Urban Transport

The Boring Company's first tunnel opens its doors

The first piece of what Elon Musk hopes will become a sprawling network of tubes whizzing passengers along beneath city congestion
The first piece of what Elon Musk hopes will become a sprawling network of tubes whizzing passengers along beneath city congestion
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The Boring Company's tunneling machine
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The Boring Company's tunneling machine
A worker on the job at the exit to The Boring Company's demo tunnel
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A worker on the job at the exit to The Boring Company's demo tunnel
The Boring Company's first test tunnel is 1.14 mi (1.83 km) long
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The Boring Company's first test tunnel is 1.14 mi (1.83 km) long
The first piece of what Elon Musk hopes will become a sprawling network of tubes whizzing passengers along beneath city congestion
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The first piece of what Elon Musk hopes will become a sprawling network of tubes whizzing passengers along beneath city congestion
A Tesla inside The Boring Company's first tunnel, fitted with retractable wheel gear
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A Tesla inside The Boring Company's first tunnel, fitted with retractable wheel gear
The Boring Company's tunneling machine
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The Boring Company's tunneling machine

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 center of the tunnel. He was quick to point out that the required wheel gear won't be available to Teslas only.

A Tesla inside The Boring Company's first tunnel, fitted with retractable wheel gear
A Tesla inside The Boring Company's first tunnel, fitted with retractable wheel gear

"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, 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.

A worker on the job at the exit to The Boring Company's demo tunnel
A worker on the job at the exit to The Boring Company's demo tunnel

"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

6 comments
guzmanchinky
Hmmmmmm Maybe? I hope so, something needs to be done about traffic, it seems we should have solved it by 2018...
Fletcher
This hole project looks pretty boring and the company is Boring. After getting that out of the way I think it is a good start at building some sort of subterranean traffic infrastructures below LA, other than sewer and water lines. It will probably fail due to cost like most 1st city boring projects but the start is the most expense, then someone else will pick up the ball and get things rolling.
jd_dunerider
Average car length in the US is 15 feet, if they can get the system super efficient on spacing and timing to where they could get down to a foot between cars, that's 330 cars in a mile of tunnel. Traveling at 150mph that's 330 cars traveling through a given mile of tunnel every 24 seconds. Anyways, I'm bad at math but it seems you could run a ton of cars around a city and really reduce congestion if you had enough of these tunnels. It would also get more people to leave their car at home. My biggest concern is the elevator plan, hopping on at just any old street. How does that vehicle then tie into the system smoothly with all these vehicles zipping around at 150mph? A point to point tunnel seems much more feasible, but then I don't have the intelligence and vision of Elon Musk. Maybe some of the long haul tunnels will in fact be point to point, like a tunnel running from one edge of a city to the opposite edge. I'll be curious to see how this goes. If the tunnels are a success and democrats get kicked out of office throughout California, maybe I'd move to LA.
Username
The source of traffic problems is the same as every other problem on this sphere. Too many humans. Unless we get that under control everything being done is just a temporary stop gap measure.
Grunchy
It's a tunnel but I can't tell what the elevator looks like or what the vehicle skate looks like or how you get your car on the skate. It's nothing but a tunnel? That's a bit underwhelming. So you go via tunnel to some guy's house and then there's no elevator to get out, so you.. go back where you started I guess? And how do you get in if there's no elevator? The view in a tunnel is pretty stark.
Ergslider
Username is 100% right.
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