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Elon Musk unveils Boring Company’s first tunnel

Image credit: reuters

Elon Musk's Boring Company has unveiled its first tunnel, which Musk is touting as a way to beat Los Angeles’ infamously heavy traffic.

Reporters and invited guests took some of the first journeys in the revolutionary subterranean tube system beneath the surface of Los Angeles, which could eventually hit speeds of 150mph.

Musk has advertised the proof-of-concept tunnel as a first step toward developing a high-speed subterranean network capable of whisking vehicles and pedestrians below the “soul-destroying” street traffic of America’s second-largest city.

The new tunnel was excavated along a path that runs not through Los Angeles but beneath the tiny adjacent municipality of Hawthorne, where Musk’s Boring Company and his SpaceX rocket firm are both headquartered.

The station, situated in the middle of a residential area - “basically in someone’s backyard,” Musk said - consists of a wall-less lift which slowly takes the car down a wide shaft, roughly 9m below the surface.

Musk boasted of several cost-cutting innovations, including higher-power boring machines, digging narrower tunnels, speeding up dirt removal and simultaneous excavation and reinforcement.

He also invoked his favourite comparison with a snail, a creature he said moves 14 times faster than the speed of a typical tunnelling machine. “Aspirationally, we should be slightly faster than a snail,” he said.

Musk did not say how long it took to burrow his new tunnel, which ended up running short of the two-mile easement his company originally requested for the project.

He admitted that the current journey through the tunnel is bumpy because “we kind of ran out of time” and there were some problems with the speed of his paving machine. He caveated that by saying that future systems would be as “smooth as glass”.

“This is just a prototype,” he said. “That’s why it’s a little rough around the edges.”

The entrepreneur 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 the special lifts, which could be placed almost anywhere cars can go.

The cars would have to be fitted with specially designed side wheels which pop out perpendicular to the car’s regular tyres, fitted to run along the tunnel’s track.

The cost for such wheels would be about $200-300 (£158-£237) per car, Musk said.

A number of autonomous cars would remain inside the tunnel system just for pedestrians and cyclists. Once they are within the main arteries of the system, every car could run at top speed except when entering and exiting.

Musk said the system would operate more like an underground motorway than a subway.

He added that the cars would have to be autonomous to work in the system and they would have to be electric owing to the fumes that would otherwise be created.

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