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  • Chris Anderson: Elon, hey, welcome back to

  • TED.

  • It's great to have you here.

  • 0:15 Elon Musk: Thanks for having me. CA: So, in the next half hour or so, we're

  • going to spend some time exploring your vision for what an exciting future might look like,

  • which I guess makes the first question a little ironic: Why are you boring?

  • EM: Yeah.

  • I ask myself that frequently.

  • We're trying to dig a hole under LA, and this is to create the beginning of what will hopefully

  • be a 3D network of tunnels to alleviate congestion.

  • So right now, one of the most soul-destroying things is traffic.

  • It affects people in every part of the world.

  • It takes away so much of your life.

  • It's horrible.

  • It's particularly horrible in LA.

  • (Laughter)

  • CA: I think you've brought with you the first visualization that's been shown of this.

  • Can I show this?

  • EM: Yeah, absolutely.

  • So this is the first timeJust to show what we're talking about.

  • So a couple of key things that are important in having a 3D tunnel network.

  • First of all, you have to be able to integrate the entrance and exit of the tunnel seamlessly

  • into the fabric of the city.

  • So by having an elevator, sort of a car skate, that's on an elevator, you can integrate the

  • entrance and exits to the tunnel network just by using two parking spaces.

  • And then the car gets on a skate.

  • There's no speed limit here, so we're designing this to be able to operate at 200 kilometers

  • an hour.

  • CA: How much?

  • EM: 200 kilometers an hour, or about 130 miles

  • per hour.

  • So you should be able to get from, say, Westwood to LAX in six minutesfive, six minutes.

  • (Applause)

  • CA: So possibly, initially done, it's like

  • on a sort of toll road-type basis.

  • EM: Yeah.

  • CA: Which, I guess, alleviates some traffic

  • from the surface streets as well.

  • EM: So, I don't know if people noticed it

  • in the video, but there's no real limit to how many levels of tunnel you can have.

  • You can go much further deep than you can go up.

  • The deepest mines are much deeper than the tallest buildings are tall, so you can alleviate

  • any arbitrary level of urban congestion with a 3D tunnel network.

  • This is a very important point.

  • So a key rebuttal to the tunnels is that if you add one layer of tunnels, that will simply

  • alleviate congestion, it will get used up, and then you'll be back where you started,

  • back with congestion.

  • But you can go to any arbitrary number of tunnels, any number of levels.

  • CA: But peopleseen traditionally, it's

  • incredibly expensive to dig, and that would block this idea.

  • EM: Yeah.

  • Well, they're right.

  • To give you an example, the LA subway extension, which is — I think it's a two-and-a-half

  • mile extension that was just completed for two billion dollars.

  • So it's roughly a billion dollars a mile to do the subway extension in LA.

  • And this is not the highest utility subway in the world.

  • So yeah, it's quite difficult to dig tunnels normally.

  • I think we need to have at least a tenfold improvement in the cost per mile of tunneling.

  • CA: And how could you achieve that?

  • 3:47 EM: Actually, if you just do two things, you

  • can get to approximately an order of magnitude improvement, and I think you can go beyond

  • that.

  • So the first thing to do is to cut the tunnel diameter by a factor of two or more.

  • So a single road lane tunnel according to regulations has to be 26 feet, maybe 28 feet

  • in diameter to allow for crashes and emergency vehicles and sufficient ventilation for combustion

  • engine cars.

  • But if you shrink that diameter to what we're attempting, which is 12 feet, which is plenty

  • to get an electric skate through, you drop the diameter by a factor of two and the cross-sectional

  • area by a factor of four, and the tunneling cost scales with the cross-sectional area.

  • So that's roughly a half-order of magnitude improvement right there.

  • Then tunneling machines currently tunnel for half the time, then they stop, and then the

  • rest of the time is putting in reinforcements for the tunnel wall.

  • So if you design the machine instead to do continuous tunneling and reinforcing, that

  • will give you a factor of two improvement.

  • Combine that and that's a factor of eight.

  • Also these machines are far from being at their power or thermal limits, so you can

  • jack up the power to the machine substantially.

  • I think you can get at least a factor of two, maybe a factor of four or five improvement

  • on top of that.

