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Elon Musk’s Boring Co. Unveils Prototype Underground Tunnel Transport System

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Elon Musk

Billionaire Elon Musk describes traffic in Los Angeles as soul-crushing, and said in the 16 years he has lived in the city and county, "traffic has gone from the seventh level of hell to the eighth level of hell. It’s terrible."

Musk's solution: creating an underground highway network. 

In front of cheering fans at a special invite-only event, Musk unveiled Tuesday night the first segment of his traffic solution — a 1.14-mile prototype tunnel underneath the SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne. 

It is what he hopes will be one of many underground tunnels that could zip people in and out of the city as part of a much larger network in Los Angeles — and while it may not completely cure traffic congestion, it could provide an alternative transportation system.

“Wouldn’t it be incredible if you can travel around LA, New York, D.C., Chicago, Paris, London — anywhere — at 150 miles per hour?” Musk said. “It would be phenomenal.”

“Traffic is soul-destroying," he said. "It’s like acid on a soul. Horrible. It must go away ... And this is finally, finally, finally something that can solve the [expletive] traffic problem."

Musk's The Boring Co., an offshoot of SpaceX, began construction on the $10M test tunnel, dubbed "Godot," in 2017. It is one of several tunnels nationwide Musk has proposed as a faster way for people to get where they need to go.

In Los Angeles, Musk has submitted plans to transport people 3.6 miles underground from Los Feliz, East Hollywood and Rampart neighborhoods to Dodger Stadium. In Chicago, he has proposed the Chicago Express Loop to give people transportation between O’Hare Airport and downtown Chicago. The company is currently in the environmental review stages of creating a project that would take people from downtown Washington, D.C., to Baltimore, Maryland. 

"You can weave into The Boring Co.’s network in a city without changing the characteristics of a city," Musk said at the event. "The city will still feel the same. You won’t get in anyone’s way or obstruct anyone’s views. You’ll have this revolutionary transit system and your city will still feel like your city." 

 

In the tunnel demonstration, an autonomous vehicle would drive and park on a spot in the street that is actually a specially designed elevator platform about the size of two parking spaces. The elevator would sink beneath the surface about 20 to 40 feet into the tunnel and zip the vehicle toward the destination at 150 mph. The original concept was to have the cars attach on some sort of car skate but now the plan is to have the electric vehicles drive themselves along the tunnel. The tunnel is only for electric and autonomous vehicles.

Musk said the process is like a wormhole.

"You drop down the wormhole and pop back up on the other side," Musk said. 

Musk said the cars would need to be outfitted with specially designed guide wheels that hook onto the track for use in the tunnel system. Musk said these guide wheels would cost $200 to $300.

Reporters who went on the ride in a Tesla Model X described the ride akin to driving on a dirt road; slower than promised and bumpy. But Musk described the first ride as epic.

"For me, it was a eureka moment," he said, according to the Associated Press. "I was like, 'This thing is going to damn well work.'"