Jurvetson Adds To Boring Discussion With Talk of Short-Range EV Tunnels

2 months ago by Steven Loveday 17

American businessman and investor, Steve Jurvetson, believes that Elon Musk’s Boring Company could be a huge success, despite many critics.

Jurvetson is a brilliant American businessman and investor with a Silicon Valley focus, who’s most known for his work with Steve Jobs. He currently sits on the boards at Tesla and SpaceX. During a recent interview at TechCrunch’s Disrupt San Fransisco 2017 Conference, he spoke about the rise of machines, but more importantly, The Boring Company made its way into the conversation.

Boring

Steve Jurvetson talks Boring and short-range EV tunnels

He specifically believes in the concept of smaller, short-range EV tunnels. The investor said he actually likes the idea even more than the Hyperloop, which is surprising since most critics seem to have more faith in the reality of an above-ground system. Jurvetson said (via Teslarati):

“I personally love the idea, in fact even more than the Hyperloop idea, of digging these tunnels. The inside I think that’s so powerful is that if you only envision electric vehicles in your tunnels you don’t need to do the air handling for all carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, you know, basically pollutants for exhaust. You could have scrubbers and a variety of simpler things that make everything collapse to a smaller tunnel size, which dramatically lowers the cost … The whole concept of what you do with tunnels changes.”

Jurvetson thinks that small-scale tunnels are the best idea at first. This way, the company can figure out what’s needed and how it works before diving into larger-scale city-to-city projects. Over time, as CEO Elon Musk explained, the boring technology will improve in speed and efficiency, and meanwhile, Hyperloop development is also back on the table. Jurvetson explained his reasoning:

“In the near term, you do something incremental. Thinking about small local links, that’s very compelling. The Hyperloop concept makes more sense when you’re commuting across a longer distance … to me that [Hyperloop routes] just feels like it comes later. You probably cut your teeth on the things The Boring company has shown, which is taking normal cars through a tunnel.”


Video Description via TechCrunch on YouTube:

DFJ’s Steve Jurvetson on the Rise of the Machines | Disrupt SF 2017

DFJ’s Steve Jurvetson and Connie Loizos chat about the effects of ICOs and SoftBank on the investment landscape and the problems presented by the potential concentration of AI innovation.

Source: Teslarati

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17 responses to "Jurvetson Adds To Boring Discussion With Talk of Short-Range EV Tunnels"

  1. Jay D says:

    A tunnel just for the electrified elites would be a harder sell politically than the sexy hyperloop. Seattle already has an electric-only transit tunnel, which was one one impetus for their early use of dual mode hybrid buses. However, it’ll soon be light rail-only.

  2. Anderlan says:

    There’s only so much you can do about air in a small space, even if you only have humans breathing and circuit boards outgassing. A preoccupation of mine recently is orbital space habs, and I can say I’d much rather live on a larger cylindrical hab that maximizes the air volume. We don’t appreciate how the air circulates down from the ionized heights of the atmo, just like a lot of earth-standard life-support and comfort-support processes as we might.

    1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      The “preoccupation” here seems to be with ventilation in traffic tunnels. This very clearly is a problem which has been solved. Running multi-lane traffic tunnels for miles is something that’s already being done in many countries.

      It’s merely a matter of providing sufficient fresh air using ventilation shafts and fans. If the tunnel traffic is restricted to EVs only, that will reduce the need for ventilation, but some must still be provided for breathing air and to prevent buildup of underground gases.

      Compared to the overall high per-mile cost of digging/building traffic tunnels, the cost of providing adequate ventilation is trivial.

      1. Null says:

        Yes venting has been solved” at such a high price only when everything else has been attempted do we dig tunnels.

  3. VazzedUp says:

    He’s probably right in that during the short term, this personal transportation band aid of adding more routes between points, will speed up transport. But as we have been shown with standard roads, more roads equals more congestion.
    Hyperloop ‘trains’ whether above or below ground reduce long term congestion, sleds do not and in the mid/long term will become complex and unmanageable, where people go to sit in a tube behind thousands of others.

    1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      “…as we have been shown with standard roads, more roads equals more congestion.”

      Indeed.

      One reason I think this entire concept is galactically impractical (or even galactically stupid) is that if it was actually to be realized, the result of making it far easier and faster to get cars to and from the center of a dense city is that it would greatly increase traffic congestion in those city centers.

      Whoopee! You can now use this system to quickly transport your car to the center of a city… where it will be dumped out in the middle of a more or less permanent traffic jam.

