I find very interesting:
    http://www.gadrilling.com/technology/

  17. SJC says:

    There are SO many better ways of reducing traffic congestion that cost SO much less…

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