The Boring Company

Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The Boring Company
TypePrivate
IndustryGeotechnical engineering
Subterranean product development
FoundedDecember 17, 2016; 5 years ago (2016-12-17)[1][2]
FounderElon Musk
Headquarters,
Key people
Steve Davis (president)
Products
Number of employees
<200[3] (April 2022)
Websiteboringcompany.com

The Boring Company (TBC)[4][5] is an American infrastructure and tunnel construction services company founded by Elon Musk. Its ongoing and proposed projects are designed for intra-city ("loop") transit systems.[6][7]

TBC has completed two tunnels in Las Vegas for loop travel. It has also completed one tunnel for testing loop travel in Los Angeles County. Other tunnels are in various stages of discussion and planning.

Musk cited difficulty with Los Angeles traffic, and what he sees as limitations of its two-dimensional transportation network, as his early inspiration for the project.[5][8] The Boring Company was formed as a subsidiary of SpaceX, becoming a separate and fully independent company in 2018. As of December 2018, 90% of the equity was owned by Musk,[9] with 6% held by SpaceX in return for the use of SpaceX resources during the startup of the company.[10] Outside investments during 2019 have changed the equity split.

History

Elon Musk discusses The Boring Company at TED 2017.

Elon Musk announced the existence of The Boring Company in December 2016.[11] By February 2017, the company had begun digging a 30-foot-wide (9 m), 50-foot-long (15 m), and 15-foot-deep (4.6 m) testing trench on the premises of SpaceX's offices in Hawthorne, since construction on its site would not require any permits.[5][12] When told by employees on a Friday afternoon that it would take at least two weeks to move staff cars in the parking lot and start digging the first hole with TBC tunneling machine, Musk said, "Let's get started today and see what's the biggest hole we can dig between now and Sunday afternoon, running 24 hours a day." Later that day, the cars were gone and there was a hole in the ground.[13] The Boring Company was initially formed as a subsidiary of SpaceX[14] before becoming an independent company in 2018.[15]

In an interview during a TED conference in April 2017, Musk estimated that The Boring Company project had taken 2–3% of his time, making this venture a personal hobby.[16]

In March 2017, Musk announced that sometime in April the company would start using a tunnel boring machine (TBM) to begin digging a usable tunnel at SpaceX.[17] At the end of April 2017, a TBM was seen at SpaceX with The Boring Company's name on the side.[18] The name of the TBM was revealed as Godot in May 2017, named after the Beckett play Waiting for Godot. Future TBMs will also be named after poems and plays.[19] Musk said the first route created would run from LAX to Culver City, then to Santa Monica, and end in Westwood. Musk claimed the tunnel trip will take five minutes, compared to above-ground driving which takes 45 minutes in normal traffic (from LAX to Westwood).[20] These trips were planned to be implemented by placing a car on an electric sled and traveling at 120 miles per hour (200 km/h) through tunnels. By November 2017, the company had filed a permitting application with Los Angeles government regulators to build a tunnel from Hawthorne along Interstate 405 to Westwood.[21] The project never advanced.[22]

At the same time as the Los Angeles tunnel system was announced, a different project involving a Hyperloop (a sealed tube) running underground from New York City to Washington, D.C, was announced.[23] Musk claimed it would take 29 minutes to travel from one city center to the other.[23]

In July 2017, Musk uploaded a video depicting a successful test of a prototype car elevator.[24] In October, Musk revealed the second TBM is named Line-storm, named after the Robert Frost poem “A Line-Storm Song”.[25] March 2018, Elon Musk announced that the company would readjust its plan to prioritize pedestrians and cyclists over cars;[26] cars would only be considered for transport after all other "personalized mass transit needs" were met.[27]

Elon Musk during the inauguration of the test tunnel in Hawthorne, California

In early 2018, The Boring Company was spun out from SpaceX and into a separate corporate entity. Somewhat less than 10% of equity was given to early employees, and over 90% to Elon Musk. Subsequent concerns by SpaceX shareholders resulted in a December 2018 reallocation of 6% of The Boring Company's equity to SpaceX.[15] TBC provided an update on the state of their technology and product line in December 2018 when they opened to the public their first 1-mile-long (1.6 km) test tunnel in Hawthorne, California.[28] In July 2019, The Boring Company authorized the first external investment, selling US$120 million in stock to a number of venture capital firms,[29] after raising $113 million in non-outside capital during 2018.[30]