      No, the actual result of this concept being realized would be to force a high percentage (the vast majority) of people to use some alternative form of transportation in dense city centers. And that’s why the same money would be far, far better spent on mass transit systems; systems which would actually reduce street-level motor vehicle traffic congestion, rather than add to it.

      Now, this concept might work if it was a strictly VIP system, allowing Mr. Musk and (presumably) Mr. Jurvetson other multi-millionaires to use their private, exclusive tunnels to avoid surface level traffic. But in that case, we shouldn’t be talking about using public money to build such systems, nor should we be talking about using the government’s power of eminent domain to allow such tunnels to cross private properties without negotiating for the rights to do that. If the super-rich want their private VIP access traffic tunnels, they can pay for those themselves.

      1. Mint says:

        What would happen if we shut down the highways going downtown today? They are, after all, just shooting cars into the city.

        Obviously, you’d have far more volume on side roads. Sure, some people and businesses would get fed up and move away, but most certainly not enough to reduce side road traffic below what it was originally! I’m getting flashbacks to my high-schools chemistry teacher having a poor grasp of equilibrium.

        The point is that freeways reduce side street traffic, even after accounting for freeway-enabled growth. The same will happen with tunnels. There will be underground parking complexes to reduce the need to even bring cars to the surface.

        I want public transport to succeed as well, but it will never have as much appeal as I want it to. Our culture is one of having our own space/property and being in control.

        Anyway, the biggest impact on congestion won’t be tunnels or overhead rail. It’ll be computer controlled traffic driving cars bumper to bumper in unison, effectively turning cars into modular trains.

        1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

          @Mint:

          Thank you for your thoughtful and extensive comments! I appreciate the chance to engage in a real debate on the subject.

          “What would happen if we shut down the highways going downtown today? They are, after all, just shooting cars into the city.”

          Contrariwise, some highways are bypasses, allowing traffic to travel around the congested heart of a city center, thus reducing congestion there as well as, in many cases, saving time on the part of the person taking the bypass.

          That concept doesn’t at all appear to be part of the Boring Co. concept, which seems to be all about Elon’s desire to make his commute faster. That is, to travel from a dense commercial district to (I’m guessing here) the suburb where he lives.

          “I’m getting flashbacks to my high-schools chemistry teacher having a poor grasp of equilibrium.”

          Let me give you a real world example of how building a new highway causes the exact opposite of economic equilibrium:

          In my home city, Kansas City, Kansas (more or less geographically equivalent to Wyandotte County KS), there was a popular shopping mall called Indian Springs. A year or two after my family moved to K.C., I saw a model there which advertised “A new and better way to get to Indian Springs”. The model showed a new Interstate interchange which was planned for the area; one which would put Indian Springs within just a 1-2 minutes’ drive of the Interstate system.

          Fast forward a couple of years. The result of building that interchange was not to bring more customers to Indian Springs. The result was that allowing easier access to the Interstate system caused most of the former Indian Springs shoppers to go south into more affluent Johnson County, which had bigger shopping malls. Indian Springs wound up as a dying backwater.

          My point? Easier access to dense city centers will have the effect of attracting more traffic to such areas, increasing traffic congestion there. I don’t think your comparison to equilibrium in a chemistry experiment is a good analogy. People don’t travel like atoms and molecules randomly ping-ponging off each other. People usually travel with a destination in mind.

          “The point is that freeways reduce side street traffic, even after accounting for freeway-enabled growth. The same will happen with tunnels. There will be underground parking complexes to reduce the need to even bring cars to the surface.”

          “I want public transport to succeed as well…

          Underground parking lots? Some, yes; but why in the world would someone use a Boring Co. “sled” to take their car to a city center (or a shopping mall, or any other place that attracts a lot of traffic) only to park the car there?

          It would make far more sense, and economically would cost far less per passenger, to use a similar tunnel system for a subway or even a high-speed transit system, something like Hyperloop. Taking your car along for the ride makes no sense. If you’re going to park-and-ride, then why not do that at your entrance to the Boring Co. tunnel system, rather than at your exit?

          The first Boring Co. demo video did show multi-passenger sleds, like buses, in which people could ride, instead of sitting in individual cars. But that clearly was not the focus of the concept, because a very few bus sleds were shown, mixed in with a great number of sleds carrying individual cars. And the Boring Co. concept absolutely does not show any underground parking lots. I agree that necessity would force those to be built, if anything like the Boring Co. concept becomes reality, but that’s not part of the concept. The lack of any such is one of many reasons why I say this is a galactically impractical concept.

