Can You Compete With Elon Musk?

Fort Lauderdale has accepted a proposal from Elon Musk’s Boring Company to construct a $30 million tunnel transit system. Other firms have 45 days to offer competing proposals.

Source : Wikimedia Commons

July 7, 2021

Author : Alex Bustillos

On Tuesday, Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean J. Trantalis announced on Twitter that the city had accepted a bid from the Boring Company to “build an underground transit system between downtown and the beach” and that other firms had a month and a half to offer competing proposals. “This could be a truly innovative way to reduce traffic congestion,” he wrote.

But traditional tunneling companies may have a hard time competing with Musk, who secured a contract to construct a similar transportation system under Las Vegas “largely because Musk’s bid was tens of millions of dollars cheaper,” TechCrunch has reported.

The tweet from Mayor Trantalis comes just a little over a month after Musk’s Boring Company opened the $52.5 million Las Vegas tunnel, which was initially promised to feature 16-passenger autonomous vehicles. However, the vehicles currently require a driver and only move three at a time. In fairness, that’s due to coronavirus restrictions. However, the company is still developing vehicles that will transport 12 passengers, and local restrictions don’t allow drivers to surpass 35 miles per hour, far below what Musk once promised for such projects (150mph).

After coronavirus restrictions are lifted, “Boring Co. will be under some pressure to bring the system up to its full operating capacity,” wrote Howard Fine for the Las Angeles Business Journal.

But with the concept still unproven, should Fort Lauderdale not wait to sink millions of dollars into such a project?

Boring Company has already had a number of projects that have seemingly failed, such as a tunnel system between Baltimore and Washington DC, another in Chicago, and another in Los Angeles which have all been quietly scrubbed from the company’s website. We are talking about a company that has seemingly scrapped more projects than completed ones.

Boring Company, while not hawking flamethrowers under the name “NOT-A-FLAMETHROWER- in order to avoid regulations against the shipping of flamethrowers, has made big promises for its tunnels, namely the hyperloop. The company has said that its tunnels will eventually be able to accommodate this technology, which according to Wikipedia consists of “a sealed tube or system of tubes with low air pressure through which a pod may travel substantially free of air resistance or friction.” Musk himself has said that Boring Company's technology could pave the way for colonization of Mars.

Moreover, NBC News recently noted that “a growing number of civil engineering experts and tunneling industry veterans also question the premise of Musk’s bet on the future of tunnels in America: that he can bore them considerably faster and more cheaply than ever before.”

In fairness to Musks’ company, which an editor’s note in the trade publication Tunneling Journal recently derided as a “vanity project,” they constructed the Las Vegas tunnel in 18 months, which is pretty impressive. 

Still, Musk has so far failed to deliver on many key promises including self driving technology, high occupancy vehicles, and high speeds. Initially, vehicles were supposed to travel along a track, but that pan was scrapped in favor of the vehicles just using wheels in the tunnel.  In other words, the supposedly novel system is essentially a Tesla in a tube.

But with so many promises made about future technology and future functionalities that have not yet been realized, Fort Lauderdale should be considering traditional infrastructure projects from hard-working contractors and companies, not hedging all their bets on pie-in-the-sky assurances from a billionaire who has admitted Boring Company is a “hobby” which he only spends two-to-three percent of his time on. He has even said the company was “started as kind of a joke.”

Photo via Wikimedia Commons


Category : Efficiency-Improving Technology Entrepreneurialism Investment in Infrastructure Local Government Monopolization Tech Procurement Public Works

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