Tuesday night in Los Angeles, Musk unveiled the very first tunnel in what he hopes will become a network of underground highways. The first tunnel runs between the headquarters of Musk’s SpaceX company and a parking lot behind a shuttered business a little over a mile away. It’s only for testing purposes and won’t be used by the public.
Musk knew nothing about building tunnels when he started this venture. Just as he did with Tesla and SpaceX, he figures to build his expertise as he goes, then find ways to crush the costs down.
While modern subway tunnels in Los Angeles cost around $900 million per mile, he says he built his for about $10 million. One way he saved money: he literally made it dirt-cheap.
“When digging tunnels…it’s quite expensive to have all this dirt trucked off somewhere. And we’re like, well, why don’t we try to use that dirt for something useful? So we are creating bricks on-site…and you can pick ’em up for, they’re very cheap; 10 cents a brick,” he said.
There’s also great savings in owning the entire process, rather than bringing in layers of third party contractors and specialized labor, all of which significantly pumps up the price of any large project.
As to how the whole tunnel thing will work:
At first glance, the tunnel is a bit daunting. At only 12 feet in diameter, it’s much more claustrophobic than most transportation tunnels. According to Musk, cars will be able to travel up to 150 mph in the tunnel but must be on autopilot.
A bit of genius here. Only properly outfitted cars will be allowed in these tunnels. Someone who can build such cars efficiently can make a lot of money. To me, that’s incredible vision on Musk’s part.
Read the article, watch the video embedded below. Both are fascinating.