Elon Musk is going underground. The Tesla and SpaceX CEO’s side project, The Boring Company, released its first image of the tunnel it’s digging to eliminate”soul-destroying” traffic for the world’s cities. Musk has been teasing updates about the tunnels for months since receiving approval from the Hawthorne, California’s city council (headquarters of SpaceX) to build a two-mile test tunnel in August.
Musk wrote on Twitter that it had bored 500 feet of the 2 miles (10,560 feet) that it plans to complete over the next four months. Although the first test tunnel began in the parking lot of SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, Musk described the first official route as following the 405 highway from Los Angeles International Airport. It will then connect with the 101 highway corridor over the next year. Musk did not say if these tunnels were fully permitted from government agencies.
Crucially, the tunnels will not have traditional trains but electric “skates,” mobile platforms that can carry either cars or pods for passengers. These skates, capable of traveling 150 miles per hour, can exit the main tunnel through off ramps and ensure traffic only slows down for those approaching the desired stop.
The technology is anything but proven, but the company has been hard at work testing prototype tunnels that can hold lightning-fast rail systems (such as Hyperloop, an idea Musk challenged others to build in 2013). On Apr 28, at a TED conference, Musk explained his proposal to deploy continuous tunnel-boring machines that link cities through a network of deep underground tunnels. Musk outlined a plan to dig narrower tunnels with faster machines that drill continuously rather than the slow, manual and often inefficient methods used today. His full description is here.
In October, Musk received a conditional utility permit from the Maryland Department of Transportation to dig a tunnel under a 10.3 mile stretch of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. Ultimately, the company plans to create a network of high-speed underground tunnels several layers deep beneath major cities. By increasing tunneling speed and cutting costs (now about $1 billion per mile) by a factor of 10 or more, The Boring Company says it will transform travel in densely populated regions. A New York to Washington DC trip could be completed in less than 30 minutes.
In May, Musk posted a test run of the electric sled (adding a warning that the fast moving video may cause motion sickness or seizures for those with epilepsy):