Elon Musk’s tunnel digging technology developed by The Boring Company is being eyed by Israel as a potential solution to the country’s traffic and public transportation woes. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed at a recent campaign event that his government was in talks with the serial entrepreneur about tapping into Boring’s tunneling solutions to address infrastructure concerns.
“I met a man that they call Elon Musk — have you heard of him? A real genius,” Netanyahu said, as published in a report by Bloomberg. ““Right now we’re in conversation with him to see if we can tunnel the State of Israel.” The two men’s discussion took place at the Prime Minister’s residence over a breakfast.
Israel’s population growth has outpaced its infrastructure development thanks to an immigration influx and a surge in economic growth over the last two decades. Its small geographic area – about 290 miles long and 85 miles across at its widest – requires innovative solutions that take its space limitations into account when it comes to transportation solutions.
Several underground rail projects are underway in Israel; however, only one subway system is currently running in the country. It will remain that way until the planned Tel Aviv Light Rail lines become operational, the earliest planned for 2021 to the tune of $3 billion dollars for 14 miles of line. When compared to The Boring Company’s prior expenditure of only $10 million per mile of tunnel, it’s perhaps understandable why Israel would be interested in Musk’s improved digging technology.
Although the Boring Company hasn’t captured many headlines since its Monty Python watchtower days since its Hawthorne test tunnel completion, interest in the developed technology hasn’t waned with those who could benefit from its potential. In Las Vegas, a proposed two-mile transport line to be constructed by Musk’s company was recently approved by the city’s Convention and Visitors Authority board of directors. As planned, a series of underground tunnels will be dug by Boring, encompassing the local convention center and possibly expand to the McCarran International Airport. The estimated cost is between $35 and $55 million, and its completion set for the end of 2019, according to Musk.
The Boring Company’s planned high-speed transit tunnel connecting O’Hare International Airport with downtown Chicago is also still in the works despite criticism from local officials. Musk has estimated a cost of around $1 billion for the 18-mile project, none of which will be a taxpayer burden due to private investment. These private funding plans are a big source of skepticism surrounding Musk’s tunneling project, but enough support within Chicago’s government remains to continue moving forward.
The Hawthorne test tunnel, debuted on December 18th last year with fanfare and test rides, was constructed using a conventional tunnel boring machine (TBM) nicknamed Godot. The next iteration of Boring’s machines, an upgraded hybrid TBM named Line-Storm, will be operational any day now, according to Musk via Twitter. “Maybe active in a month or so. Focus right now is getting to high speed, tight follow distance in test tunnel,” he tweeted in reply to a status inquiry about Line-Storm at the end of February this year.
Line-Storm is estimated to be twice as fast as Gadot and will be succeeded by the all-electric Prufrock, a TBM being completely designed and built by The Boring Company. Prufrock will be 10-15x faster than than conventional machines, plus meet the energy and environmental standards driving all of Musk’s companies by having zero emissions.
Just as with Tesla’s Full Self-Driving technology, though, The Boring Company’s projects face regulatory hurdles and pushback that will likely be a determining factor in whether or not its many projects succeed. It remains to be seen whether Israel will have the same legal obstacles if its Prime Minister’s discussions with Musk manifest into any solid agreements.