16 votes

Elon Musk’s ‘Vegas Loop’ called a ‘death trap’ as traffic piles up

21 comments

  1. [4]
    AugustusFerdinand
    Link
    So I'm not one to defend ol' Musk-y or anything, and please correct me if I'm wrong, but I've seen some version of this story pop up all over the place. I've watched the video and it looks like...

    So I'm not one to defend ol' Musk-y or anything, and please correct me if I'm wrong, but I've seen some version of this story pop up all over the place. I've watched the video and it looks like there's some backup at a dropoff spot that ends up being a few cars moving slowing in the tunnel as they figure out where to stop/park to let passengers off.

    I could not care less about, and any "journalist" that makes a story from, the comments from reddit threads and their opinion on a tunnel where some people that can't get out of a car or park fast enough caused a modicum of slowdown.

    17 votes
    1. [2]
      JCPhoenix
      Link Parent
      While the traffic jam is kinda whatever, since it happens on normal roads (or on traintracks...or airports, or shipping ports), my immediate first thought was safety. Or the perceived lack of it....

      While the traffic jam is kinda whatever, since it happens on normal roads (or on traintracks...or airports, or shipping ports), my immediate first thought was safety. Or the perceived lack of it.

      That's a narrow tunnel. What happens when a car breaks down in there? Can it be easily towed out? How about a wreck? What if that wreck causes a fire? There doesn't appear to be ventilation ducts of any sort. Or any kind of emergency pathway/safe areas.

      11 votes
      1. MimicSquid
        Link Parent
        A tow truck can fit in there much like a normal vehicle, the cars are going a max of 40 MPH at the fastest, the drivers are all employees, wrecks almost never cause fires, and when they do it's...

        A tow truck can fit in there much like a normal vehicle, the cars are going a max of 40 MPH at the fastest, the drivers are all employees, wrecks almost never cause fires, and when they do it's mostly due to debris on the roadway damaging the batteries in the undercarriage which is very unlikely in this closely controlled tunnel, and the operators have made clear that there's appropriate regular and emergency ventilation as well as emergency exits.

        Half of your concerns were allayed in the very article posted above, and the rest are a very quick google search away.

        7 votes
    2. papasquat
      Link Parent
      Personally, I love how the main headline's quote isn't pulled from a traffic safety expert, a leading civic engineer, or a federal highway regulatory agency. As far as I can tell, they didn't even...

      Personally, I love how the main headline's quote isn't pulled from a traffic safety expert, a leading civic engineer, or a federal highway regulatory agency. As far as I can tell, they didn't even bother trying to reach out to anyone like that for a comment. It's taken from a random person on reddit.

      Their lede should read "Elon Musks' 'Vegas Loop' called a 'death trap' by an anonymous guy on the internet."

      I don't know how that counts as journalism.

      9 votes
  2. [17]
    Autoxidation
    Link
    I think the loop is dumb (just build a damn EV subway), but why is this even an article? It's mostly about comments on a reddit thread, and a lot of it seems like thinly veiled EV FUD. EV car...

    I think the loop is dumb (just build a damn EV subway), but why is this even an article? It's mostly about comments on a reddit thread, and a lot of it seems like thinly veiled EV FUD. EV car fires are incredibly rare, occurring at a much lower rate than gasoline vehicles. This study shows that, when normalized for sales, for every 1 EV fire there are 61 ICE vehicle fires.

    10 votes
    1. [2]
      PapaNachos
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      I'm a engineer that works on hybrid and electric vehicle safety for a major OEM and while the information in that article is correct it's somewhat lacking: EV fires are much more dangerous than...

      I'm a engineer that works on hybrid and electric vehicle safety for a major OEM and while the information in that article is correct it's somewhat lacking:

      • EV fires are much more dangerous than gas fires, it's not just a matter of duration and difficulty to extinguish, but the fumes they give off are incredibly dangerous. This is particularly relevant in an enclosed space like a tunnel
      • It very briefly mentions the average age of ICE vehicles vs EV/HEV but actual data presented (Car Fires by Vehicle Type) doesn't appear to correct for vehicle age. Which is a very important factor. I don't have the actual numbers myself but fire risk increases with vehicle age and ICE vehicles are much older on average
      • It mentions that batteries need to be watched for a "long time" to make sure they're cool. I read that as implying they only need to be watched for a day, but it's much, much longer than that. We're talking months-range if something serious happened to the pack
      • The article directly quotes Tesla, but in my professional experience Tesla "massages" any data they release, so I recommend not taking that "11 times" number at face value. And yeah, a lot of corporations can't be trusted, I get that, but Tesla in particular plays fast and loose with truth.