By November 2019, Steve Davis had become the president of The Boring Company after leading company efforts for Musk since 2016. Davis was one of the earliest hires at SpaceX (in 2003) and has twin master's degrees in particle physics and aerospace engineering.[31] In November 2020, The Boring Company announced hiring for a number of positions in Austin, Texas, and by December 2020 had leased two buildings in a 14-acre (5.7 ha) industrial complex northeast of Austin, approximately 16 miles (26 km) north of where Tesla is building its Texas Gigafactory.[32]

On April 20, 2022, the company announced that they raised an additional $675 million in a Series C funding round, valuing the company at approximately $5.675 billion. The round was led by Vy Capital and Sequoia Capital, with participation from Valor Equity Partners, Founders Fund, 8VC, Craft Ventures, and DFJ Growth. Additionally, several real estate partners also joined the round, including Brookfield, Lennar, Tishman Speyer, and Dacra. The company said that the funds from this round will be used to "significantly increase hiring across engineering, operations, and production to build and scale Loop projects, including Vegas Loop and others, in addition to accelerating the research and development of Prufrock and future products."[33]

Goals

According to Musk, the company's goal is to enhance tunneling speed enough such that establishing a tunnel network is financially feasible.[34][12]

If you think of tunnels going 10, 20, 30 layers deep (or more), it is obvious that going 3D down will encompass the needs of any city’s transport of arbitrary size.

— Elon Musk[35]

The company states that future boring operations will implement a "contemporaneous operation" of boring and tunnel reinforcement to reduce the cost of the tunneling operations, in addition to the reduction of tunnel size, re-using soil materials for tunnel construction, and further technological improvements.[36]

According to Tesla, Inc. and SpaceX board member Steve Jurvetson, tunnels specifically built for electric vehicles have reduced size and complexity, and thus decreased cost. "The insight 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 in 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."[37]

Musk also hinted at the possibility that the underground infrastructure technology might be used for his project of creating a self-sustaining human colony on Mars: "And then, along the way, building underground habitats where you could get radiation shielding... you could build an entire city underground if you wanted to."[38][39][40]

Completed and in-progress tunnels

The Boring Company has completed tunnels in Los Angeles, California and Las Vegas, Nevada.

Hawthorne (Los Angeles) test tunnel

Tunnel built in Hawthorne

The Boring Company began constructing a 1.14-mile (1.83 km) high-speed tunnel in 2017 on a route in Hawthorne, California, adjacent to the SpaceX headquarters and manufacturing facility.[41] In June 2018, Musk said that the tunnel boring was complete and the tunnel final work was nearly done, would be open in a few months, and that people could try it for free, pending regulatory approval, when it first opened.[42][43] In November 2018, the company announced the entry fee of the tunnel would be $1 after free entry on day one.[citation needed] The project was opened on December 18, 2018, and this event showcased a Tesla Model X used in the tunnel.[44]

In September 2018, public information was released by the City of Hawthorne that a test spur and elevator has been proposed near the intersection of 120th Street and Hawthorne Boulevard. The elevator spur would enable engineering tests. According to planning documents submitted by The Boring Company, those tests would consist of: an automotive vehicle driven onto a "skate" above ground, the engine turned off, the vehicle (with passengers inside) lowered into the tunnel spur, moving the vehicle (possibly on the skate) through the tunnel, and then raising the vehicle on a skate to the surface at the other end of the test track, near the SpaceX facility.[14] By June 2019, the company paved the tunnel roadway with asphalt, smoothed the surface, added guide-way for autonomous vehicle operation, and were testing car runs (without a skate) through the mile-long tunnel at speeds of 90 mph (140 km/h) for autonomous control and up to 116 mph (187 km/h) with human control.[45]

Las Vegas

LVCC Loop System
Las Vegas Convention Center Loop.jpeg
Overview
LocaleLas Vegas,
United States
Transit typePersonal rapid transit/People mover
Number of lines1
Number of stations3
Daily ridership1,355 pphpd[46]
Operation
Began operation2021
Rolling stockTesla Model 3,
Tesla Model X
Technical
System length1.7 mi (2.7 km)

Convention center

In March 2019, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) recommended The Boring Company for a system to shuttle visitors in a loop underneath the sprawling Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), to be completed by 2021, with the potential for future expansion along the Las Vegas Strip and to Allegiant Stadium and McCarran International Airport.[47] In May 2019, the company won a $48.7 million project to do so.[48] In September, on-site preparations for the tunnel project were reported,[49] and construction started in October.[50] The project in the end used two Prufrock machines. The second was assembled and brought online in August 2021.[51]

Boring of the first tunnel, 4,475 feet (1,364 m) long, began on November 15 and completed 91 days later on February 14, 2020, for an average speed of 49 feet (15 m) per day.[52][53] For comparison, the Second Avenue tunnel in New York City, which was completed in 2017, averaged between 40 and 50 feet per day.[54] In May 2020, the boring of the second tunnel was completed,[55] for a total of 1.7 miles (2.7 km) of tunnels.[56]

