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TBC – The Boring Company
Company type Private
Industry Geotechnical engineering
Subterranean product development
Construction
Construction equipment Manufacturing
FoundedJanuary 11, 2017; 7 years ago (2017-01-11)
Founder Elon Musk
Headquarters Bastrop, Texas, U.S. [1]
Key people
Steve Davis (CEO and President) [2]
Products
OwnerElon Musk
Number of employees
<200 [3] (April 2022)
Website boringcompany.com

The Boring Company (TBC) is an American infrastructure, tunnel construction services, and equipment company founded by Elon Musk. TBC was founded as a subsidiary of SpaceX in 2017, and was spun off as a separate corporation in 2018. TBC has completed one tunneling project that is open to the public, as well as multiple test tunnels.

In 2018, TBC completed one tunnel for testing in Los Angeles County, California. In 2021, TBC completed the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) Loop, which is a three-station transportation system consisting of 1.7 miles (2.7 km) of tunnels. As of April 2024, a segment to Resorts World Las Vegas is also open, and tunnels to Encore and Westgate resorts are being finalized. The system is planned to expand to a total of 68 miles (109 km) of tunnels in Las Vegas.

Many other TBC projects in cities across the United States have been announced, but subsequently were canceled or became inactive due to a lack of activity from the company. [4]

History

Elon Musk discusses the Boring Company at TED 2017.

Musk announced the idea of the Boring Company in December 2016, [5] and it was officially registered as "TBC – The Boring Company" on January 11, 2017. [6] Musk cited difficulty with Los Angeles traffic, and what he sees as limitations of its two-dimensional transportation network, as his early inspiration for the project. [7] [8] The Boring Company was formed as a SpaceX subsidiary. [9] According to Musk, the company's goal is to enhance tunneling speed enough such that establishing a tunnel network is financially feasible. [10] [11]

Elon Musk during the inauguration of the test tunnel in Hawthorne, California

In early 2018, the Boring Company was spun out from SpaceX and into a separate corporate entity. [12] Somewhat less than 10% of equity was given to early employees, and over 90% to Elon Musk. Early employees came from a variety of different backgrounds, including those from SpaceX.

The company began designing its own tunnel boring machines, and completed several tests in Hawthorne, California. The Hawthorne test tunnel opened to the public on December 18, 2018. [13]

After raising US$113 million in non-outside capital during 2018, [14] the Boring Company sold $120 million in stock to venture capital firms in July 2019. [15] By November 2019, Steve Davis had become company president after leading efforts for Musk since 2016. Davis was one of the earliest hires at SpaceX (in 2003) and has twin master's degrees in particle physics and aerospace engineering, as well as degrees in finance and mechanical engineering. [16] [17]

In November 2020, TBC announced hiring for positions in Austin, Texas, and by December 2020 had leased two buildings in a 14-acre (5.7 ha) industrial complex northeast of Austin, approximately 16 miles (26 km) north of Texas Gigafactory. [18]

On April 20, 2022, the company announced an additional $675 million Series C funding round, valuing the company at approximately $5.675 billion. [4] The round was led by Vy Capital and Sequoia Capital, [4] with participation from Valor Equity Partners, Founders Fund, 8VC, Craft Ventures, and DFJ Growth.

In 2022, the company was cited by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for five violations of Texas environmental regulations. [19]

Sometime before April 2023, the company moved their headquarters and engineering facilities to Bastrop, Texas, [1] approximately 25 miles (40 km) east of Texas Gigafactory.