      All that is to say it's less clear than the article claims. I'm still very pro-EV, but they carry unique risks that shouldn't be downplayed. But cars are also an inherently dangerous technology and so some risk is assumed regardless of powertrain type. Part of the reason my lab exists is to try to reduce those risks as much as possible, but it's a very complicated process and cars have a lot of external variables that make our jobs particularly difficult. Some of the comments I've made are based on my own experiences and knowledge and some is second hand from talking with other experts in the field, but I can't really get more specific than that. Even being inside the field it's still hard for me to get the full picture.

      And I would absolutely not set foot in that fucking tunnel, it's a disaster waiting to happen.

      27 votes
      1. Autoxidation
        Link Parent
        I don't disagree that the nature of an EV fire is different than a gas fire, but EV fires are certainly overplayed in the news, and most have occurred while the vehicle is parked and charging, or...

        I don't disagree that the nature of an EV fire is different than a gas fire, but EV fires are certainly overplayed in the news, and most have occurred while the vehicle is parked and charging, or in an accident where extreme speed was involved. Given the rules of the tunnels, plus the low occurrence of EV fires and the very low usage rate of these tunnels, I don't think it's likely we'll see one. I expect the tunnels to just die off into irrelevance before a fire occurs.

        2 votes
    2. [15]
      Comment deleted by author
      Link Parent
      1. [14]
        NaraVara
        Link Parent
        The loop idea is still dumb because no amount of “fully implemented self driving” will get around the problem of geometry. People in individual cars take up a LOT of space. If you’re digging...

        The loop idea is still dumb because no amount of “fully implemented self driving” will get around the problem of geometry. People in individual cars take up a LOT of space.

        If you’re digging tunnels and you want actual capacity, you need to be able to cram more people in. Otherwise it’s just a ton of money on an expensive niche product. It is completely non-viable.

        24 votes
        1. [14]
          Comment deleted by author
          Link Parent
          1. [4]
            NaraVara
            Link Parent
            I’m North American and I was car free for about 10 years. Most North Americans have absolutely zero experience with a functional transit system in dense, mixed use development that makes it work....

            You are ignoring that North Americans tend to despise public transit. They have for decades. It doesn't matter how bad the traffic gets, whether the transit is faster, safer or whether it's well maintained. They still choose vehicles every time.

            I’m North American and I was car free for about 10 years. Most North Americans have absolutely zero experience with a functional transit system in dense, mixed use development that makes it work. Intermittent Bus service that connects sprawl to strip malls doesn’t cut it.

            And if that’s the problem just having a tunnel that works basically exactly like highways do, but with a worse view and DRM to determine whether you can drive in it or not, does nothing to address that problem. If anything, due to the fact of induced demand it actually makes the problem worse.

            Even more hilariously, this pilot is in the Bay Area where Muni and BART are already good transit options whose main problems are that they don’t cover a lot of the places people live and work.

            Also tunnel building in the Western world isn’t expensive because we can’t bore holes in the ground. It’s expensive because it’s expensive to buy land anywhere you’d want to build it and to deal with the metric fuckton of legal challenges before you can actually get to work. If you want it cheaper you need to reform the permitting and govt. contracting processes. The machinery to dig is the least of the issues.

            13 votes
            1. [4]
              Comment deleted by author
              Link Parent
              1. [3]
                NaraVara
                Link Parent
                That’s because almost no cities in North America are built around transit. They disdain it because they have no experience of it and development patterns (which doesn’t just mean the transit...

                Disdain for transit and car culture is a well known phenomenon in North America outside of a few key cities

                That’s because almost no cities in North America are built around transit. They disdain it because they have no experience of it and development patterns (which doesn’t just mean the transit service but also density and land use patterns) don’t suit it. None of these are inherently baked into people. When you build it people will come, the problem is it’s illegal to build it in almost all of the country, including in many of the cities where it currently exists.

                Opening the subterranean realm to traffic does nothing to alleviate the constraints restricting expanding transit on the surface?

                Correct. Because traffic is a consequence of land use patterns, not road capacity. In fact adding road capacity tends to make traffic worse due to induced demand.

                "This" pilot as in the one in this article? It's in Vegas. There is no Hyperloop in the Bay area as far as I'm aware. Are you thinking of the Hawthorne loop.