The tunnel was unveiled in mid-April 2021 with regular Tesla Model 3 and Model X cars used for shuttling, running at about 35 miles per hour (56 km/h).[57] The service was described as "embarrassing"[58] and "lame",[59] due to comparisons with earlier promises of "electric autonomous vehicles with alignment wheels".[60]

Testing with a large number of volunteers in late May 2021 showed the system could transport 4,400 passengers per hour,[61] though the highest traffic the LVCC Loop has transported in an uncontrolled setting was reached in July 2021 at 1,355 passengers per hour.[46] The system started transporting attendees of a convention center exhibition on June 8, 2021.[62] The target for the project was to reduce a 25-minute walk to a 2-minute ride,[56] but additional data revealed in November 2021 demonstrated that the average trip time in any day has never reached below 3 minutes.[46] In January 2022, video taken during CES 2022 captured a traffic jam at the LVCC.[63]

Private tunnels to convention center

Following the completion of the two tunnel bores for the LVCC in May 2020, two Las Vegas strip hotels, Encore and Resorts World Las Vegas, applied to regulators in June to obtain permits for The Boring Company to dig private tunnels to allow direct access between each resort hotel and the LVCC.[64][65]

As of December 2020, plans for a 2-mile tunnel to Flamingo, Paris Las Vegas, the High Roller, Planet Hollywood and Bally's called the "Caesars loop"[66] were submitted

As of May 2021, the tunnel to Resorts World had broken ground, and the tunnel to Encore had been approved.[67]

As of February 2022, the tunnel surfaced in Resorts World.[68]

Resort corridor

In October 2021, the Clark County Commissioners approved a 50-year franchise agreement for the construction of a much-larger mostly-underground system in the Las Vegas area, a "15-mile dual loop system. ...operating mainly in the Resort Corridor with stations at various resorts and connections to Allegiant Stadium and the UNLV [University of Nevada, Las Vegas]."[69] The county approved the alignment for the proposed route, but separate land use permits for the 51 planned stops, and City of Las Vegas approval for the part of the system that runs underground in the city, are required. As permitting is completed, TBC planned to build out five to ten stations during the first year, and then add approximately 15 stations per year thereafter.[69] The Boring Company would be responsible for funding tunnel construction, with station costs funded by the resort properties and location owners.[70]

Longer-term plans of The Boring Company and some developers include linking the Las Vegas Strip and McCarran International Airport.[65][71]

Projects under discussion

A number of inquiries and very early discussions have been held with Boring Company and regional or municipal officials.

United States

In February 2019, San Jose, California mayor Sam Liccardo announced that he had held talks with The Boring Company regarding a link between San Jose International Airport and Diridon station, as an alternative to a traditional rail link that had been quoted at $800 million.[72] San Jose has released two requests for information: one for the airport/Diridon station route and another that "would run along the Stevens Creek corridor, a busy thoroughfare that connects downtown to Cupertino, about a dozen miles west."[31]

In February 2021, Miami, Florida mayor Francis X. Suarez revealed that Musk had proposed to dig a two-mile tunnel under the Miami River for $30 million, within a six-month timescale, compared with $1 billion over four years estimated by the local transit authority. Much of the savings would be achieved by eliminating ventilation systems and allowing electric vehicles only.[73]

Also in February 2021, the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority in California approved beginning contract negotiations with TBC to build a nearly 4-mile (6.4 km) tunnel connecting the Ontario airport with the Rancho Cucamonga Metrolink train station.[74]

In July 2021, Fort Lauderdale, Florida accepted a proposal from The Boring Company for a tunnel between downtown and the beach, to be dubbed the "Las Olas Loop".[75] Other companies had 45 days to submit competitive proposals, but the two bids submitted within the timeframe were disqualified for not meeting the requirements.[76] As of August 2021, the city is beginning final negotiations with TBC.[76] Mayor Dean Trantalis estimated the total cost of the 5-mile (8.0 km) round-trip tunnel would be between $90 and $100 million, including stations.[77]

In August 2021, a preliminary concept discussion was held with officials of Cameron County on the potential construction of a short tunnel from South Padre Island to Boca Chica Beach in South Texas. The tunnel would be short, but would pass beneath the Brownsville Ship Channel so would need to be fairly deep.[78] The ship channel is dredged to a depth of 13 m (42 ft) at high tide.[79]

