Thursday, May 4, 2017

Being Boring

One of the projects Elon Musk has been updating us with snippets of news over the last few months is The Boring Company. This is Elon Musks plan to build a network of tunnels under Los Angeles (and presumably other cities in the future) to help alleviate traffic congestion on the surface.

A few days ago the first details of how the tunnels will operate were revealed in a short video.
Cars will drive into a skate at ground level, this is like a cradle the car will sit in, which will then descend via an elevator into the ground, when it gets down to the tunnel level, the skate will then automatically carry the car and it's occupants to their chosen destination.

The first thing that crossed my mind when seeing this concept, is what is the need for the skates? This concept seems unnecessarily complicated and very unlike something Tesla would produce. How many skates would there need to be for a city the size of Los Angeles to make a meaningful difference to traffic congestion? How many elevators would there need to be and how fast would they have to be? When a car takes a skate, will there be another one waiting to pop up out of the ground for the next car waiting to use the tunnel? How much maintenance will the skates and elevators need? What about vehicles too big for the skate? What's to stop something else, a person, dog, cat etc. accidentally falling in the hole in the ground when it opens for the elevator? 

Why not have the cars drive themselves in the tunnels? I envisage the Tesla Autopilot software programmed so it would automatically switch on and override the manual car controls as soon as the vehicle entered the tunnel. It would then drive the car and passengers to the tunnel exit closest to the destination. With no human driven vehicles or other obstacles like pedestrians and cyclists to worry about down there, there would be zero chance of any collisions or anyone taking the wrong tunnel. The Autopilot software would also take note of the available battery range of the vehicle and make sure it exited the tunnels with enough capacity to get to a charging point. If the vehicle doesn't ahve enough battery charge to get to the nearest exit then it won't be allowed to enter the tunnel.

If vehicles were driving into the tunnels instead of using an elevator, far more vehicles would be able to enter the tunnel system, in a far simpler and quicker method than using elevators. There would be no problem with exhaust fumes as obviously all Tesla's are zero emission vehicles. 

Maybe the reason for the skates is because Musk wants the tunnels to be available to all road users, regardless of car make and propulsion system. If that is the case then the skate system would make sense. If it would just be for electric vehicles then I don't see why all manufacturers couldn't have a tunnel mode on their self-driving systems to allow their cars to also autonomously drive the tunnels?

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