  • So I think there's a fairly straightforward series of steps to get somewhere in excess

  • of an order of magnitude improvement in the cost per mile, and our target actually is

  • we've got a pet snail called Gary, this is from Gary the snail from "South Park,"

  • I mean, sorry, "SpongeBob SquarePants."

  • 5:28 (Laughter)

  • 5:30 So Gary is capable ofcurrently he's capable

  • of going 14 times faster than a tunnel-boring machine.

  • 5:40 (Laughter)

  • 5:43 CA: You want to beat Gary.

  • 5:45 EM: We want to beat Gary.

  • 5:46 (Laughter)

  • 5:48 He's not a patient little fellow, and that

  • will be victory.

  • Victory is beating the snail.

  • 5:56 CA: But a lot of people imagining, dreaming

  • about future cities, they imagine that actually the solution is flying cars, drones, etc.

  • You go aboveground.

  • Why isn't that a better solution?

  • You save all that tunneling cost.

  • 6:09 EM: Right.

  • I'm in favor of flying things.

  • Obviously, I do rockets, so I like things that fly.

  • This is not some inherent bias against flying things, but there is a challenge with flying

  • cars in that they'll be quite noisy, the wind force generated will be very high.

  • Let's just say that if something's flying over your head, a whole bunch of flying cars

  • going all over the place, that is not an anxiety-reducing situation.

  • 6:42 (Laughter)

  • 6:44 You don't think to yourself, "Well, I feel

  • better about today."

  • You're thinking, "Did they service their hubcap, or is it going to come off and guillotine

  • me?"

  • Things like that.

  • 6:59 CA: So you've got this vision of future cities

  • with these rich, 3D networks of tunnels underneath.

  • Is there a tie-in here with Hyperloop?

  • Could you apply these tunnels to use for this Hyperloop idea you released a few years ago.

  • 7:13 EM: Yeah, so we've been sort of puttering

  • around with the Hyperloop stuff for a while.

  • We built a Hyperloop test track adjacent to SpaceX, just for a student competition, to

  • encourage innovative ideas in transport.

  • And it actually ends up being the biggest vacuum chamber in the world after the Large

  • Hadron Collider, by volume.

  • So it was quite fun to do that, but it was kind of a hobby thing, and then we think we

  • mightso we've built a little pusher car to push the student pods, but we're going

  • to try seeing how fast we can make the pusher go if it's not pushing something.

  • So we're cautiously optimistic we'll be able to be faster than the world's fastest bullet

  • train even in a .8-mile stretch.

  • 8:11 CA: Whoa.

  • Good brakes.

  • 8:13 EM: Yeah, I mean, it's — yeah.

  • It's either going to smash into tiny pieces or go quite fast.

  • 8:20 CA: But you can picture, then, a Hyperloop

  • in a tunnel running quite long distances.

  • 8:26 EM: Exactly.

  • And looking at tunneling technology, it turns out that in order to make a tunnel, you have

  • toIn order to seal against the water table, you've got to typically design a tunnel

  • wall to be good to about five or six atmospheres.

  • So to go to vacuum is only one atmosphere, or near-vacuum.

  • So actually, it sort of turns out that automatically, if you build a tunnel that is good enough

  • to resist the water table, it is automatically capable of holding vacuum.

  • 9:01 CA: Huh.

  • 9:03 EM: So, yeah.

  • 9:04 CA: And so you could actually picture, what

  • kind of length tunnel is in Elon's future to running Hyperloop?

  • 9:12 EM: I think there's no real length limit.

  • You could dig as much as you want.

  • I think if you were to do something like a DC-to-New York Hyperloop, I think you'd probably

  • want to go underground the entire way because it's a high-density area.

  • You're going under a lot of buildings and houses, and if you go deep enough, you cannot

  • detect the tunnel.

  • Sometimes people think, well, it's going to be pretty annoying to have a tunnel dug under

  • my house.

  • Like, if that tunnel is dug more than about three or four tunnel diameters beneath your

  • house, you will not be able to detect it being dug at all.

  • In fact, if you're able to detect the tunnel being dug, whatever device you are using,

  • you can get a lot of money for that device from the Israeli military, who is trying to

  • detect tunnels from Hamas, and from the US Customs and Border patrol that try and detect

  • drug tunnels.