Inactive and cancelled projects

Baltimore–Washington Loop

In July 2017, Musk announced plans to build a Hyperloop tunnel connecting Washington, DC and New York City. He initially stated that the project had "verbal government approval", but government officials disputed this claim and Musk later clarified that there was no formal approval.[80] A November 2020 article in The New York Times on the state of the technology said that "neither [Musk] nor his companies are working on hyperloops."[81]

In March 2018, a route between Washington, DC and downtown Baltimore, following the Baltimore–Washington Parkway, was announced[by whom?]. The proposed tunnel would use the company's "Loop" concept, carrying passengers or vehicles on electric "skates".[82]

In April 2019, a draft Environmental Assessment for the project was published by the Federal Highway Administration. The proposed system would include autonomous electric vehicles (AEVs), main artery tunnels, loop stations, ventilation shafts, four TBM launch shafts, and maintenance terminals for charging and maintenance of AEVs.[83] The proposed system appeared to not meet key safety requirements such as the number of emergency exits. However, National Fire Protection Association standards allow alternative solutions to be proposed if a risk-based assessment demonstrates that they are equivalent or superior to the stated methods, subject to specific approval.[84]

In early 2021, The Boring Company no longer listed the Hyperloop project on its website.[85] A Federal Highway Administration spokesman said that TBC has not indicated that it will further pursue the project.[85]

Chicago

In March 2018, a competition to build a high-speed link from downtown Chicago to the soon-to-be-expanded O'Hare Airport was reduced to two bidders.[86] The Boring Company was selected in June 2018[87] and was to work on a contract to be presented to the Chicago City Council. Construction was to be entirely financed by The Boring Company, which would subsequently maintain and operate the link. The system would transport passengers in automated electric cars carrying 16 passengers and their luggage through two parallel tunnels running under existing public way alignments, traveling from Block 37 to the airport in 12 minutes, at speeds reaching 125 to 150 miles per hour (200 to 240 km/h), with pods departing as often as every 30 seconds.[88]

Several local politicians and civic groups criticized the proposed project as unnecessary, having environmental impacts, using unproven technology, and for a lack of transparency.[89][90][91] At a forum of mayoral candidates in January 2019, most expressed reservations about the project.[92] In June 2021, a spokesperson for the Chicago Department of Transportation said the plan had been dropped.[22]

Los Angeles westside tunnel concept

In May 2018, The Boring Company announced an initial concept to develop a second privately funded tunnel in the Los Angeles area: a 2.7-mile-long (4.3 km) test tunnel on a north–south alignment parallel to Interstate 405 and adjacent to Sepulveda Boulevard in Los Angeles, near the junction with Interstate 10. It was to be a single-tunnel shaft on private property. It was not to be used for public transportation, but for experimentation. The goal of the experimentation included public customer feedback to help the company learn so that they could submit more complete and better information to the California environmental regulator for a long-lead-time Environmental Impact Assessment for the broader loop tunnel transportation system that might be designed for the Los Angeles area.[93]: 25:50 

Subsequently, public opposition and lawsuits emerged, and in November 2018, TBC announced they would abandon plans to build the tunnel.[94]

Los Angeles Dugout Loop

In August 2018, a proposal to build a 3.6-mile (5.8 km) tunnel called the "Dugout Loop" in Los Angeles was first publicly discussed. The tunnel would extend from a to-be-determined location on Vermont Avenue (three different possibilities were suggested in the original document) to terminate at Dodger Stadium. The project would be a public-private partnership, if approved and built, and was anticipated to require 14 months to complete.[95] Also in August 2018, the City of Los Angeles published a study and environmental checklist for the proposed project, detailing an overview of the project, alignment, construction and operational effects on the city, along with a list of the sixteen California public regulatory agencies that would oversee and permit various aspects of the project.[96] As of June 2021, the project has not advanced and has been removed from TBC's website.[22]

Australia

In January 2019, Musk responded via Twitter to a query from an Australian MP regarding a tunnel through the Blue Mountains to the west of Sydney, suggesting costs of $24 million/mi ($15 million/km) or $750 million for the 31-mile (50 km) tunnel, plus $50 million per station.[97] Tunneling experts dismissed these numbers as "totally out of the ballpark", and Transport for NSW estimated $3 billion for a road tunnel or $6 billion for combined road-rail.[98]

Europe

In January 2019, Musk stated that he had been asked by the director of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) about construction of the tunnels for its 62-mile-circumference (100 km) Future Circular Collider and that The Boring Company could save CERN several billion euros.[99]

Boring machines

The first three boring machines used by The Boring Company are:[93]: 51:15–54:30  The company acquired Godot,[19] a conventional TBM made by Canadian company Lovat,[100] which is used for research purposes. Line-storm was a highly modified conventional boring machine.[101]

