Copyright 2009 Cargo Tunnel

Cargo Tunnel

Motor vehicle trips are often made for the purpose of moving goods. In many cases, the size and weight of the goods being moved are small compared to the size and weight of the vehicle, and the vast majority of the energy consumed is for the movement of the vehicle rather than for the movement of the goods themselves. A smaller vehicle can move these goods using much less energy. In addition, if the smaller vehicle is automatically controlled and therefore does not require a driver, a major savings in labor costs can be achieved. Cargo Tunnel is a system of small automated vechicles, operating in tunnels, that can move goods using minimal energy and labor.


Cargo Tunnel can simplify online shopping. A big problem with buying online is that the internet itself can only deliver information and not physical items. With Cargo Tunnel, that boundary will be crossed. For example, if a consumer wants to buy a sweater online, they can order from a nearby store and in 10 minutes they can try on a Medium. If its the wrong size they can easily send it back and get a Large or a Small. Another example is storage. If someone's closet is getting too crowded, they can send their winter clothes off to a Cargo Tunnel storage warehouse until they need them. Cargo Tunnel could be the second half of the internet revolution, and maybe the bigger half.

Cargo Tunnel can be viewed as a new utility service connected to homes and businesses, and historically over the centuries, quality of life improved as the currently implemented collection of utilities was installed. The utilities commonly installed in homes and businesses at this time are:

- Sewer

- Water

- Gas

- Electric

- Phone

- Cable TV

- Internet

Additional new uses were found for these utilities after they were made commonly available, and we expect that the same process will occur with Cargo Tunnel.

Cargo Tunnel can also be viewed as a national infrastructure asset. Historically, the US economy has grown following the completion of major infrastructure projects:

- Erie Canal

- Transcontinental Railroad

- Panama Canal

- Colorado and Columbia River Dams and Electrical Power Grid

- Interstate Highway System

- Internet

Cargo Tunnel should improve the economy by simplifying commerce. The convenience and lower shipping cost afforded by Cargo Tunnel can enable new types of commerce that are not economically viable without it.

Cargo Tunnel can also remove many cars from the roads, which directly results in saved lives, avoided injuries, reduced greenhouse gases, less dependence on foreign oil, reduced need to widen freeways, less pollution, and less wear and tear on vehicles.

The total economic cost of motor vehicle accidents in the US in 2000 was $230.568 Billion. If Cargo Tunnel can reduce the number of auto accidents by 10 percent, a savings to society of over $20 Billion a year will result. This savings alone can offset a large fraction of the cost of Cargo Tunnel construction.

Clearly, the long term benefits of Cargo Tunnel, while considerable, are difficult to completely envision at this time.

Technology Description

Cargo Tunnel is a transportation technology for the movement of goods using automated vehicles operating in tunnels. Access cabinets will be located in or near homes and businesses, and the Cargo Tunnel system will automatically transport standardized containers from originating cabinets to destination cabinets. The system is sized for the movement of typical household items, such as groceries, clothing, and mail.

Cargo Tunnel includes:

- main tunnels under the existing streets containing a track system

- lateral tunnels branching off from the main tunnels

- access cabinets at the end of lateral tunnels in or near homes and businesses

- standardized containers to hold goods

- automated vehicles for moving containers

- construction, operation, and maintenance facilities

The standardized container is an upright cylinder, 18 inches in diameter and 18 inches tall. It is made of plastic, and has a lid which fits tightly. When the lid is in place, the container is airtight, except for a small breather opening in the lid to allow for expansion and contraction of the air in the container due to changes in elevation, temperature, and barometric pressure.

The main tunnels are 4 feet in internal diameter. They will generally be placed under existing streets, either through surface excavation, or preferably by tunneling. Each main tunnel contains an electrified track system. Automated vehicles travel on these tracks. Access cabinets are located at the end of lateral tunnels. Each lateral tunnel is 3 feet in interior diameter.

Construction Methods

The key to making Cargo Tunnel cost effective is the high use of automation in the construction process. With sufficiently high levels of automation, the cost of the tunnel system can approach the cost of the materials used to construct it. This approach applies the benefits of the factory assembly line to the construction of tunnels.

Unlike large vehicle tunnels, which often go under mountains and pass through solid rock, the tunnels required for Cargo Tunnel are very shallow and pass primarily through the surface soil. The depth of these tunnels would often be 10 to 20 feet, just deep enough underground to avoid the preexisting utility pipes and cables.