                Ah my mistake. I was under the impression it was in the Bay Area based on some other article I read on it.

                Bloomberg City Lab explains where the money actually goes when digging. My wager is that the Ft. Lauderdale bid isn’t pricing any of this stuff in because it’s a sweetheart deal and those costs are going to be eaten by someone else in the value chain.

                2 votes
                1. [2]
                  inwardpath
                  Link Parent
                  According to the prior reply though- it sounds like even in places in NA with good and plentiful public transit options it's still barely used, what explains that, other than a cultural resistance...

                  According to the prior reply though- it sounds like even in places in NA with good and plentiful public transit options it's still barely used, what explains that, other than a cultural resistance to the idea?

                  Edit: Another post brought up a good point though, maybe another reason is how much car use is subsidized/tailored to, enough that it often ends up being more convenient than transit in terms of commute times, etc.

                  1 vote
                  1. NaraVara
                    Link Parent
                    There are only 3 or 4 cities in the United States with anything approaching “good and plentiful public transit.” In those cities it’s used plenty. What most Americans think counts as “good transit...

                    There are only 3 or 4 cities in the United States with anything approaching “good and plentiful public transit.” In those cities it’s used plenty. What most Americans think counts as “good transit coverage” is not. It’s a single bus line that shows up every 30 minutes and involves hour long door-to-door travel times to get anywhere from anywhere.

                    1 vote
          2. [2]
            vord
            Link Parent
            Virtually none of the Boring projects that have been announce have made meaningful progress. The Boring Company more likely a grift to have the public pay for their R&D.
            9 votes
            1. [2]
              Comment deleted by author
              Link Parent
              1. vord
                (edited )
                Link Parent
                Wow, I pasted the wrong link for that first one... This is the one I intended to post. Most of the major projects announced by Boring Company have stalled and not mentioned on their website...

                Wow, I pasted the wrong link for that first one... This is the one I intended to post. Most of the major projects announced by Boring Company have stalled and not mentioned on their website anymore.

                I'd wager the vast majority of traditional tunnel costs are:

                • Width. Wider the tunnel, the slower and more expensive the bore. Boring company scales down by digging tunnels so small they border on useless for transport, especially if you need them to scale. Especially once all these safety concerns are factored in. I suppose it could be nice for infrastructure piping and conduut though if they actually can deliver those cost savings.
                • Regulations. It is expensive to get right of ways and do things like safety and environmental impact evaluations. Things Boring Company has largely bypassed thus far by building exclusively on private land. Their test track which everyone cites for those cost savings is one such example.
                1 vote
          3. [7]
            daedalus
            Link Parent
            I mean, it makes sense that people prefer to drive, because we subsidize every step of the drive. With the way that the US subsidizes suburbs, roads, highways, cars, gas, and parking, of course...

            I mean, it makes sense that people prefer to drive, because we subsidize every step of the drive. With the way that the US subsidizes suburbs, roads, highways, cars, gas, and parking, of course people are going to prefer to drive. Most people don't enjoy driving, they have to because the city is designed for it. I live in the heart of Seattle, considered to be in the top five in public transit in the US, and a trip yesterday that took me an hour on the bus with two transfers would have taken me 10 minutes by car and the parking was free. This isn't a cultural problem, it's simply cars are way more convenient and the costs of cars are hidden (like with depreciation of the car's value) or just covered by society. Car use costs society about $.2/passenger mile while cycling and walking had a net social benefit of $0.32/pmi and $0.67/pmi

            We have alternate solutions, they are bikes and subways and buses. If we are actually concerned about climate change, we need to radically reshape the way our cities are designed, not wait for new tech that is much more inefficient. We need to make cities walkable, tax gas according how much it hurts our world, put an end to the insane practice of free parking, invest in proper public transportation, build protected bike lane, ect. When we start to make progress in these areas, we will see many more people in the US ditch their cars.Only 22% of Manhattan households own a car because it's more of a liability than an asset. We need to make owning a car more inconvenient and expensive and make other forms of transportation less convenient and less expensive. It's not an issue of culture, it's one of convenience.

            7 votes
            1. [3]
              DrStone
              Link Parent
              On the flip side, consider Singapore. It has one of the top public transportation networks in the world with an extensive and expanding network of subway, bus, shuttle, and light rail that's...

              On the flip side, consider Singapore.