Currently, tunnels connecting different parts of the Las Vegas Convention Center are open, and a tunnel to Resorts World started operating in July 2023. [20]

Machines

The boring machine in 2019

The first boring machine used by TBC was Godot, a conventional tunnel boring machine (TBM) made by Lovat. [21] [22] TBC then designed their own line of machines called Prufrock. [23] Prufrock 1 was unveiled in 2020, and was used mostly for testing. Engadget reported that the Prufrock 2, which was unveiled in August 2022, [24] could dig up to a mile per week. Prufrock 3 was planned to dig up to seven miles per day, although this was not achieved. [25] In May 2024, Prufrock 4 was nearly complete, while Prufrock 5 was in the design stage. [26]

Process

TBC claims to be redesigning the entire tunnel boring process to reduce cost, accelerate tunnel completion, improve safety, and reduce site impacts. Innovations include: [26]

Porpoising

Replace tunnel entry and exit excavations by having the TBM "porpoise" in and out of the ground. The TBM is trucked in and placed at an angle to the ground. (Prufrock 2 and 3 required an earthen ramp to set it at the correct angle before beginning to tunnel). It then bores into the ground. It changes angles as it continues boring, eventually returning to the surface and being loaded onto the truck. [26] [27]

In conventional systems, one large excavation is made at the tunnel entrance to allow the TBM to be lowered to the tunnel depth and assembled. A similar excavation is made at the tunnel exit to allow the TBM to be disassembled and lifted out. [26] [27]

Zero People In Tunnel

TBC is attempting to achieve Zero People In Tunnel (Z-PIT) by automating all the tasks performed by people in conventional systems. With Prufrock 3, most control and navigation functions are done remotely. Eventually control and navigation functions are planned to be fully automated. [26]

Liner truck

TBC moves tunnel lining segments into the tunnel via an all-electric autonomous, wheeled liner truck powered by motors and batteries from Tesla. Conventional systems typically use a diesel rail system, which must be constructed along with the tunnel lining. [26] [28]

Continuous tunneling

TBC is working to install ring liners without stopping tunneling. [26]

Conventional systems stop every five feet or so to install another segment of the tunnel lining, and to extend the rail line.

Tunnels

Hawthorne test tunnel

Tunnel built in Hawthorne

TBC built a 1.14-mile (1.83 km) high-speed tunnel in 2017 on a route in Hawthorne, California, at the SpaceX headquarters and manufacturing facility. [29] The tunnel roadway has an asphalt surface, a guide-way for autonomous vehicle operation, and supports car trips at speeds of 90 mph (140 km/h) with autonomous control and up to 116 mph (187 km/h) under human control. [30]

Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC)

Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) Loop System
Overview
LocaleWinchester, Nevada
United States
Transit typeDedicated taxi route
Number of lines1
Number of stations5
Operation
Began operation2021
Rolling stock Tesla Model 3,
Tesla Model X
Technical
System length1.7 mi (2.7 km)

Convention Center

In May 2019, the company won a $48.7 million project to shuttle visitors in a loop underneath the LVCC. [31] Boring of the first tunnel, 4,475 feet (1,364 m) long, began on November 15, 2019, and finished on February 14, 2020, excavating an average of 49 feet (15 m) per day. [32] [33] In May 2020, the boring of the second tunnel was completed, [34] for a total of 1.7 miles (2.7 km) of tunnels. [35] The tunnel opened in October 2021. [36] Standard Tesla vehicles with human drivers are used as shuttles, traveling at about 35 miles per hour (56 km/h). [37] The service was described by Las Vegas Tourism as "an important step in the development of a game-changing transportation solution in Las Vegas". [38]

Testing with volunteers in late May 2021 showed the system could transport 4,400 passengers per hour, [39] although as of November 2021, the highest announced traffic in the LVCC Loop in an uncontrolled setting was in July 2021 at 1,355 passengers per hour. [40]

The system started transporting convention attendees on June 8, 2021. [41] Designed to solve traffic congestion, the tunnel was intended to provide trips of less than two minutes, [42] but has faced a number of traffic jams during busy events in 2021 and 2022. [36] [43] [44] [45]

Private tunnels to convention center

The tunnel to Resorts World Las Vegas opened in July 2022. [46] [47]

As of April 2024, Las Vegas strip hotel Encore has a private tunnel underway to allow direct access from the hotel to LVCC. [48]

