Musk Plans Hyperloop Tunnels

The Dos Equis beer ads are dead wrong; Elon Musk and not some guy with a beard is the most interesting man in the world. Just last week, Musk unveiled yet another revolutionary transportation system proposal and dropped bomb shells about Tesla’s electric semi-truck, gigafactories and autonomous cars.

Musk revealed plans to build subways for cars to ease traffic congestion at a TED talk in Vancouver, The Verge reported. He even played a video that showed how cars can be moved through the tunnels.

“The deepest mines are much deeper than the tallest buildings are tall, so you can alleviate any arbitrary level of open congestion with a 3D tunnel network,” Musk said.

Musk’s Subway for Cars

The idea is to put cars on devices called “electric skates” that can be moved onto elevators. The elevators would take the cars into tunnels where they moved on a sort of subway for autos.

This idea sounds rather dumb, because a passenger subway would be cheaper and far more practical. It would be a lot cheaper for people to park their vehicles and take an elevator, escalator or stairs down to the subway.

Musk is apparently serious about this scheme; he’s bought a tunneling machine that’s been moved to SpaceX Headquarters in Hawthorne, California, The Verge reported. If that was not enough Musk has formed a tunneling venture he calls the Boring Company.

Ironically, Musk’s latest play toy was formerly used by the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to dig subway tunnels. Musk’s concept is that dozens of tunnels for moving cars can be dug under city streets. The idea might be attractive to urban planners because it would make for far more pedestrian-friendly cities by banishing traffic underground.

Hyperloop Subway Proposed

Musk proposed a far more practical solution for crowded cities – a Hyperloop subway system. In response to a question from TED Curator Chris Anderson Elon noted that Hyperloop tech can be used in tunnels.

Hyperloop works well underground because most tunnels are already designed to contain much more vacuum than the system needs, Musk pointed out.

It would possible to build extremely long Hyperloop subways, Musk noted. He proposed a route from Washington D.C. to New York City.

Musk is not the only one interested in underground Hyperloops, Hyperloop One has put up blog posts about the idea. Hyperloop One is working with a company that has a lot of experience in tunneling, AECOM (NYSE: ACM). The engineering, design and construction company is involved in one of the world’s most ambitious railroad tunnel projects the Crossrail tunnel under London.

Musk Admits Tunnel Plan might not work

The limitations of current tunneling technology presents a serious obstacle to the 3D tunnel network, Musk admitted. He noted that a snail moves 14 times faster than a tunnel-boring machine.

“Victory is beating the snail,” Musk quipped. The goal of the Boring Company is  to build a tunnel-boring machine that moves faster than Gary the Snail from the Sponge Bob SquarePants cartoons.

This might be done by building a machine that bores and reinforces the tunnel at the same time, Musk said. Presently, the machine only digs the tunnel while construction workers; called sandhogs, build the infrastructure. He also thinks increasing the thermal or power limits of boring machines might make them four times faster.

Musk plans Cross Country Road Trip for Autonomous Car

The next big goal for Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA) is for a car with its Auto Pilot to take a fully autonomous cross-country road trip from a parking lot in LA to a parking lot in New York, Musk said. He thinks that goal can be achieved by the end of the year.

Musk thinks that Tesla is about two years away from building a fully autonomous car. If he’s right Tesla is ahead of some of its rivals. . Ford CEO Mark Fields has said his company will market an autonomous vehicle by 2021.

Musk has Driven the Tesla Semi

Tesla apparently has a working model of its electric semi-truck. Musk said he has driven the electric big-rig but admitted he does not have a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License).

“I drove it around the parking lot,” Musk said. “I was like ‘This is crazy.’ Driving this giant truck and sort of making these mad maneuvers.”

The Tesla semi-truck will be more powerful than diesels, Musk claimed. He boasted that his semi will “out-torque” any diesel truck. That’ll be a huge selling point if Tesla starts marketing an electric pickup truck.

Musk wants to build 100 Gigafactories

Elon’s ambitions are certainly great he wants to build 100 gigafactories to get the world to replace fossil fuels with electricity.

Tesla plans to announce construction of two to four gigafactories this year, Musk said. He did not reveal where those battery plants will be but internet speculation has focused on Finland and the American Midwest.