Not an entire waste

Jan. 2, 2019

Musk’s crazy idea comes with a real possibility

Let’s see, I’ll take the bedroom set for $2,000 and the trip to Acapulco for $4,000. Um, um, ooh, the fitness equipment for $2,500. How much time do I have left to spend the rest of my money?

Ah, the Wheel of Fortune back when you used your winnings and shopped them away right there on set. It was always fun to watch someone spend $20,000 in under two minutes.

There’s not a better feeling than a wad of cash massaging the inside of your grip before it is released into the wild . . . thrown into the wind. I will never experience what it is like to be so rich your fortune would never run dry. Billionaire Elon Musk is one of the leaders of this movement, and in late December he was throwing his dough at another target . . . the driverless underworld. In Los Angeles he offered VIPs and journalists (Elon must not have seen my hand raised in Chicago) on an amusement ride. Oh, sorry, I’m the one who finds it amusing. Musk is actually serious about his tunnel system that featured a Tesla electric vehicle with horizontal wheels, where riders were thrown about at speeds up to 60 mph.

This is not the first time Musk has put on the ringmaster hat and pointed to the “miracle of our time” and the “greatest feat on the face of the Earth.” A driverless car tunnel was in the works in Los Angeles under the 405 freeway, but was scratched as part of a settlement with neighborhood groups that sued the city of Los Angeles. Musk, however, is still pushing the idea, one where cars will line up and wait their turn for a ride on an elevator, which would take the car and the driver down to the tunnel before being launched into hyperspace. Musk claims cars can go up to 150 mph in his fantasy land.

OK, that’s enough. We need to dial it back down to reality. Musk’s hallucinogen-laced concept will never make it to the big show. First, it can only take cars one at a time. Second, currently those cars need to be the horizontal-wheel-flipping Tesla cars. Third, people who went on this test run complained the ride was bumpy and not very fast. The speed would probably be low because there is no way the federal government will let you zoom your life away. These wheels run on what appear to be concrete rails, and I would like to see the quality control that comes with these projects with different contractors doing the concrete curing. Unless, of course, Musk would have his own hired staff doing the building. I have more points, but now I’m just wasting space. Cars will take to the air before they take to the Musk.

However, there is one thing that can be salvaged from this dumpster fire of money and concrete. Musk’s boring company, cleverly named The Boring Co., is working on tunnel excavation technology that could wow everyone in the road and bridge industry. The boring machine being used for these experimental tunnels apparently places tunnel sections (dirt, rock, etc.) on the sides as the head of the machine moves forward. These days a worker has to move around with a tool to guide the boring machine in the right direction. Perhaps this new technology will eliminate the fussiness of current boring machines, which are at risk of freezing up underground. The time it takes to bore a tunnel could be cut in half, and that would be simply amazing.

I’ll take it, and I don’t care how much it costs.

About The Author: Wilson is editorial director of Roads & Bridges.