Elon Musk Just Opened the Boring Company’s First Tunnel in LA

Dec 20, 2018

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Just days after a report came out accusing Elon Musk of misusing SpaceX funds for his Boring Company Tunneling Project, the billionaire entrepreneur opened the first Boring Company Tunnel outside of Los Angeles, California.

Below the city of Hawthorne sits a 1.14 mile tunnel that Musk hopes will be the first step in ending “soul-destroying” traffic that plagues cities around the world. Musk’s upstart hopes to build a series of tunnels that will ferry personal vehicles (or mass transit pods) at high speeds underneath the gridlocked traffic at surface level.

After multiple delays, The Boring Company introduced its first fully functioning test tunnel last night to an excited crowd of media and spectators.

While this is just the first iteration of the project, Musk displayed how vehicles would travel through the tunnel, which sits 40 feet below the earth’s surface. Cars were outfitted with a set of alignment wheels to lock them into the track — bringing to mind the sense that the road car has transformed into a train car.

HAWTHORNE, CA - DECEMBER 18: A modified Tesla Model X electric vehicle enters a tunnel during an unveiling event for The Boring Company Hawthorne test tunnel December 18, 2018 in Hawthorne, California. On Tuesday night, The Boring Company will officially open the Hawthorne tunnel, a preview of Musk's larger vision to ease traffic in Los Angeles. (Photo by Robyn Beck-Pool/Getty Images)
A modified Tesla Model X electric vehicle enters a tunnel during an unveiling event for The Boring Company Hawthorne test tunnel December 18, 2018 in Hawthorne, California. (Photo by Robyn Beck-Pool/Getty Images)

Since they are locked in, cars would potentially be able to travel at 150 mph. However, last night’s test only had vehicles reaching about 50mph.

The ride was reportedly quite bumpy, hence the need to stay at a lower speed. Musk says that once they smooth out the track more, cars will be able to travel at full speed.

“We are obviously in the early stages here — this is a prototype and we are figuring things out,” Musk said, according to The Washington Post. “What is really important is that there is a path finally, finally, finally I think … to alleviating traffic congestion in cities.”

Video from the rides appear to show a system that actually works somewhat seamlessly, with cars being raised and lowered into the tunnel via elevators.

HAWTHORNE, CA - DECEMBER 18: Elon Musk, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Tesla Inc., arrives in a modified Tesla Model X electric vehicle during an unveiling event for The Boring Company Hawthorne test tunnel December 18, 2018 in Hawthorne, California. On Tuesday night, The Boring Company will officially open the Hawthorne tunnel, a preview of Musk's larger vision to ease traffic in Los Angeles. (Photo by Robyn Beck-Pool/Getty Images)
Elon Musk, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Tesla Inc., arrives in a modified Tesla Model X electric vehicle during an unveiling event for The Boring Company Hawthorne test tunnel December 18, 2018 in Hawthorne, California. (Photo by Robyn Beck-Pool/Getty Images)

The tunnel is quite small at just 12 feet in diameter — significantly smaller than what cars or trains currently go travel through, but this is just one of Musk’s ideas on how you can significantly cut down on the costs of tunneling projects. The Boring Company wants to revolutionize tunnel boring by making it cheaper and faster to build the underground tubes. According to Musk, the project cost $10 million, but The Washington Post pegs the total cost closer to $40 million. Either number is much cheaper than the cost per mile of other public transit tunnels, which can cost about 10 to 100 times that.

A significant cost of tunnel boring is actually associated with the large amount of dirt that’s displaced during the digging process. So instead of spending heaps of cash on trucks to haul the dirt away, Boring is making bricks on-site and actually selling them to help turn a profit. Some of those bricks were even used to build a Monty Python Style Watchtower on the SpaceX property, where Boring’s test tunnel is located.

Still, a project of building hundreds miles of tunnels and elevators to bring cars in and out of the system will require billions, if not trillions of dollars, countless environmental impact studies (which Boring was able to get waivers for in Los Angeles) and the buy-in from the public and government officials.

Musk has revealed plans for a potential system of tunnels below Los Angeles that could cost between $1 for a public ride on a shared “loop” vehicle or up to $4 if you want to drive your own car.

Chicago awarded Boring a $1 billion contract to construct a high-speed transit link between downtown Chicago and O’Hare International airport. It’s announced other projects including a tunnel connecting the LA Dodgers’ stadium to Los Feliz or East Hollywood and another that would link Washington, DC, and Baltimore.

H/T: The Washington Post

Featured image by Robyn Beck-Pool/Getty Images.

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