It’s Cool To Be Boring

No, really…what’s not to like about Elon Musk and all of his radical projects and ideas? We were all glued to the Internet to witness SpaceX not only launch a car into orbit, but also salvage 2 out of its 3 booster rockets safely.

That said, many companies are pushing the boundaries to not only innovate, but provide consumers with an alternative to everyday needs. Recently, technology has been able to provide consumers with a new layer of convenience. Whether its innovations to mobile devices, the ever-increasing popularity of voice-search, or the idea of self-driving cars, we are becoming more and more dependent on artificial intelligence. That said, when it comes to convenience, consumers want things quickly and with a friction-less experience.

20 years ago, the idea of self-driving cars seemed improbable. The only concepts we had of such technology could only been seen in flicks like Back to the Future. However, with the emergence of Uber and others alike, those ideas are quickly becoming reality. As we’ve discussed in previous lectures, shipping and freight will soon feel major disruptions to how we handle logistics. Moreover, when it comes to “people traffic”, Uber, Lyft and other ride sharing companies are making it easier for consumers to get around.

But while these companies continue to innovate and marginalize the need for drivers, the demand to see self-driving cars is increasing. That was until…well…Uber pulled the plug. Unfortunately, the company was involved in a fatal accident in which one of its autonomous vehicles struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona.  According to the Washington Post, government officials and technology firms like Uber and Nvidia have temporarily put a stop to all testing of driverless technology on public roads.

So, how can we remedy these types of incidents?

Enter Elon Musk.

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According to the International Data Corporation, smart city technology spending is expected to reach $135 billion by 2021.  Just last year, Elon Musk and The Boring Company were given the green light to construct a system of tunnels that could potentially alleviate foot traffic from major cities, as well as take more vehicles off the road. The company’s two-mile test tunnel underneath SpaceX headquarters in California has opened the doors for similar projects to pop-up across the country. The initial concept behind these tunnels was to have people drive their cars onto platforms, to then be lowered into a system of tunnels at a high rate of speed in order to efficiently get people to their destinations. That idea has since changed.

As reported by The Verge, the company has shifted its focus from loading cars onto a platform, to now loading people into what essentially looks to be high-speed train cars.

Aside from its California projects, The Boring Company has been given permission to construct tunnels in Maryland, Washington D.C., New York and Philadelphia. Now, I’m no expert, but are these tunnels really a remedy for overcapacity and mass transit?Apparently so.

But Elon and his company are not the only players in this new industry. LA-based Hyperloop One is also in the race to start digging. In July of last year, Hyperloop launched a prototype pod that reached speeds close to 200mph in their 500-meter test tube in the Nevada desert. So could this be the new Uber and Lyft of tunnel transport?

Personally, the success of these two ventures could only expedite and increase efficient travel, as well as benefit people overall. Such projects would not only make city commutes more enjoyable, but think about all the newly discovered free space for recreational activities like cycling, jogging, and whatever other outdoor hobbies people enjoy. But are people ready for AI powered systems or smart cities? These types of projects take time due to their nature – poorly mapped cities, lots of earth to dig up, and because such large projects freak people out.

Would you feel comfortable trusting a nearly 200mph transit “box” whisk you away? Are these tunnels even viable for long-term use? These are just a series of questions that are left to be answered.

As always, sound off in the comments and thank you for kikinitwithraf!

 

8 comments

  1. Great post! I think when it comes to autonomous transportation it’s going to start to first be successful with delivery. Once delivery cars and trucks are proven successful the trust will begin to build for automated vehicles for the everyday person.

    As for this underground transportation, I think complete trust of above ground transportation has to come first. There’s just something about being whisked away in an underground taxi that I feel worries people more than autonomous cars on the road. Also, you bring up a good point that the infrastructure of cities, especially Boston, will be a hindrance to the advancement of this revolutionary plan. With that being said, I have learned to never doubt Elon Musk. He refuses to lose, and he has even tied all of his compensation to his future success. I look forward to seeing how this plays out.

