Meet The Man In Charge Of Building Elon Musk’s “Boring” Las Vegas Tunnel
So you’ve officially won the contract from Las Vegas to build a “subterranean transit system” by undercutting the bids of established players in the engineering space.
Well, now comes the hard part: the Boring Company is going to actually have to prove that they have the technology and the talent to take on a large scale commercial project, instead of a test run using a go-kart on skates in 50 feet of tunnel near Tesla headquarters.
And who better to be in charge of the project than former restaurant owner and Boring Company President Steve Davis, according to Bloomberg. Davis’ former bar, not unlike the Boring Company, was a bit odd. It sold “Ring Pops, kept a Bedazzler on the premises and gave 10% off to anyone who dressed up as Carlton from the TV show Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
And now he’s going to be drilling a hole through Las Vegas. Perfect.
Now, Davis will be on site on Friday to mark the beginning of tunnel drilling under the Las Vegas convention center. The $48.7 million project is the first, and only, major project so far for the Boring Company. Pit construction and other preliminary work on the project began two months ago.
The plan is for Las Vegas convention center attendees to be able to board Teslas running along a throughway underground and be moved half the distance of the complex in just 1 minute.
Mike Wongkaew, who was a Boring Co. engineer until late last year, said of Davis: “He has the ability to inspire people. He also rolls up his sleeves and helps out.”
Wongkaew said Davis was among those helping the Boring Company finish its Hawthorne test tunnel. He has been called a “sharp engineer” by colleagues.
Juan Reyes, former acting administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration said: “He’s a technical guy. They really count on him to resolve issues.”
But there are apparently “no shortage of issues” at the Boring Company today. Two major projects – one in Washington and one in Chicago – have both been put on hold. In Chicago, Rahm Emmanuel’s successor, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, called Musk’s promise to build the tunnel without city money “a total fantasy”.
Additional critics have called into question the safety of the company’s tunnels and its lack of experience with large scale project. But the company believes that it is their new, disruptive thinking that is going to allow it to develop technology to build tunnels “faster and cheaper”.
Yeah, just like the alien dreadnaught was going to revolutionize auto manufacturing. Now, we’re building cars in a tent.
Davis has been working for Musk since 2003, when he was hired at SpaceX. He has two master’s degrees – one in particle physics and the other in aerospace engineering. Being with Musk for almost two decades definitely makes him one of Musk’s longest standing employees.
One SpaceX engineer said of him: “He’s been working 16 hours a day every day for years. He gets more done than 11 people working together.”
He has also performed major feats of engineering for Musk. For instance, Musk once assigned him with the task of making a $120,000 part for just $5,000. Davis worked on it for months and figured out a way to make the part for just $3,900.
While working for SpaceX, he also decided to get into the frozen yogurt industry:
At SpaceX, Davis spent a few years working in different locations, including Omelek Island in the Marshall Islands, where the company once had launch facilities, as well as its Southern California headquarters. Then, a little over a decade ago, he moved to Washington to open the company’s D.C. office. There, missing the type of frozen yogurt he’d grown accustomed to in California, he decided to learn to make it himself via trial and error, according to an interview with a local radio station.
As a side project, he opened his own yogurt store, Mr. Yogato, in the city’s Dupont Circle neighborhood, three months before the first successful launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 1 vehicle in 2008. Mr. Yogato customers who answered trivia questions correctly got 10% off, as did anyone who could stump Davis on a Seinfeld question, according to the “Rules of Yogato” posted on the shop’s website. Those who came dressed as tennis star Bjorn Borg got 25% off.
Davis also started working on a PhD while at SpaceX, pursuing a degree in economics at George Mason University. There, he wrote his 2010 dissertation at U.S. currency debasement. In the preface to his dissertation, as one does, he noted that he “one day hoped to open a restaurant called ‘Little Yohai,’ perhaps finding inspiration in Morrie Robert Yohai, inventor of the Cheez Doodle.”
He has since sold his bar in 2015 and sold his yogurt shop for $1, after holding a contest to select the new owner. Davis has also “served as a member of the board of advisers of the Atlas Society,” a group dedicated to exploring the philosophy of Ayn Rand.
In 2016, when Musk started Boring Company, he brought Davis on stage with him and joked with him about their plans for using the company’s waste products to sell “Boring Bricks”. Davis seemed to have a good rapport with Musk, which is probably why he has stayed on board with him for so long.
But not everyone is enthused about this friendship. Las Vegas’ mayor, Carolyn Goodman, has taken a stance against the project, citing “the company’s track record of completing zero commercial projects so far.”
But when Davis spoke about the project this spring at a Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority meeting, the group outvoted Goodman and approved the project. An integral part of Davis’ job has been convincing local officials, something he was familiar with at SpaceX, too.
Reyes said: “He was always trying to adjust things so the government would ultimately approve it.”
And now the future of the Boring Company may hinge on it. Other cities that are considering tunnel projects, like San Jose, will be watching closely to see if Davis can pull off the Vegas project without a hitch.
Davis said during his presentation with Musk: “Flying cars … they don’t really exist. Tunnels do exist. And are very buildable.”