LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk is a short public appearance late on Tuesday to unveil the first tunnel completed the underground transit venture he launched two years ago as an ambitious remedy to Los Angeles’ infamously heavy traffic.
Tesla Inc. founder Elon Musk speaks at the unveiling event by “The Boring Company” for the test of the tunnel of a proposed underground transportation network in Los Angeles County, Hawthorne in the state of California, V. S., 18 December 2018. Robyn Beck/Pool via REUTERS
But in contrast to some of his own hype a few months ago, free rides were not a part of the grand opening.
In a 30-minute presentation supported by live webcast, Musk touted the newly finished 1.14 miles (1.83 km) tunnel segment as a breakthrough in the low cost, easy-to-dig technology that is being developed by his burgeoning tunneling company, and the Boring Company.
Musk has advertised in the proof-of-concept of the tunnel as a first step in the direction of the development of a high-speed underground network capable of knocking of vehicles and pedestrians under the “soul-destroying” street traffic of America’s second largest city of 150 kilometers per hour. But such a system has a long way to go.
The new tunnel is dug along a path that does not run through Los Angeles, but among the small adjacent town of Hawthorne, where Musk is a Boring Company, and his rocket of SpaceX company both at the head office.
Musk, best known as the head of the Tesla Inc electric car manufacturer and energy company, began his foray into public transport after complaining on Twitter and in December 2016, that L. A. traffic was “driving me crazy,” promising then to “the construction of a boring machine and start digging.”
In May, the company gave the world an example of the Hawthorne tunnel, the places of a fast-forward video of the interior created by a camera that the length of the circular passage, which has an area of approximately 12 feet (3.7 m) in diameter.
On Tuesday, Musk puts the total price tag for the finished segment at approximately $10 million, including the cost of excavation, internal and external infrastructure, lighting, ventilation, safety systems, communications and a track.
By comparison, he said, digging a mile of the tunnel by the ‘traditional’ engineering methods, costs up to $1 billion and take three to six months to complete.
FASTER THAN A SNAIL?
Musk boasted of a number of cost-saving innovations, including a higher power drills, to dig smaller tunnels, the speed up of removing the dirt, and simultaneously the excavation and the reinforcement.
He has also called his favourite compare with those of a snail, a creature, said he is moving 14 times faster than the speed of a typical tunneling machine. “Aspirationally, we need something faster than a snail,” he said.
Musk doesn’t say how long it took to hollow his new tunnel, which ended up running short of the 2-km easements are company originally requested for the project.
But he showed pre-recorded video footage of a newly constructed lift station designed to carry passengers from the street level and the tunnel underground temple. The video featured a modified Tesla Model X luxury car on the lift.
When fully operational, the “loop” system as Musk provides for the existence of the passenger and car-carrying platforms called “skates” that can zip through the tunnels by means of electric current as soon as they descend into the underground network.
Alternately, he said, cars can be equipped with a retractable side wheels allowing them to travel through the loop autonomously.
Musk arrived on Tuesday night is the event in a Tesla vehicle is equipped, emerging from the car at the end of the tunnel, bathed in green and blue interior lighting – as he was welcomed by a small, enthusiastic crowd gathered for the presentation.
Musk created a stir earlier this year by promising free travel through the tunnel once opened. However, no tours were in the offing on Tuesday night. A company message posted online in advance of said tunnel tours “are by invitation only,” citing the “incredibly high demand.”
If successful, the Hawthorne tunnel is envisioned as eventually connecting to a network of other tunnels, yet to be built.
Slideshow (19 Images)
In the last month, and the Boring Company scrapped plans for a 2.7 km segment under a West Los Angeles neighborhood, settlement of disputes, set up by groups in the community, in contrast to that project.
But Musk company said that going forward with a proposed tunnel through the city to connect to Dodger Stadium, home of the city’s Major League Baseball team, to an existing line.
In June, Bland was selected by Chicago to build a 17-mile underground transit system, linking that city in the centre of the main airport. The company has also made a proposal for an East Coast Loop that would run from Washington, D. C., in the Maryland suburbs.
Reporting by Steve Gorman, Editing by Bill Tarrant and Rosalba O’brien