SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk unveiled his underground transportation tunnel on Tuesday, inviting guests to take the maiden ride in what he says will bring an end to the “soul-destroying traffic” of Los Angeles.
Musk founded the Boring Company two years ago for the very purpose of creating this tunnel, after complaining that the traffic in LA was “driving him nuts.” The project cost approximately $10 million and is 1.14 miles long. One of its ends is in a parking lot owned by SpaceX, while the other is in a neighborhood in Hawthorne, California.
Guests and Musk himself rode through the tunnel in modified Tesla Model X SUVs, travelling between 40 and 50 miles an hour. These cars have deployable alignment wheels sticking out to the sides of the main wheels that act as bumpers to keep the Model X on course, preventing them from running into the tunnel’s sides.
“If a driver passes out or goes crazy those tracking wheels ensure the car stays on track,” Musk explained.
The ride was quite bumpy however, enough to make one reporter yell “Wooo!” and give another motion sickness. Musk, on the other hand, called it “epic.” He went on to explain that the rides were bumpy because “we ran out of time” and the paving machine used in the project couldn’t keep up to pace with the schedule. The journey only took three minutes.
These demo rides were much slower than the speeds at which the cars would travel once the tunnel becomes open to the public. Once fully operational, the Boring Company’s tunnel will be able to host vehicles travelling at 150 miles an hour.
Musk also proceeded to explain how this system, which he calls “loop”, could be used in cities all around the globe. Autonomous, electric vehicles could be lowered into the system on wall-less elevators, which could be placed almost anywhere cars can go. The cars would have to be fitted with specially designed side wheels that pop out perpendicular to the car’s regular tires and run along the tunnel’s track. The cost for such wheels would be about $200 or $300 a car, Musk said. Once in the main arteries of the system, these cars could move at full speed.
“It’s much more like an underground highway than it is a subway,” asserted Musk. He also explained that while the cars would have to be autonomous, they wouldn’t necessarily have to be Teslas. They would however, need to be electric so that toxic fumes wouldn’t accumulate in the tunnels.
Musk also dismissed concerns about noise pollution from the construction of such infrastructure. He explained that when workers bored through the end of the test tunnel the people in the home 20 feet (6 meters) away “didn’t even stop watching TV.”