The Boring Company

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The Boring Company
IndustryGeotechnical engineering
Subterranean product development
FoundedDecember 17, 2016; 2 years ago (2016-12-17)[1]
FounderElon Musk
Headquarters,
Key people
Steve Davis (president)
Products
ParentSpaceX[2]
Websiteboringcompany.com Edit this on Wikidata

The Boring Company (also known as TBC)[3][4] is an infrastructure and tunnel construction company founded by Elon Musk in December 2016.

Musk has cited difficulty with Los Angeles traffic and limitations with the current 2-D transportation network as inspiration for the project.[4][5] The Boring Company was initially formed in 2017 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,[6] with 6% held by SpaceX as return for the use of SpaceX resources during the initial startup of the company.[7] Outside investments during 2019 have changed the equity split.

History[edit]

Elon Musk discusses the Boring Company at TED 2017.

Elon Musk announced the existence of the Boring Company in December 2016.[8] 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.[4][9] 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.[10] The Boring Company was initially formed in 2017 as a subsidiary of SpaceX[2] before becoming an independent company in 2018.[11]

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.[12]

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.[13] At the end of April 2017, a TBM was seen at SpaceX with the company's name on the side.[14] The TBM was revealed to be named Godot in May 2017, after the Beckett play Waiting for Godot. Future TBMs will also be named after poems, plays, poets, and playwrights.[15] Musk says the first route created will run from LAX to Culver City, then to Santa Monica, and end in Westwood. Musk claims the tunnel trip will take five minutes, compared to normal driving that can take up to 45 minutes in normal traffic to go from LAX to Westwood.[16] These trips will 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 permitting application with Los Angeles government regulators to build a tunnel from Hawthorne along Interstate 405 to Westwood.[17]

In July 2017, Musk announced plans to build an underground Hyperloop connecting New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C.[18] In October 2017, the company obtained a utility permit for construction of the Maryland portion of the Baltimore–Washington tunnel from the Maryland Department of Transportation. Construction of the tunnel—some 35 miles (56 km) between Downtown Baltimore and NoMa, Washington, D C—will start near Fort Meade.[19] The October 2017 Maryland government permit for utilities indicated that construction could begin in January 2018 on two parallel 12.4-mile (20.0 km) electric-sled tunnels that would run from Maryland Route 175 to downtown Baltimore terminating near Camden Yards.[20]

The New York to Washington, D.C. Hyperloop, which Musk has claimed will take 29 minutes to travel from one city center to the other, could be built[20] in the future at the same time as the Los Angeles tunnel system announced in May. Other projects include a San Francisco to Los Angeles Hyperloop and a Texas Hyperloop, which are planned for a later stage.[21]

In July 2017, Musk uploaded a video depicting a successful test of a prototype car elevator.[22] In October, Musk revealed the second TBM is named Line-storm, named after the Robert Frost poem “A Line-Storm Song”.[23]

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

In November 2017, Musk stated that the Boring Company would respond to a Request for Quotation (RFQ) from the Chicago Infrastructure Trust and the City of Chicago to "design, build, finance, operate and maintain an express service through a public-private partnership" from O'Hare International Airport to downtown Chicago.[24][25][26] By March 2018, the company had been selected as one of two finalists in the competition.[27]

In March 2018, Elon Musk announced that the company would readjust its plan to prioritize pedestrians and cyclists over cars,[28] which would only be considered for transport after all "personalized mass transit needs" were met.[29]

In June 2018, Chicago selected Musk's company from four competing bids to provide high-speed transportation between downtown and the airport. The final contract remains to be negotiated.[30]

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.[11]

TBC provided an update on the state of their technology and product line on 18 December 2018 when they opened to the public their first 1-mile-long (1.6 km) test tunnel in Hawthorne, California.[31]

In January 2019, Musk responded 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.[32] A few days later, he stated that he had been asked by the director of 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.[33]

In May 2019, the Boring Company won a $48.7 million project to shuttle people underneath the Las Vegas Convention Center.[34]

In July 2019, the Boring Company authorized the first external investment, selling $120 million in stock to a number of venture capital firms,[35] after raising US$113 million in non-outside capital during 2018.[36]

By November 2019, Steve Davis had become the president of The Boring Company, after leading boring efforts for Musk since 2016. Davis was one of the earliest hires at SpaceX—in 2003—has twin Masters degrees in particle physics and aerospace engineering, and began work on a PhD in Economics from George Mason University while he was running the SpaceX Washington DC office. He wrote his 2010 dissertation on US currency debasement, and opened a bar that "became one of the first restaurants in Washington to accept Bitcoin."[37]

Boring machines[edit]

The first three boring machines used by the Boring Company are:[38]:51:15–54:30

  • Godot,[15] a conventional tunnel boring machine, used for research purposes.
  • Line-storm, a highly modified conventional boring machine, a hybrid design, boring 2–3 times faster than pre-2018 boring machines.[citation needed] In February 2019, Elon Musk estimated in a tweet that Line-storm would be active "in a month or so".[39]
  • Prufrock,[40] or Proof-Rock,[41] a "fully-Boring-Company-designed machine",[38]:52:03[40] under development in May 2018[38][41] and by late 2018 TBC had completed the design, ordered the long lead time parts, began to assemble the machine in 2019, and it is slated to support a 15x improvement in tunneling speed over the existing state of the art in 2017.[31]:15:18–15:45 Prufrock is named after "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T. S. Eliot.[40]

Tunnel projects and proposals[edit]

The Boring Company currently has active construction or is planning future projects, in the Los Angeles and Baltimore–Washington areas. They have also been selected to build a downtown-to-airport loop by a government program for high-speed transport in Chicago.