Vegas Loop

In October 2021, Clark County Commissioners approved a 50-year franchise agreement for a 52-stop, mostly-underground system, a "16-mile (26 km) dual loop system...operating mainly in the Resort Corridor with stations at various resorts and connections to Allegiant Stadium, Brightline West Las Vegas Station, and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas". [49] TBC planned to build five to ten stations during the first year, and then add approximately 16 stations per year thereafter. [49] TBC would be responsible for funding the tunnel, while station costs would be funded by the resort properties and landowners. [50]

In May 2023, TBC was given permission to build the Vegas Loop underground transportation system to 69 stations for a tunnel network of 65 miles (105 km). [51] [52] [53] It would include the existing LVCC Loop and extensions to casinos along the Strip, Harry Reid International Airport, Allegiant Stadium, downtown Las Vegas, and eventually to Los Angeles. TBC claims that once complete, the Vegas Loop would be able to transport more than 90,000 passengers per hour. [54]

In March 2024, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority board of directors voted to extend the existing tunnel, and vowed to address concerns that rose over Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) violations by TBC, which had resulted in a $100,000 fine. [55] [56]

Giga Texas

In 2024, the company began building tunnels at Tesla's Giga Texas factory using Prufrock 3. The tunnels connect various parts of the site and allow TBC to conduct iterative testing of Prufrock 3. [26] On June 9, TBC stated that Prufrock 3 had emerged inside the factory, and the tunnel was expected to be operational by July 2024. [57]

Projects under discussion

Inquiries and discussions have been held with Boring Company for various projects.

In February 2021, Miami, Florida, mayor Francis Suarez revealed that Musk had proposed to dig a two-mile tunnel under the Miami River for $30 million, within a six-month timescale, compared with $1 billion over four years estimated by the local transit authority. Much of the savings would be achieved by simplifying ventilation systems and allowing only electric vehicles. [58] As of November 2023, the city is waiting for the Miami Dade Transportation Planning Organization to complete an analysis of the project. [59]

In July 2021, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, accepted a proposal from the Boring Company for a tunnel between downtown and the beach, to be dubbed the " Las Olas Loop". [60] In August 2021, the city was beginning final negotiations with TBC, [61] and Mayor Dean Trantalis estimated the total cost of the 5-mile (8.0 km) round-trip tunnel would be between $90 and $100 million, including stations. [62] As of December 2022, the city suspended efforts to continue the project. [59]

In August 2021, a preliminary concept discussion was held with officials of Cameron County on the potential construction of a tunnel from South Padre Island to Boca Chica Beach in South Texas. If built, the tunnel would be required to pass beneath the Brownsville Ship Channel. [63] It would allow SpaceX's Boca Chica facility to remain accessible if Highway 4, its sole access road, is closed. [64]

Inactive and cancelled projects

United States

  • Washington, DC and Baltimore, Maryland – In 2017, Musk announced plans to build a Hyperloop connecting Washington, DC to Baltimore. [65] This was supplanted in 2018 by a proposal to build a route following the Baltimore–Washington Parkway. [66] The Maryland Transportation Authority officially approved the project. [67] In 2019, a draft Environmental Assessment for the project was completed. [68] As of 2021, the project was no longer listed on the company website. [69]
  • Chicago, Illinois – In 2018, the company won a competition to build a high-speed link from downtown Chicago to O'Hare Airport. [70] [71] [72] As of 2021 the plan had been dropped. [73]
  • Los Angeles, California – In 2018, TBC proposed to develop a 2.7-mile-long (4.3 km) test tunnel on a north–south alignment parallel to Interstate 405 and adjacent to Sepulveda Boulevard. [74]: 25:50  Public opposition and lawsuits led the company to abandon the idea. [75] [76] Also in 2018, the company proposed to build a 3.6-mile (5.8 km) tunnel called the "Dugout Loop" from Vermont Avenue to Dodger Stadium. As of June 2021, the project had been removed from TBC's website. [73]
  • San Jose, California – In 2019, a link between San Jose International Airport and Diridon station, was discussed as an alternative to an $800 million traditional rail link. [77] Plans were later dropped. [78]
  • San Bernardino County, California – In February 2021 the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority (SBCTA) in California approved beginning contract negotiations with TBC to build a nearly 4-mile (6.4 km) tunnel connecting the Ontario airport with the Rancho Cucamonga Metrolink/Future Brightline West train station. [79] However, TBC did not submit a proposal after a third party was involved to study the project impacts. [80] As of 2022, the SBCTA has plans to build the tunnel system using "another company more familiar with the state's bureaucracy to do the Environmental Impact Report." [81]