  2. My time on Reddit makes me want to suggest trebuchets as an alternative replacement for these transit boxes, but in all seriousness, I wonder what the costs would be. Obviously, the upfront costs would be insanely high (I’m sure a large reason why the Boston rail system has not been updated despite obvious speed deficiencies). However, I wonder what the long-term cost would be. Would tickets be the same cost as they would be for a subway? I imagine it would be more expensive. Although it may be worth the price for some (especially for a busy Wall Street financial guy where time is money), the cost could potentially be prohibitive for others. At that point, are tickets subsidized so regular people can afford them? It would seem both unethical and wasteful to build such a system if the majority of citizens couldn’t use it.

    1. I really liked your comment about the discussion of the cost. I agree that the upfront costs I’m sure would be high, and I would guess that the price for the tickets at the begging would be high as well. However, I wonder if a portion of the high ticket price to start would be put toward revamping the old systems, or even retrofitting the old rail systems in order to have two layers of these underground hyper rails. I also agree with @tullyhornebc in that the trust in autonomous vehicles has to come above ground first. But once the first is tried and trusted, maybe it will begin to domino and pay for itself eventually.

  3. I think that it is inevitable that transportation will turn autonomous, the question then arises how fast will it come? I think that the idea of loading people into a car and then lowering the car below the ground for transportation in high density cities is a good idea. It will alleviate the traffic on the sidewalks and ultimately take more cars off of the road because people will not want to wait in the long traffic if they can just get in a car underground and be taken to their destination much quicker. One question that I have is what how are they going to fit it all underneath these cities. All of these cities already have extensive subway systems, so will these new autonomous vehicles replace these subway cars, or are they planning on creating completely new tunnels?

  4. Awesome post and nice pun with the title haha. I have never heard of The Boring Company prior to this post, but these initiatives seem very promising given that the tunnels ensure a passage that only enables these high-speed train cars to travel. This prevents a potential accident with pedestrians or external factors that can play a role in AI’s abilities to detect motion surrounding the vehicle.

    As @tullyhornebc said, trust is the main key in allowing this technology to be open for human use. Although I believe this venture is a great idea, I am afraid Elon Musk has touched too many areas in these futuristic ventures such as solar power, space, autonomous cars, and now this super-speed tunnel. I just hope that Elon Musk is not spreading himself too thin, especially as the fields he has been focusing on have not been explored by others in the past. That said, there are other players in the ventures. But since Elon Musk would play a large role in defining these technologies to work, I wish we can diversify the risk by having more leaders like him to rise above the surface.

  5. I’m not sure how likely cities will adopt this technology over traditional rail and mass transit options. This benefit of traditional mass transit is how efficient they are from the city’s point of view. The capacity of a train is huge but I’m not sure if the capacity of these tunnel cars will be enough to take on the load of a city in rush hour. In addition, cities like New York and Tokyo have already invested so much money in their current transit systems that I think they may be especially reluctant to try out new technology such as the hyperloop. They Hyperloop may face some opposition for within city transportation but it may have less opposition for intercity transport. I can see Hyperloop competing with airlines and Amtrak but I have more trouble seeing it as a competitor of the MBTA and similar systems.

  6. Nice post. I think the Hyperloop is a great idea, but I wonder if the overhead costs are simply too much. It’s really expensive to dig and build tunnels, compared to the relative ease of autonomous vehicles or drones.

  7. So interesting. I have never heard of Hyperloop One before, and it is intriguing to see the progress up to successful test launch. If this high-speed tunnel transportation turns into every day reality, I can’t imagine how convenient for us to move around places. Traffic is all about speed, so Hyperloop reaching about 200mpg will definitely become everyone’s favorite. As many comments above discuss, the problem is costs and duration of implementing the entire system. Building tunnels is not a easy procedure. It requires numerous conditions, particularly environmental issues. However, once everything is cleared, I believe Hyperloop will be sensational and COOL.

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