From the time it is in its preexisting location in the ground until it is dumped at the permanent disposal site, the excavated material will be processed entirely by automated equipment, without any regular human interaction. There will be instances in which human intervention is required, such as equipment failure or the discovery of unexpected ground conditions, but for the majority of the excavation, the automated equipment will be used.

Innovative Ideas

Cargo Tunnel takes advantage of the low cost and extensive capabilities of modern computers to automate the movement of goods. By constructing a dedicated track system that is isolated from the interference of surface street activity, and by using a standardized container, Cargo Tunnel simplifies the control requirements so that computers can control the movement of goods between businesses and consumers.

Construction of a dedicated track system avoids any negative impact on the surface streets. Cargo Tunnel also takes advantage of robotics technology to inexpensively construct the tunnels. By using highly automated tunneling devices, the main and lateral tunnels can be constructed without digging up the surface streets. Because the main and lateral tunnels are highly standardized, specialized equipment can be developed for tunnel construction, greatly reducing the labor costs for construction.

Key Personnel

Russ Tilleman has over 25 years of experience in the design of advanced electronics and computer software. He has experience founding and running a successful software business, and also has experience in construction and excavation. Russ holds a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley.

Don Van Dyke has extensive experience in Compiler Development, Computer Architecture, and Engineering Management. He has worked as OS manager at Intel, where he led a team defining advanced HW architectures and OS features. Before Intel, Don was Software Director at ATI Research. As Architecture manager at Sun Microsystems in 1995, he managed groups of architects developing advanced Sparc processors. At Cray Research in 1990, he led the development of a highly advanced optimizing compiler. He holds more than 15 patents in computer architecture and compiler optimization. He holds a B.A. degree in Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley.

BK Paul holds an M.S. degree in Structural Engineering and Structural Mechanics from the University of California, Berkeley, an M.S. in Structural Engineering and Construction from the Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok, Thailand, and a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, Dacca, Bangladesh. He has more than 32 years of experience, including structural analysis and design of residential, commercial, industrial, recreational, and community structures and facilities. He has worked on residential and commercial structures, parking structures, overhead water tanks, highway bridges, and waterfront structures. BK has been registered with the State of California as a Professional Civil Engineer (C35258) since 1982 and as a Professional Structural Engineer since 1988 (S3093.) He is a member of the Structural Engineers Association of California and a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers. BK is the owner of Earthquake and Structures, Inc., a civil and structural engineering company in Oakland, CA.

Doug Tygar is a professor of computer science and information management at UC Berkeley, specializing in computer security, privacy and electronic commerce. His current research includes strong privacy protections, security issues in sensor webs, and digital rights management. His newest book is "Secure Broadcast Communication in Wired and Wireless Networks" (with Adrian Perrig). He designed cryptographic postage standards for the U.S. Postal Service and has helped build a number of security and electronic commerce systems including Strongbox, Dyad, Netbill, and Micro-Tesla. He serves as chair of the Defense Department's ISAT Study Group on Security with Privacy. He has been quoted by such media outlets as The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, and San Francisco Chronicle, as well as with the broadcast outlets BBC and CBS.


Cargo Tunnel is clearly a very large and complicated infrastructure project. Full scale implementation throughout the United States will cost hundreds of billions of dollars. However, the development cost for the technology is in the tens of millions of dollars, rather than the billions. These costs must be weighed against the potential economic returns of reduction in auto accident costs, improvement of the economy through simplification of trade, and reduced costs for road construction and maintenance.

Cargo Tunnel can be implemented on either a local or widespread basis as desired. The homes and businesses within a city or neighborhood can be connected into a small network, or the entire country can be connected into a large network. The usefulness of Cargo Tunnel in even small networks allows individual cities to decide if they want to install the system.

Our funding model plans for cities to independently hold elections in which the residents would vote for or against installing Cargo Tunnel in their community. If they choose to install the system, we will build, maintain, and operate if for them under contract, but they will own the infrastructure. This breaks the large national installation cost down into smaller pieces that can be dealt with on a local level.

The estimated cost of construction for Cargo Tunnel is very roughly $2000 per capita. For cities which decide to install the system, an increase in property taxes of roughly $30 to $50 a month per home is expected to pay for construction. This is a similar amount to a monthly bill for cable TV. The reduced use of autombiles can result in reduced fuel, maintenance, depreciation, and insurance costs, offsetting some or all of the construction cost.

The key to making Cargo Tunnel cost effective is to automate the construction process as much as possible, so that construction costs approach materials costs. This is expected to be feasible based on the high volume of tunneling, millions of miles of total tunnel length, and the high degree of standardization of the tunnels.