Author: Abhinav Gorantla
Hyperloop trains are considered to be the next significant innovation in transportation technology. Trains powered by magnetic levitation, capable of achieving speeds up to Mach 1. It seems too far in the future for me. The idea doesn’t feel practical in the present circumstances. But how does an underground tunnel network, that can replace conventional roads, seem?
The Boring Company is an American infrastructure and tunnel construction company founded by Elon Musk. They have recently completed digging a 2 Km long tunnel under Las Vegas. This marks the end of the first phase of a 50 million-dollar tunneling project. TBC plans to build tunnel systems in major metropolitan cities like Los Angeles, San Jose, Washington and Shanghai. This project, when completed, aims to decongest the crammed streets of major metropolitan cities across the world. But is it a step forward towards mitigating the ever-increasing traffic at the street level?
Elon Musk first announced his plans for this project during a TED talk in 2016. The Boring Company began digging by early 2017 in the parking lot of SpaceX. The company is now excavating tunnels to transport cars in several locations across the United States and China. During the trial in December 2018, the official test speed was a nauseating 205 KMPH. The car was put on metal “skates”. The vehicle was then mounted on top of a pair of rails. There was no external propulsion for the car and speed was achieved entirely from the motors in the Model X.
While this may seem to decrease street-level traffic significantly, several safety issues limit its operations. San Jose, for instance, sits on top of an active tectonic plate and has a 62% probability of an earthquake of magnitude 6.7 or higher. It also happens to be one of the locations where The Boring Company is digging its tunnels. And being launched at speeds of up to 200KMPH in a closed tube is no joke. Even a small error may result in horrifying consequences. One such incident that has occurred in recent times is the 2008 Channel Tunnel Fire. The Channel Tunnel is a railway tunnel connecting the U.K. and France. In the 18-hour ordeal that followed the disaster, 14 people suffered severe internal injuries due to smoke inhalation and were hospitalized.
Due to high maintenance costs, TBC suggests that most of these tunnels will be sold to the highest bidder on completion. A very few of these invisible architectural innovations have been earmarked for the use of pedestrian transport.
With safety precautions in place, this surely seems to be a huge leap forward in the public transport sector. With all the fuel-guzzling machines underground, the street level will be cleaner than ever. With no more traffic jams, fuel consumption will also be significantly reduced. The company plans to expand to multi-level tunnels going up to several hundred feet deep into the ground.