Musk Demos Boring Transit Tunnel

Tesla CEO Elon Musk's 2-year-old Boring Co. has demonstrated its first proof-of-concept transit tunnel.

A modified Tesla X electric SUV was used yesterday to take guests on test rides at speeds of about 60 mph through the 1.1-mile tunnel. The vehicle was outfitted with horizontal wheels that flip down from the front of the chassis to help guide the car along a track within the tunnel. An elevator station transports vehicles between the street and tunnel entrance.

Musk estimates it will cost less than $300 to modify existing vehicles to be used in the tunnel. He says this is much cheaper and easier than using skateboard platforms to carry vehicles or passenger pods, which Boring previously had proposed.

Models from other carmakers will be permitted, but only if they are fully electric and have the capability to drive autonomously.

This will eliminate potential concerns about underground emissions and ensure the cars can be automatically stopped quickly if necessary, according to Musk.

The tunnel is about 12 ft in diameter and runs 20 to 40 ft below street level in Hawthorne, Calif., where Boring and Musk’s SpaceX rocket company are both based. The prototype tunnel will be used as research and development area for a high-speed underground transit network Musk envisions completing through Los Angeles over the next 10 years.

Boring took 18 months to construct the tunnel using a variety of new methods. The $10 million project included excavation, internal infrastructure, lighting, ventilation, safety systems, communications and a track. Digging a mile of tunnel by conventional methods could costs as much as $1 billion, Musk estimates.

To further offset costs, Boring plans to use excavated dirt from future tunnels to make bricks that could either be sold or donated to low-income housing projects. Removing dirt typically accounts for about 15% of the cost of boring holes during tunnel projects.

Boring has several other development projects across the U.S. But critics are skeptical about the technology and whether it can reduce traffic congestion.