          Economically, it would make far more sense to use a network of traffic tunnels like Hyperloop — essentially, a high-speed subway — with the focus on packing in as many passengers as possible into capsules, while allowing for a few street-legal cars to be carried as freight. That way, the VIPs can have their cars carried along… at an appropriately high expense. No reason they couldn’t ride in them, if they really want to, just like the Boring Co. concept shows. (Heaven forbid that they should have to rub shoulders with the unwashed masses!)

          But carrying street-legal cars shouldn’t be the focus of any transportation system so expensive to build.

          “Anyway, the biggest impact on congestion won’t be tunnels or overhead rail. It’ll be computer controlled traffic driving cars bumper to bumper in unison, effectively turning cars into modular trains.”

          I completely agree that once most or all self-driving cars are fully autonomous, then they will interact in such a fashion as to greatly facilitate traffic flow and largely eliminate traffic jams. That will be accomlished either by them wirelessly interacting with themselves, or as you appear to be suggesting, interacting with and controlled by some sort of centralized (but networked) traffic control computer system.

  4. Kdawg says:

    Before anyone goes into attack-mode, know that I know that EVs are much safer than gassers, but what if, IF, and EV catches fire in one of these tunnels? Don’t you still need some kind of air ventilation system for emergency situations?

    Could an argument be made that these emergency systems are cheaper than traditional systems? I just don’t see them going away completely.

    1. wavelet says:

      Getting rid of ICE exhaust gases is one thing, but AFAIK, there are significant other issues where the drivetrain type doesn’t matter:
      1) Cargo can catch fire and/or release dangerous fumes, if it’s hazardous. Some tunnels don’t allow vehicles carrying such materials, but if they do, it needs to be considered;
      2) For any non-trivial tunnel, there needs to be a way to evacuate people in case of a serious blockage in the tunnel itself or other emergency — that means a serious network of passages for people.
      3) Any network as in (2) could also be used to clear the air, iwth the addition of fans.

    2. Vexar says:

      I think that’s a fair argument to not have folks driving these tunnels, but using line-powered skates. Sure, there will be some discharge to keep the 12v going, but not as much.

    3. DJ says:

      You mean like what happened in the Chunnel?

      These tunnels are such a boondoggle it’s ridiculous. Obviously if you build a tunnel from point A to point B travel between the two will be quicker. That’s where the truth stops though. They’ll be ridiculously expensive, more dangerous than driving on the surface, prone to earthquake damage, and oh expensive as can be.

      Tunnels here and there can make sense (like the Chunnel or under mountains for example) but there won’t ever be a network of swiss cheese roads beneath us.

      And as others have pointed out as soon as you alleviate the congestion it’ll just get worse because more people will move in or get jobs in the area.

      1. Mint says:

        If more people move in and get jobs, how is that not progress?

        I don’t get why people are comparing apples to oranges. For a given downtown population, more routes reduces avg travel time. Don’t compare a city with 3M people to a time it had 1M.

        Even in this hypothetical situation where you have more congestion after tunnels are built, what would happen if the tunnels were shut down? Traffic would get even worse. Therefore it’s clear that they reduce traffic, not increase it.

  5. Francis L says:

    We have a tunnel here in Montreal built 100 years ago, and we now need to secure it with emergency exists which will cost millions. I dont see how this would not be a problem for Tesla, and I dont see how an electric car would make a tunnel that much cheaper. An electric car can still catch in fire…

    1. ItsNotAboutTheMoney says:

      Any car could catch on fire, but in that case it’s 1 car and evacuation, not everyday operation.

  6. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

    Mr. Jurvetson’s support for this galactically impractical super-rich man’s fantasy is anecdotal evidence that madness is contagious. 😉

    “Jurvetson thinks that small-scale tunnels are the best idea at first. This way, the company can figure out what’s needed and how it works before diving into larger-scale city-to-city projects.”

    Let us please remember that Musk’s original Hyperloop Alpha white paper envisioned using steel tubes elevated on pylons, not tunnels, because building something similar to an elevated railway is far, far cheaper per mile — and thus far more practical — than digging traffic or subway tunnels. Even if Musk is successful in dramatically reducing the cost of tunneling — and that’s a big “if” — I believe that will continue to be the case.

    1. ItsNotAboutTheMoney says:

      Hyperloop’s idea is for inter-city travel. Hyperloop elevation was to enable it to be above current Interstates, eliminating the problem of land appropriation for large parts of the journey.

      Once you get to higher density areas land appropriation becomes a _really_ big problem
      Cheap tunnels would help subvent that problem.

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