Sitting motionless in traffic can be almost as painful as slogging through a live feed of one of Elon Musk’s futuristic transportation reveals. In a desperate bid to eliminate daily blood pressure spikes, some of us stagger our commute times (a rare option), some take public transit (often, a grim compromise), others car-pool (like it’s WW2), and those living close enough to their jobs swap the car for a bike and the often insufferable lifestyle that comes with it.
Others dream of something better. You’ve dreamed of something better, and it probably wasn’t any dumber than the lackluster tunnel The Boring Company showed off this week.
If you weren’t around for all the fanfare and resulting hot takes Tuesday night, Musk, who also does some work at Tesla and SpaceX, opened a narrow “proof of concept” tunnel between the rocketship company’s HQ, just outside of L.A., and a parking lot just over a mile distant. Journalists were invited to go down into the eccentric billionaire’s experimental tunnel. No, they weren’t all enslaved or hunted for sport, but the setup sure makes it seem like a possible outcome.
Instead, the assembled participants were taken on underground trips in a Tesla Model X at speeds reaching a blistering 40 mph. Musk envisions 150 mph travel, with cars driving onto a streetside elevator platform, lowered down into the tunnel, then whisked along, single file, at breakneck speed. Lowly motorists on the country’s packed freeways can only envision their underground superiors’ bliss and weep silently to AM talk radio, trying not to let nearby motorists see their tears.
The Boring Company Loop system pic.twitter.com/xVpDHzZKXB
— The Boring Company (@boringcompany) December 19, 2018
The Tesla testbed vehicle deployed tracking wheels just ahead of the front tires, and Musk says all vehicles using the tunnels will be required to have these little outriggers. (They’ll also have to be electric.) Clearly, his electric skate idea is dead. These tracking wheels keep the vehicle (note: only vehicles with some type of autonomous control apply to this futuristic concept) centered within the narrow concrete track at the bottom of the tunnel. At certain points along the track, short pull-outs (ramps, spur tracks, whatever) would allow drivers to leave the underground single-lane expressway and reach street level. Other drivers would be allowed to enter at these points, as well.
Of course, none of these things occurred during the mile-long media drive, but Musk’s only existing track is purely for testing. Well, PR, really. Reporters complained of a bumpy ride.
Is this the solution to congested freeways? Boring holes beneath the city so that certain expensive vehicle owners can pay an undetermined (though likely quite high) fee to ride single-file in their own cars to work? It’s like the movie Metropolis, only reversed. In this futuristic vision, the teeming, impoverished masses now live above ground while their hedonistic, elite rulers sequester themselves below the city. I use the word masses because, unless Musk builds thousands of miles of said tunnels, freeway traffic will not ebb (even if the “Loop” employs transportation pods containing a dozen people or so). New users will rush to fill the freeway gap.
Another thing: Surely, there’s still much work to be done in preventing, say, a speeding Tesla from colliding with the rear of another Tesla that just entered the stream. One wonders how those tracking wheels hold up at speeds of 150 mph. Or even 100 mph, over a long time frame. Hopefully they’re more durable than a Tesla control arm.
To this writer, the only upside to Musk’s system is that, presumably, long-suffering taxpayers who struggle to make payments on their ’14 Corolla loan wouldn’t have to foot part of the bill, with the cost of construction recouped through those willing to use the damn thing. That’s right, Chicagoans — your link to O’Hare won’t cost a dime. Trust your elected officials.
Well, that’s Musk’s plan to take some of the heat off commuters. What’s yours?