  • So the reality is that earth is incredibly good at absorbing vibrations, and once the

  • tunnel depth is below a certain level, it is undetectable.

  • Maybe if you have a very sensitive seismic instrument, you might be able to detect it.

  • 10:28 CA: So you've started a new company to do

  • this called The Boring Company.

  • Very nice.

  • Very funny.

  • 10:34 (Laughter)

  • 10:35 EM: What's funny about that?

  • 10:37 (Laughter)

  • 10:39 CA: How much of your time is this?

  • 10:42 EM: It's maybe ... two or three percent.

  • 10:48 CA: You've bought a hobby.

  • This is what an Elon Musk hobby looks like.

  • 10:52 (Laughter)

  • 10:53 EM: I mean, it really is, likeThis is

  • basically interns and people doing it part time.

  • We bought some second-hand machinery.

  • It's kind of puttering along, but it's making good progress, so

  • 11:11 CA: So an even bigger part of your time is

  • being spent on electrifying cars and transport through Tesla.

  • Is one of the motivations for the tunneling project the realization that actually, in

  • a world where cars are electric and where they're self-driving, there may end up being

  • more cars on the roads on any given hour than there are now?

  • 11:33 EM: Yeah, exactly.

  • A lot of people think that when you make cars autonomous, they'll be able to go faster and

  • that will alleviate congestion.

  • And to some degree that will be true, but once you have shared autonomy where it's much

  • cheaper to go by car and you can go point to point, the affordability of going in a

  • car will be better than that of a bus.

  • Like, it will cost less than a bus ticket.

  • So the amount of driving that will occur will be much greater with shared autonomy, and

  • actually traffic will get far worse.

  • 12:11 CA: You started Tesla with the goal of persuading

  • the world that electrification was the future of cars, and a few years ago, people were

  • laughing at you.

  • Now, not so much.

  • 12:23 EM: OK.

  • 12:24 (Laughter)

  • 12:26 I don't know.

  • I don't know.

  • 12:29 CA: But isn't it true that pretty much every

  • auto manufacturer has announced serious electrification plans for the short- to medium-term future?

  • 12:39 EM: Yeah.

  • Yeah.

  • I think almost every automaker has some electric vehicle program.

  • They vary in seriousness.

  • Some are very serious about transitioning entirely to electric, and some are just dabbling

  • in it.

  • And some, amazingly, are still pursuing fuel cells, but I think that won't last much longer.

  • 13:00 CA: But isn't there a sense, though, Elon,

  • where you can now just declare victory and say, you know, "We did it."

  • Let the world electrify, and you go on and focus on other stuff?

  • 13:12 EM: Yeah.

  • I intend to stay with Tesla as far into the future as I can imagine, and there are a lot

  • of exciting things that we have coming.

  • Obviously the Model 3 is coming soon.

  • We'll be unveiling the Tesla Semi truck.

  • 13:31 CA: OK, we're going to come to this.

  • So Model 3, it's supposed to be coming in July-ish.

  • 13:38 EM: Yeah, it's looking quite good for starting

  • production in July.

  • 13:42 CA: Wow.

  • One of the things that people are so excited about is the fact that it's got autopilot.

  • And you put out this video a while back showing what that technology would look like.

  • 13:57 EM: Yeah.

  • There's obviously autopilot in Model S right now.

  • What are we seeing here?

  • 14:02 EM: Yeah, so this is using only cameras and

  • GPS.

  • So there's no LIDAR or radar being used here.

  • This is just using passive optical, which is essentially what a person uses.

  • The whole road system is meant to be navigated with passive optical, or cameras, and so once

  • you solve cameras or vision, then autonomy is solved.

  • If you don't solve vision, it's not solved.

  • So that's why our focus is so heavily on having a vision neural net that's very effective

  • for road conditions.

  • 14:42 CA: Right.

  • Many other people are going the LIDAR route.

  • You want cameras plus radar is most of it.

  • 14:47 EM: You can absolutely be superhuman with

  • just cameras.

  • Like, you can probably do it ten times better than humans would, just cameras.

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