Australia

In January 2019, Musk responded to an Australian member of parliament regarding a tunnel through the Blue Mountains to the west of Sydney, suggesting costs of $750 million for a 31-mile (50 km) tunnel, plus $50 million per station. [82] [83]

Promotional merchandise

In 2018, the company began offering 20,000 "flamethrowers" for preordering. [84] The "flamethrower" was a blow torch shaped to look like a gun and is legal in all U.S. states except Maryland. [85] All 20,000 "flamethrowers" were sold in just a few days. [86] After customs officials said that they would not allow imports of any items called "flamethrowers", Musk announced that he would rename them to "Not-A-Flamethrower" since the devices were in fact akin to roofing torches. Musk announced separate sales of a fire extinguisher, which he described as "overpriced... but this one comes with a cool sticker". [87]

Not-a-Boring Competition student contests

In 2020, TBC released rules for a student tunnel-boring competition. The first competition was held in Las Vegas in September 2021. [88] Officially named the Not-a-Boring Competition, the challenge was to "quickly and accurately drill a tunnel that was 30 m (98 ft)-long and 30 cm (0.98 ft)-wide." [88] SpaceX had earlier sponsored a Hyperloop pod competition in 2016–2019 for student teams,[ citation needed] and had considered building a longer vacuum tube for a potential competition in 2020. [89][ failed verification]

Applications were received from 400 potential participants. A technical design review left 12 teams that were invited to Las Vegas to demonstrate their engineering solution in a September 2021 competition. The winning team was TUM Boring from Technical University of Munich who managed to excavate a 22 m (72 ft) bore while meeting the requisite safety requirements. TUM Boring used a conventional pipe jacking method to build the tunnel, but employed a novel revolving pipe storage design to minimize downtime between pipe segments. [88]

A second competition was held in April 2023. New contest criteria required a 30 m (98 ft)-long 500 mm (20 in)-diameter, this time with a turn radius. Five teams from four countries—the United States, Germany, United Kingdom, and Switzerland—made the finals and journeyed to Texas to compete. TUM Boring again won with a design that reached a maximum velocity of 7 mm/s (0.28 in/s). [1] Swissloop Tunneling finished second overall and won the innovation award. [90]

Criticism

Civil engineering experts and tunneling industry veterans questioned whether TBC could render tunnels faster and cheaper than competitors. Tunnelling Journal dismissed the company as a "vanity project". [91]

Musk's planned tunnels were criticized for lacking such safety features as emergency exit corridors, ventilation systems, or fire suppression. In addition, the single lane tunnels left it impossible for vehicles to pass one another in the event of collision, mechanical failure, or other traffic obstruction, and instead would shut down the entire tunnel section. [92] [93] The low capacity of TBC tunnels make them inefficient when compared to existing public transit solutions, with only a fraction of the capacity of a conventional rapid-transit subway. [94] [95] [96] [97]

James Moore, director of transportation engineering at the University of Southern California, said that "there are cheaper ways to provide better transportation for large numbers of people", such as managing traffic with tolls. [97] Public transit consultant Jarrett Walker called TBC "wildly hyped", and criticized how the company "dazzled city governments and investors with visions of an efficient subway where you never have to get out of your car, [but turned] out to be a paved road tunnel." [96] [98]

See also

References

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