Let’s talk about Elon Musk
Net worth: $15.6 billion. Alumni of Stanford University. Founder of PayPal.
Elon Musk is now one of the most recognisable and famous billionaires in the world after, perhaps, Donald Trump and Iron man. He’s currently the CEO of SpaceX, Tesla, SolarCity, Hyperloop, OpenAI and The Boring Company.
Fast becoming one of the leading tech pioneers on the planet Musk is overseeing some of the most important and radical technological advances in the world right now. He’s considered an eccentric, recently stating that the chances that we aren’t living in a computer simulation are ‘billions to one’, and often sets up companies on a whim to entertain himself.
Famously, in December 2016, Musk was sat bored in traffic when he tweeted out to his 11 million followers “Traffic is driving me nuts. Am going to build a tunnel boring machine and just start digging…” in a separate tweet he said “it shall be called The Boring Company” “Boring. It’s what we do”. He went on, “I am actually going to do this”.
And do this he did. After a short time Musk has indeed set up The Boring Company, with the slogan “Boring. It’s what we do”. The website can be found at www.boringcompany.com and the FAQ page is frankly a delight.
On the FAQ page The Boring Company says of tunnels; To solve the problem of soul-destroying traffic, roads must go 3D, which means either flying cars or tunnels. Unlike flying cars, tunnels are weatherproof, out of sight and won't fall on your head. A large network of tunnels many levels deep would fix congestion in any city, no matter how large it grew (just keep adding levels). The key to making this work is increasing tunnelling speed and dropping costs by a factor of 10 or more – this is the goal of The Boring Company.
The Boring Company has now teamed up with Musk’s other company Hyperloop in order to provide high=speed, environmentally friendly transport. Essentially Musk intends to tunnel 14 ft. diameter metal tubes underneath the ground as well as above it, and lay magnetic tracks in which small pods would levitate marginally above and travel at up to 500mph. This, he intends, will reduce the coast-to-coast travelling time across the US to just 20 minutes.
Is it achievable? According to The Guardian, earlier this year, scientists at NASA’s Glenn Research Centre in Ohio examined the Hyperloop concept from a technical and cost perspective. They concluded that “estimates of energy consumption, passenger throughput, and mission analyses all support Hyperloop as a faster and cheaper alternative to short-haul flights [of 250 to 500 miles].”
A feasibility analysis by the US Department of Transportation (DOT) estimates that Hyperloop routes could be up to six times more energy efficient than air travel on short routes, and over three times faster than the world’s fastest high-speed rail system.
The high-pods would also be more eco-friendly than road vehicles, according to researchers at the Helmut Schmidt University in Hamburg. Last year, they calculated the effects on road traffic of building a 300km Hyperloop in northern Germany dedicated to freight. They quantified the impact of removing thousands of trucks from the road, including reduced air and noise pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, congestion and road accidents.
Even though a Hyperloop in cloudy Germany could not run solely on solar power, it could still avoid emitting up to 140,000 tons of carbon dioxide each year, according to the study, as well as up to 0.2% of Germany’s entire production of air pollutants like methane, nitrous oxides and dust. Overall, the Hyperloop could produce up to €900m (£805m) of value in reduced pollution, accidents and congestion each year – equal to a third of its estimated €2.7bn initial investment.
Let’s just take a moment to consider the implications of a small, magnetic track in a metal tube underground reducing the travelling time from Manchester to London to roughly 15 minutes. Elon Musk is a genius, and an eccentric, and the world needs him.
All this is without discussing SpaceX, of course, which has been valued at $21bn (£16bn), making it one of the most valuable privately owned companies in the world.
Musk’s company were the first in history to reuse a rocket when they successfully launched and then returned a rocket to the Earth, a feat never before achieved. This, in itself, will save billions on the cost of space travel as previously NASA and other space travel agencies were simply discarding the multi-million dollar rockets as soon as they hit space.
As it stands, SpaceX and Musk insist that they intend to send space tourists above the Earth as early as next year. Within 10 or even 5 years we may be in a position where the money invested into this technology by Musk will mean that people can travel into space for as little as the cost of a package holiday to Europe.
With Hyperloop, The Boring Company, SpaceX, Tesla and OpenAI all under his belt, is Elon Musk the greatest billionaire alive? It’s impossible to say, but he’s certainly in the top one.