Elon Musk unveiled his underground transportation tunnel on Tuesday, allowing reporters and invited guests to take some of the first rides in the revolutionary albeit bumpy subterranean tube—the tech entrepreneur's answer to what he calls "soul-destroying traffic." Guests boarded Musk's Tesla Model S and rode along Los Angeles-area surface streets for about a mile away to what's known as O'Leary Station. The station, smack dab in the middle of a residential neighborhood, consists of a wall-less elevator that slowly took the car down a wide shaft, roughly 30 feet below the surface, the AP reports. The sky slowly fell away and the surprisingly narrow tunnel emerged. "We're clear," said the driver, who sped up and zipped into the tunnel when a red track light turned green.
The car jostled significantly during the ride, which was bumpy enough to give one reporter motion sickness while another yelled, "Woo!" Musk described his first ride as "epic." "For me it was a eureka moment," he told reporters. "I was like, 'This thing is going to damn well work.'" He said the rides are bumpy now because "we kind of ran out of time" and there were some problems with the speed of his paving machine. "It'll be smooth as glass," he said of future systems. "This is just a prototype. That's why it's a little rough around the edges." More:
- Musk explained for the first time in detail how the system, which he simply calls "loop," could work on a larger scale beneath cities across 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. "It's much more like an underground highway than it is a subway," Musk said.
- The demo rides were considerably slower—40mph—than what Musk says the future system will run at: 150mph. Still, it took only three minutes to go just over a mile from the beginning to the end of the tunnel.
- Steve Davis, head of The Boring Company, said the interest in the tunnel systems has been significant . One project Musk is planning on, known as the Dugout Loop, would take Los Angeles baseball fans to Dodger Stadium from one of three subway stations. Another would take travelers from downtown Chicago to O'Hare International Airport. Both projects are in the environmental review phase.
- Musk's representatives also unveiled on Tuesday a new tunnel-boring machine they hope to have online soon, one that can bore four times faster than the one they've been using. Musk said it took about $10 million to build the test tunnel, a far cry from the $1 billion per mile his company says most tunnels take to build.
- The tunnel will not be open to the public for the foreseeable future, Musk said, adding that regulations wouldn't allow for it to open widely for demo rides just yet.
(Musk's separate "hyperloop" plan also made progress this year.