Land And Air Travel Aren’t Enough For Elon Musk. He’s Going Underground – Forbes

Land And Air Travel Aren’t Enough For Elon Musk. He’s Going Underground – Forbes
A still from The Boring Company's tunnel network video.

The Boring Company

A still from The Boring Company’s tunnel network video.

Elon Musk revealed what he has in mind for his new Boring Company at the TED conference in Vancouver on Friday: a vast underground transportation network beneath crowded cities to complement his electric Tesla vehicles and SpaceX rockets.

After sharing highlights of his latest endeavor at the future-oriented tech conference, Musk debuted a short video from the TED stage. The concept includes street-level platforms that function as elevators to lower cars down to an underground series of tunnels crisscrossing Los Angeles. Those platforms then function as automated sled-like carriers that transport the vehicles, at speeds of more than 120 miles per hour, through the network to the desired exit shaft, according to the video.

“We’re trying to dig a hole under LA, and this is to create the beginning of what will be a 3D network of tunnels to alleviate congestion,” Musk told the audience. “You should be able to go from say Westwood to LAX in 5-6 minutes.”

Development of the science fiction-style system is being led by Steve Davis, a senior engineer at SpaceX in Los Angeles, which is already creating a test tunnel below and adjacent to the factory that makes the company’s rockets.

The system is a fascinating idea, though whether Musk will be able to build a large-scale version anytime soon for testing in advance of deploying such a system, beyond his corporate property, remains a big question. Likewise, steep engineering and construction costs could be vastly greater than any he’s encountered so far with Tesla and SpaceX.

Musk’s motivation for the project is the soul-crushing traffic he and millions of Angelinos experience daily.

For years, Musk as grumbled about the need for a solution to the city’s consistently jammed roadways. In 2013, the billionaire tech entrepreneur even offered to share some of the cost of widening the 405 freeway on the city’s west side. Shortly thereafter he kicked off his idea for the vacuum-tube Hyperloop concept, which SpaceX engineers also continue to investigate.

In December, in what seemed like a joke, he said in a series of tweets that his frustration with LA traffic helped convince him that he needed to create yet another enterprise to solve the problem once and for all.

“Traffic is driving me nuts. Am going to build a tunnel boring machine and just start digging,” he tweeted to millions of followers last year.

Boring Tweets

In a Bloomberg Businessweek feature this year, Musk discussed plans for the company, confirming that it was no joke. Still, exactly how much he’s willing to invest in it and the level of funding such an undertaking would require are unanswered questions.

Sure, his hands may be full trying to get the Tesla Model 3 out the door to customers this year and then quintupling Tesla vehicle production by 2018, while keeping up with SpaceX’s busy launch calendar and plans for manned missions around the moon by next year.

But as he assured his audience in Vancouver, he’s only spending 2 or 3 percent of his time on working on tunneling plans. Stay tuned.

Alan Ohnsman covers the intersection of technology, autos and mobility. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Land And Air Travel Aren’t Enough For Elon Musk. He’s Going Underground – Forbes

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