Elon Musk has had it up to the teeth with traffic.
Speaking at a TED Talk in Vancouver last year, the visionary if not slightly eccentric billionaire presented the idea for his new company, called The Boring Company. Far from a reflection of its name (at least, in one definition of the word), The Boring Company has been created as an attempt to revolutionise transport infrastructure by taking it underground.
“One of the most soul-destroying things is traffic,” said Musk in what might have been a slightly exaggerated statement. “It affects people in every part of the world. It takes away so much of your life. It’s horrible. It’s particularly horrible in L.A.
“We’re trying to dig a hole under L.A., and this is to create the beginning of what will hopefully be a 3D network of tunnels to alleviate congestion.”
In these bored underground tunnels, Musk has proposed a series of cars placed on high-speed ‘skates’. Theoretically, these skating cars would be able to travel at 130 miles (roughly 210 kilometres) per hour.
The obvious problem is: how do you transport both the cars and the people inside them underground? And how do you fish them out again?
An accompanying video released by Musk demonstrates the hypothetical project from beginning to end. According to his vision, cars would pull into above-ground bays that facilitate their transportation underground. Once inside the layered network of tunnels, the cars would become attached to skates and propelled through the tunnel at high speeds. At the end of the journey, this same elevator-like system would bring them back up to the surface.
“You have to be able to integrate the entrance and exit of the tunnel and seamlessly into the fabric of the city,” says Musk. “So by having an elevator, sort of a car skate that’s on an elevator, you can integrate the entrances and exits to the tunnel network just by using two parking spaces.”
The second immediate problem with Musk’s vision is the associated cost of taking whole cities’ road systems underground.
In his TED Talk, Musk was quick to acknowledge this hurdle, and revealed one of his preliminary solutions. To cut costs associated with boring extensive underground tunnels throughout our urban centres, Musk said The Boring Company was planning to develop a machine that could both tunnel and reinforce the underground network simultaneously.
In theory, this network of underground skating cars would free up valuable space above-ground for pedestrianisation and greenification.
In the meantime, one Tesla per person might make the surface commute less painful for the rest of us.