              It has one of the top public transportation networks in the world with an extensive and expanding network of subway, bus, shuttle, and light rail that's clean, efficient, and inexpensive per-head. There's almost nowhere you couldn't get to with public transportation. Breakdowns and delays are extremely rare. Walkability of the city is high and you can pretty much find anything you need within a 15min walk of most residential buildings. There are an increasing number of bike paths and park connector network.

              There is a quota limiting the number of cars owned and driven in the country. There are additional tolls and congestion pricing for driving certain areas or roads. The cost of buying a new car is exorbitant (with basically no resale market), and there's a required "certificate of entitlement" fee tied to the quota that sometimes exceeds the cost of the car itself just to be allowed to own it for only 10 years; according to this a new Honda Accord all in will cost a whopping SGD $190,999 (USD $140,896). The median income is less than SGD $60k/yr. There's generally no free street parking, gas is expensive, rush hour traffic sucks, and all of the other unpleasant driving-in-a-city things exist.

              And yet, despite all of that, people are still shelling out for personal cars enough to drive the COE to ridiculous levels, and on top of that the market is supporting the continued growth of multiple competing private hire car services (plus traditional taxies) even with heavy surge pricing (not uncommon to see $30+ for a 15 min journey at a popular or rainy time).

              4 votes
              1. [2]
                mtset
                Link Parent
                Only 11% of households own a car. That's lower even than Manhattan! I would call that a success for these programs; they bring in revenue and reduce auto usage. It's a win win.

                And yet, despite all of that, people are still shelling out for personal cars enough to drive the COE to ridiculous levels

                Only 11% of households own a car. That's lower even than Manhattan! I would call that a success for these programs; they bring in revenue and reduce auto usage. It's a win win.

                8 votes
                1. DrStone
                  Link Parent
                  It's a bit misleading; it's not that so few people are choosing cars due to the costs, alternatives, and incentives, but that there is a cap of cars on the road with the monthly quotas for...

                  It's a bit misleading; it's not that so few people are choosing cars due to the costs, alternatives, and incentives, but that there is a cap of cars on the road with the monthly quotas for purchases adjusted for a near-zero growth rate.

                  Of the car quota allowed, people (and not just the elite) are bidding tens of thousands of dollars in hopes of winning the privilege of buying/owning a car that they still have to pay its enormous sticker price separately. Many of the those who can't afford the entire sum or are unable to win a COE, are instead spending on private hire services (Grab, Gojek) and taxis (ComfortDelGro) with all of their surge/peak charges despite the (usually) cheaper, extensive, well-funded, and well-run public transportation network.

                  That's not to say public transport isn't frequently used as a whole, but it's far from the perception/preference shift that it seems people think or hope will happen when these things are discussed in the context of changing policy and funding (short of introducing a hard cap) in places like the US.

                  5 votes
            2. [3]
              skybrian
              (edited )
              Link Parent
              A balanced assessment would look at both costs and benefits, including the benefits of all the goods and services delivered using roads.

              A balanced assessment would look at both costs and benefits, including the benefits of all the goods and services delivered using roads.

              1 vote
              1. [2]
                mtset
                Link Parent
                And the costs of delivering them using roads instead of rail. If we're talking about balance.

                And the costs of delivering them using roads instead of rail. If we're talking about balance.

                1 vote
                1. skybrian
                  Link Parent
                  Yes, for the high-volume parts of the supply chain where either could be used. For example, it seems like there are lots of trucks taking containers directly from container ships in Los Angeles...

                  Yes, for the high-volume parts of the supply chain where either could be used. For example, it seems like there are lots of trucks taking containers directly from container ships in Los Angeles onto crowded LA freeways when they should go by rail to somewhere inland with more space?

                  But it seems quite rare to have freight going by rail all the way to a retail store, and I assume there are good reasons for that.

                  Different forms of transportation are supplementing each other rather than competing. Looking at the whole chain, there are containers going by ship, to rail, to a warehouse, then pallets going by truck to stores. And then either people carrying goods home in their own cars, or relying on delivery, or (for small amounts) by carrying them home from a small nearby store.

                  Getting rid of shopping by car means the stores need to be smaller and closer to people's homes, which means trucks are even more useful to make all those deliveries. And then if there is home delivery, that's currently by truck or (in urban areas) sometimes by bike.

                  So I think rather than talking in binary terms about getting rid of some forms of transportation, we could talk about changing the supply chain to be more efficient and have less environmental impact.

                  And for big changes like putting in a new railway, that's often a government-funded project these days.

                  1 vote