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"Courtesy and fairness" core to Elon Musk's new emphasis on public transport for project Loop.

Posted by Luke Upton on Mar 29, 2018

Elon Musk's focus switches back to the Loop, with fresh public transport emphasis.(Pic courtesy of Elon Musk Twitter) "Will still transport cars, but only after all personalized mass transit needs are met."

After a relatively quiet few months by his standards, with his focus switching between marketing baseball caps (50,000 sold) and a flamethrower (20,000 units shipped) everyone’s favourite visionary / genius / dilettante / show-off (delete as applicable), Elon Musk, is back focussed on public transport. His Boring Company has now released further details of their ‘Loop’ a high-speed underground public transportation system. Linking Washington D.C. to Baltimore in just 15 minutes, the project will be built upon a set of parallel, twin underground tunnels running for approximately 35 miles. This, according to the team at the Boring Company would serve as the “central artery” for a larger network that would be extended to New York. Work, or at least preliminary work is underway on a network of tunnels in Los Angeles for a similar, if smaller project.

If built, the Loop, which will be 100% privately funded, will see passengers transported on autonomous electric skates traveling at 125-150 miles per hour. Electric skates will carry between 8 and 16 passengers, or a single passenger vehicle.

The initial plan for the Boring Company was to focus on opening up the tunnels to cars. But that instead public transportation will be the focus. 

"Adjusting The Boring Company plan: all tunnels & Hyperloop will prioritize pedestrians & cyclists over cars," Musk tweeted ( @elonmusk ) on March 9th,  "Will still transport cars, but only after all personalized mass transit needs are met. It’s a matter of courtesy & fairness. If someone can’t afford a car, they should go first."

Musk also posted a new concept video that shows a large, pod, loaded with people, lowering into a tunnel from a station roughly the size of a parking space before jetting off. (See picture top right). 

The pod Musk described as "I guess you could say it's a 150 mph, underground, autonomous, electric bus that automatically switches between tunnels and lifts."



Tunnelling challenges. 

Tunnelling is very expensive, with some projects reportedly costing as much as $1 billion per mile.

Musk’s team are aiming to do a number of things to lower this cost, and make a network of them feasible: 

“First, reduce the tunnel diameter. The current standard for a one-lane tunnel is approximately 28 feet. By placing vehicles on a stabilized electric skate, the diameter can be reduced to less than 14 feet. Reducing the diameter in half reduces tunneling costs by 3-4 times.

Second, increase the speed of the Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM). TBMs are super slow. A snail is effectively 14 times faster than a soft-soil TBM. Our goal is to defeat the snail in a race. Ways to increase TBM speed:

· Increase TBM power. The machine’s power output can be tripled (while coupled with the appropriate upgrades in cooling systems).

· Continuously tunnel. When building a tunnel, current soft-soil machines tunnel for 50% of the time and erect tunnel support structures the other 50%. This is inefficient. Existing technology can be modified to support continuous tunneling activity.

· Automate the TBM. While smaller diameter tunneling machines are automated, larger ones currently require multiple human operators. By automating the larger TBMs, both safety and efficiency are increased.

· Go electric. Current tunnel operations often include diesel locomotives. These can be replaced by electric vehicles.

· Tunneling R&D. In the United States, there is virtually no investment in tunneling Research and Development (and in many other forms of construction). Thus, the construction industry is one of the only sectors in our economy that has not improved its productivity in the last 50 years. “


And what of the waste? Well Elon Musk has his own answer :

Elon Musk Tweets - "Courtesy and fairness" core to Elon Musk's new emphasis on public transport for project Loop.

In typical tunneling projects, excavated dirt is shipped offsite to disposal locations. This process is costly, time-consuming, noisy, can cause traffic congestion and can event be environmentally hazardous. The Boring Company is investigating technologies that will recycle the earth into useful bricks to be used to build structures. - as detailed in Tweets this week. These bricks can potentially be used as a portion of the tunnel lining itself, which is typically built from concrete. Plus there would also be a potential environmental benefit since concrete production accounts for 4.5% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, earth bricks would reduce both eco-impact and tunneling costs.
Time will tell, and as always, we will keep a close eye on Elon Musk's latest developments.
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Topics: projects

Luke Upton

Written by Luke Upton

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