Elon Musk Is Building Underground Tunnels To End Traffic (Video)
Elon Musk is arguably the world’s preeminent CEO and businessman when it comes to innovation. With pedigrees in space exploration, development of alternate energy sources, electric vehicles, and infrastructure design, the South African is helping to lead the charge in developing ways of living which alleviate our carbon footprint or fundamentally redesign the way in which we live our daily lives. As such, his appearance at the TED2017 conference (the theme of which was “The Future You”) in Vancouver last week was one of the highlights of the annual world-wide congregation.
In speaking with TED’s head curator, Chris Anderson, “serial entrepreneur and future-builder” Musk touched on his many simultaneous endeavors, from his plans to reinvent how Los Angelenos get around town (with his cheekily named Boring Company), to building a colony on Mars. Here are a few highlights from the 40-minute conversation:
On his plans to solve Los Angeles’ traffic problem (:32): We’re trying to dig a hole under LA, and this is to create the beginning of what will hopefully be a 3D network of tunnels to alleviate congestion. A couple of key things that are important in having a 3D tunnel network. First of all, you have to be able to integrate the entrance and exit of the tunnel seamlessly into the fabric of the city. So by having an elevator, sort of a car skate, that’s on an elevator, you can integrate the entrance and exits to the tunnel network just by using two parking spaces. And then the car gets on a skate. There’s no speed limit here, so we’re designing this to be able to operate at 200 kilometers an hour or about 130 miles per hour. So you should be able to get from, say, Westwood to LAX in six minutes — five, six minutes.
On safety concerns for self-driving cars that work while we sleep (17:06): That’s about two years [away]. I think that the autonomy system is likely to at least mitigate the crash, except in rare circumstances. The thing to appreciate about vehicle safety is this is probabilistic. I mean, there’s some chance that any time a human driver gets in a car, that they will have an accident that is their fault. It’s never zero. So really the key threshold for autonomy is how much better does autonomy need to be than a person before you can rely on it?
On how self-driving cars will change how we own our vehicles (19:02): There will be a shared autonomy fleet where you buy your car and you can choose to use that car exclusively, you could choose to have it be used only by friends and family, only by other drivers who are rated five star, you can choose to share it sometimes but not other times. That’s 100 percent what will occur. It’s just a question of when.
On electric semi-trucks and how they will reinvent the transportation industry (20:10): This is a heavy duty, long-range semi-truck. So it’s the highest weight capability and with long range. So essentially it’s meant to alleviate the heavy-duty trucking loads. And this is something which people do not today think is possible. They think the truck doesn’t have enough power or it doesn’t have enough range, and then with the Tesla Semi we want to show that no, an electric truck actually can out-torque any diesel semi. And if you had a tug-of-war competition, the Tesla Semi will tug the diesel semi uphill. So this will be a very spry truck. You can drive this around like a sports car.There’s no gears. It’s, like, single speed.
On what the standard home will look like in the future (22:17): You’ve got an electric car in the driveway. If you look in between the electric car and the house, there are actually three Powerwalls stacked up against the side of the house, and then that house roof is a solar roof. We’re very confident that the cost of the roof plus the cost of electricity — A solar glass roof will be less than the cost of a normal roof plus the cost of electricity. So in other words, this will be economically a no-brainer, we think it will look great, and it will last — We thought about having the warranty be infinity, but then people thought, well, that might sound like were just talking rubbish, but actually this is toughened glass. Well after the house has collapsed and there’s nothing there, the glass tiles will still be there.
On solar roofing technology, continued (24:58): I think eventually almost all houses will have a solar roof. The thing is to consider the time scale hereto be probably on the order of 40 or 50 years. So on average, a roof is replaced every 20 to 25 years. But you don’t start replacing all roofs immediately. But eventually, if you say were to fast-forward to say 15 years from now, it will be unusual to have a roof that does not have solar…it’s a fair statement to say that most houses in the US have enough roof area to power all the needs of the house.
On developing lithium-ion batteries in Gigafactories to make all of this technology possible (26:43): Yeah, so that’s the Gigafactory, and [each battery is] capable of producing a hundred gigawatt hours. They’re in production already.
On how many Gigafactories we will need to “no longer feel guilty about energy” (27:52): It’s about 100, roughly. It’s not 10, it’s not a thousand. Most likely a hundred…I think we’ll announce locations for somewhere between two and four Gigafactories later this year.Yeah, probably four.
Elsewhere in the conversation, Musk goes into detail about SpaceX and his plans for Mars, and more.