SpaceX held a Hyperloop Pod Competition this weekend at their facility in Hawthorne, CA, and earlier today Elon gave the crowd a short speech talking about transportation innovation, efficiency, and his new “boring” company focused on building tunnels to alleviate traffic, showing that his recent focus on tunnels is probably related to how he sees hyperloop developing as underground, rather than overground, transport.
The main point from Elon’s speech is that he sees a necessity of transportation becoming “3D.” Since buildings are already 3D, in that you can have one building tens of stories tall, all filled with people, who often want to get there and leave at the same time (at the start and end of a business day), then it’s hard to accommodate all of those people on a 2D road network. This leads us to the idea that we need to have 3D transportation, either above-ground or underground. While elevated trains are certainly possible, Elon, in the speech, stated that “you have to go either up or down…I think probably down.”
To achieve this, Elon stated that he sees as a possibility of increasing the speed of tunneling by 5-10x, which of course would reduce associated costs and build times for infrastructure projects – including train, car and hyperloop tunnels. Elon didn’t make it clear where exactly he sees these possible improvements, but stated that it comes from a “limit of physics” approach, a mentality he’s used before in reference to gigafactory production. But Elon also states that “we have no idea what we’re doing” when it comes to building boring machines, so we’ll have to wait to see if those numbers are achievable.
You can see a little more video from the competition, including a livestream if it’s still up, here: http://www.spacex.com/hyperloop