Los Angeles[edit]

There have been three boring tunnel projects proposed in the Los Angeles area. One test tunnel was completed in November 2018, one proposal was halted after lawsuits and opposition arose, and one was still in progress as of November 2018.

Hawthorne Test Tunnel[edit]

The Boring Company began constructing a 2-mile (3.2 km) high-speed tunnel in 2017 on a route from Hawthorne, California along Interstate 405 to Westwood,[17] adjacent to the SpaceX headquarters and manufacturing facility. In June 2018, Musk said that 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.[44] The project was opened on December 18, 2018 and this event showcased a Tesla Model X used in the tunnel.[45]

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 the conduct of engineering tests of automotive vehicles that could be driven onto "skates", engine turned off, with passenger and vehicle lowered into the tunnel spur for testing, with removal and return to the surface at the other end of the test track, near the SpaceX facility.[2] By June 2019, the company paved the tunnel roadway with asphalt, smoothed the surface, added guideway for autonomous vehicle operation, and were testing car runs through the mile-long tunnel at much higher speeds: 90 mph (140 km/h) for autonomous control and up to 116 mph (187 km/h) with human control.[46]

Westside tunnel concept[edit]

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, and was not to be utilized for public transportation but for experimentation, including 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.[38]:25:50

In the event, public opposition and lawsuits emerged, and in November 2018, TBC announced they would abandon plans to build the tunnel under the 405 freeway and Sepulveda Boulevard.[47]

Dugout Loop[edit]

A proposal to build a 3.6-mile (5.8 km) tunnel called the "Dugout Loop" was first publicly discussed in August 2018. 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 it is anticipated construction would require 14 months to complete.[48] Also in August, 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.[49]

Baltimore–Washington Loop[edit]

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.[50]

A route between the NoMa, Washington, D.C. and downtown Baltimore, following the Baltimore–Washington Parkway, was announced[by whom?] in March 2018. The proposed tunnel would use the company's "Loop" concept, carrying passengers or vehicles on electric "skates".[51]

In April 2019, a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) for the project was published by the Federal Highway Administration, a subagency of the US Department of Transportation. 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. Those maintenance terminals would be converted from TBM launch shafts after the tunnels were constructed. The main artery tunnels would be twin tunnels separated by 30 ft (9.1 m)—of approximately 35 miles (56 km) in length, each 14 feet (4.3 m) in boring diameter with a finished inner diameter of 14 ft (4.3 m). Tunnel depth to the top of the tunnel would exceed 30 ft (9.1 m), but will be deeper in some locations.[52] The proposed system appears not to meet key safety requirements such as the number of emergency exits. However, NFPA 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.[53]

Chicago[edit]

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 by March 2018.[27] The Boring Company was selected in June 2018[54] and after that was to have worked out 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.[55]

Several local politicians and civic groups criticized the proposed project as unnecessary, having environmental impacts, using unproven technology, and for a lack of transparency.[56][57][58] At a forum of mayoral candidates in January 2019, most expressed reservations about the project.[59] As of June 2019 project had not yet been approved by the Chicago mayor's office or the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.[60][61]

Las Vegas[edit]

In March 2019, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority recommended the Boring Company for a system to shuttle visitors around the LVCC, to be completed by 2021, with the potential for future expansion along the Strip and to Allegiant Stadium and McCarran International Airport.[62] In May 2019, the company won a $48.7 million project to shuttle people underneath Las Vegas.[34] In September, on-site preparations for the tunnel project were reported,[63] construction started in October.[64] Boring of the first tunnel began on November 15 and is expected to be complete by March 2020, after which the boring machine will be returned to its start point to drill the second tunnel. Maximum boring speeds are expected to reach 100 ft (30 m) per day.[65]

Other discussions[edit]

San Jose[edit]

In February 2019, San Jose 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.[66] San Jose has released two requests for information: 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."[37]

China[edit]

In August 2019, Musk announced that he will be launching The Boring Company China during a trip at the end of the month.[67]

Future goals[edit]

According to Musk, the company's goal is to enhance tunneling speed enough such that establishing a tunnel network is financially feasible.[68][9]

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[69]

Future boring operations will implement a contemporaneous operation of boring and tunnel reinforcement to reduce the cost of the tunnelling operations, in addition to the reduction of tunnel size, re-using soil materials for tunnel construction, and further technological improvements.[70]

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 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.”[71]

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: "I do think getting good at digging tunnels could be really helpful for Mars. For sure there's going to be a lot of ice mining on Mars, and mining in general to get raw materials. You can build a tremendous amount underground with the right boring technology on Mars. So I do think there is some overlap in that technology development arena."[72] "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".[73][74][75]

Marketing and promotional merchandise[edit]

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 and once those sold out in January 2018, it began offering 20,000 "flamethrowers" for preordering.[76][77] The Boring Company's "flamethrower" was a blow torch shaped to look like a gun and it is legal to use in all U.S. states except for Maryland.[78] 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".[79]

In March 2018, Musk announced on Twitter that the company would soon be launching a new type of merchandise, which he described as "lifesize LEGO-like interlocking bricks made from tunneling rock that you can use to create sculptures & buildings".[80] The bricks are to cost 10 cents each and can reportedly withstand California seismic loads.[81] Musk also tweeted that they would be turned into kits, with ancient Egypt-inspired buildings, such as "pyramids, Sphinx, temple of Horus, etc".[82] As of October 2018, the Brick Store is planned to open at 12003 Prairie Avenue, Hawthorne adjacent to the Test Tunnel's exit shaft.[83]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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