Leave it to Elon Musk to inject some life into the news desert that is the holiday season. In his guise as CEO of tunnel-boring company, The Boring Company, Musk got the ball rolling with a Twitter poll gauging support for building “super safe, earthquake-proof tunnels under cities to solve traffic” and wrapped it up by saying that he hopes to have the first section completed in Las Vegas in 2020.
Musk said on Twitter that the Boring Co. is completing its first commercial “Loop” tunnel in Sin City, stretching about a mile from the Las Vegas Convention Center to the Strip, “then will work on other projects.” He further elaborated: “These would be road tunnels for zero emissions vehicles only — no toxic fumes is the key. Really, just an underground road, but limited to EVs (from all auto companies). This is not in place of other solutions, eg light rail, but supplemental to them.”
Build super safe, Earthquake-proof tunnels under cities to solve traffic— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 28, 2019
Autoblog unsuccessfully sought confirmation from the Boring Co., but a spokesperson from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority told CNN the 2020 deadline was in line with previous projections and would mean it could be open in time for the 2021 Consumer Electronics Show. The company has said the Las Vegas project will feature two mile-long tunnels that will transport passengers on skateboard-like autonomous platforms at up to 155 mph. It’s also working on projects in Chicago and Baltimore.
Musk had originally said the Vegas tunnel could be completed by the end of 2019, but digging reportedly only got under way in November.
Predictably, Musk drew a receptive audience via his Twitter poll, but he also stoked backlash from many users, who quipped that what he was describing would be better suited as a subway system and that the Tesla CEO was simply doubling down on private car use, not finding solutions to traffic congestion.
As other outlets have noted, the tunnels as currently designed are wide enough for only one car at a time, so there would likely be congestion at tunnel entry and exit points. And there is no word on what it would cost to use such tunnels, though the company says they’ll be “comparable to or lower than current public transpiration fares for pedestrians.” Given that electric vehicles — and especially Teslas — are already expensive, is what Musk is proposing simply a way for well-heeled motorists to avoid the unpleasantries of surface traffic?
There are still a lot of ifs surrounding Musk’s tunnel vision. The Boring Co. says it’s targeting 4,000 vehicles per hour at 155 mph for each tunnel that it builds, which is a small fraction of the kind of traffic seen in major U.S. cities. Its goal is to decrease the cost of boring tunnels underground by a factor of more than 10, in part by reducing the diameter of tunnels and increasing the speed of the boring machine.