Prufrock

Prufrock was designed and built by TBC[93]: 52:03 [102] and was under development by May 2018.[93][103] The company claimed it would support a 15x improvement in tunneling speed over the existing state of the art in 2017.[28]: 15:18–45  Prufrock is named after "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T. S. Eliot.[102] Its tunnels are 12 feet (3.7 m) in diameter, considerably smaller than its conventional competitors.[104]

TBC stated that Prufrock would tunnel six times faster than Godot.[105] In the event, Prufrock achieved tunneling rates of 49 ft/day, similar to conventional machines.[52] Prufrock adopts several innovations to the tunneling process, including:[106]

  • Continuous mining: tunnel walls are added without stopping the tunneling process.
  • Surface launch/porpoising: mining begins/end at the surface without constructing entry/exit pits.[107]
  • Electric power: replacing diesel reduces ventilation requirements.

Marketing and promotional merchandise

In 2018, the company began to engage in a number of marketing promotions and offered several types of promotional merchandise to consumers. To date, these have included hats, fire extinguishers, and "flamethrowers".

The company began its consumer sales by offering 50,000 hats. When the hats sold out in January 2018, it began offering 20,000 "flamethrowers" for preordering.[108][109] The Boring Company's "flamethrower" was a blow torch shaped to look like a gun and is legal to use in all U.S. states except Maryland.[110] The sale of the "flamethrower" attracted criticism, with politician Miguel Santiago seeking to introduce legislation that would ban sales of the device in California. In just a few days, all 20,000 "flamethrowers" were sold, but after customs officials said that they would not allow any items called 'flamethrowers', Elon Musk announced on Twitter that he would rename them to "Not-A-Flamethrower" and subsequently updated The Boring Company website where it also states that it is the "world's safest flamethrower". Musk also announced separate sales of The Boring Company Fire Extinguisher, which he described as "overpriced... but this one comes with a cool sticker".[111]

Student tunnel-boring competition

In 2020, a set of rules for a tunnel-boring competition were released by The Boring Company, and a student competition was held in Las Vegas, Nevada in September 2021.[112] Officially named the Not-a-Boring Competition, the challenge was to "quickly and accurately drill a tunnel that was 30 m (98 ft)-long and 30 cm (0.98 ft)-wide."[112] SpaceX had earlier sponsored a Hyperloop pod competition in 2016–2019 for student teams, and had considered building a longer vacuum tube for a potential competition in 2020,[113] but they also began exploring holding a competition for building the tunnel itself.[114]

Applications were received from 400 potential participants. A technical design review reduced the number to 12 teams. Those teams were invited to Las Vegas to demonstrate their engineering solution for increasing the speed of automated boring of a small-diameter tunnel. The winning team was TUM Boring from Technical University of Munich who managed to excavate a 22 m (72 ft) bore while meeting the requisite safety requirements. TUM Boring used a conventional pipe jacking method to build the tunnel, but employed a novel revolving pipe storage design to minimize downtime between pipe segments. The second-place team was Swissloop Tunneling who achieved a bore of 18 m (59 ft).[112]

Criticism

A number of civil engineering experts and tunneling industry veterans have questioned whether Musk can render tunnels more quickly and cheaply than competitors. A tunneling industry publication, Tunnelling Journal, has dismissed the company as a “vanity project” and inconsistent in its promised offerings.[22] The much-hyped tunnel project constructed at the convention center in Las Vegas turned out to be a single-lane underground roadway less than a mile long, driven by conventional Tesla automobiles, constructed at a total cost of $48 million. Musk's planned tunnels have also been criticized for lacking such safety features as emergency exit corridors, ventilation systems, or fire suppression. In addition, the tunnels themselves are projected to be only one lane wide, making it impossible for vehicles to pass one another in the event of collision, mechanical failure, or other traffic obstruction, and instead would shut the entire tunnel down.[115][116]

Critics have argued that the low capacity of The Boring Company's projects make them inefficient and less equitable than existing public transit solutions, with only a fraction of the capacity of a conventional rapid-transit subway.[117][118][119][120] Musk has been criticized for his comments in 2017 disparaging public transit.[121]

James Moore, director of transportation engineering at the University of Southern California, said that "there are cheaper ways to provide better transportation for large numbers of people", such as managing traffic with tolls.[120] Public transit consultant Jarrett Walker called the Boring Company "wildly hyped", and criticized how the company "dazzled city governments and investors with visions of an efficient subway where you never have to get out of your car, turns out to be a paved road tunnel."[119]

See also

References

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