The Boring Company has moved rather swiftly since CEO Elon Musk first floated the idea of overcoming LA's notorious traffic woes by digging underneath them. Two years after he publicly raised the concept, the startup has now snipped the ribbon on its first tunnel at an opening event in LA, with attendees watching on in anticipation of taking the first subterranean rides.
The technical details have evolved a little over the past two years but the mission of The Boring Company has remained the same, to cut the cost and time involved in burrowing holes through the Earth in order to build a network of traffic-busting tunnels. These tunnels are to be accessed via vehicle elevators that lower electric cars from the road onto an underground track, while an elevator lifts them from the tunnel exit back up to street level at the other end.
In a presentation at the opening today, Musk revealed that these cars will be fitted with special retractable wheel gear that folds out and wedges the vehicle inside the tracks, locking it into position in the centre of the tunnel. He was quick to point out that the required wheel gear won't be available to Teslas only.
"This is not intended to be some kind of wall garden, any autonomous EV can be fitted with these guided wheels," he said.
While that would mean that vehicles will need fancy retractable wheel gear to move through The Boring Company's tunnels they, travel won't be limited to car owners only. Musk also noted that vehicles dedicated to pedestrians and cyclists would continuously travel through the tunnel, retract their wheel gear and return to street level to drive back to the starting point and repeat the cycle.
"Priority will go to pedestrians and cyclists for continuously looping vehicles, I really want to emphasize that," he said.
Musk says that because the vehicles are locked into place like a train, they will be very safe and be able to travel at speeds far greater than those allowed on the street, in excess of 150 mph (241 km/h). This, he claims, "will feel like teleporting within a city," and could one day provide another means of mass transit.
The Boring Company's US$10 demo tunnel is 1.14 mi (1.83 km) long, starting at its headquarters in Hawthorne and ending at a private residence it purchased earlier in the year. The company notified the surrounding residents of its digging operations at the time, but Musk made a point of downplaying the risk of disturbances through its tunnel construction.
"The exit of the tunnel is basically in the backyard of a house," he said. "The next door neighbor was watching TV when our tunneling machine broke through, and didn't even stop watching TV, that's how subtle it was. You won't see, hear of feel these tunnels being created."
This tunnel is just the first piece of what Musk hopes will become a sprawling network of tubes whizzing passengers beneath a city's congestion. He describes this as taking transport three-dimensional, in the same way office buildings and apartments have allowed us to expand upward rather than just horizontally, these tunnels will enable transport to do the same, albeit in the opposite direction.
"This is something I think will work, it is scalable," he said. "We have a demonstration tunnel here, and we expect to expand to cities all over the world to allow people to spend more time with their friends and family."
Source: The Boring Company