Elon Musk to unveil tunnel elevators and autonomous pods on December 18

Elon Musk tweeted on Thursday, December 6 that the Boring Company’s first test tunnel for its high-speed transit system will open for public viewing on December 18 — a week later than originally planned.

The billionaire entrepreneur and CEO said that besides the tunnel, it will also unveil “fully legal autonomous transport cars,” thought to be the pods for carrying passengers through the tunnels. You can see them in the video above.

We’ll also have a chance to check out the system’s special elevators designed to take regular vehicles and the passenger pods between the street and the transportation tunnel.

The expectation is that a day after the launch event, members of the public will be offered free rides through the tunnel.

Running for about three miles, the test tunnel is being constructed in Hawthorne, California, the home of another of Musk’s business ventures, SpaceX.

According to the Boring Company’s website, the tunnel travels a short distance north from below SpaceX’s headquarters before turning and traveling west for several miles. But the route of the test tunnel isn’t actually that important. Rather, the December unveiling presents a huge opportunity for Elon Musk and the Boring Company to give the project global publicity and show off the system’s potential.

The plan

In case it has passed you by, Musk’s ambition is not only to revolutionize the tunneling industry with faster, more efficient boring machines, but also to use them to build networks of tunnels aimed at easing congestion on busy city streets.

Cars, as well as foot passengers and cyclists, would be transported on electric-powered sleds at speeds of up to 150 mph to multiple destinations across the city. Vehicles and passenger pods would be lowered onto the sleds from street level via an elevator system, though the elevators could also connect to office buildings or even private residences.

When a journey begins, the sled moves from a side tunnel onto the main track in order to keep all of the passengers constantly on the move. “This is a big difference compared to subways that stop at every stop, whether you’re getting off or not,” Musk has said previously.

Will it really happen?

It all sounds very exciting, but to make it a reality, Musk first needs to prove that the system actually works, and then convince regulators of its safety and financial viability. It also needs to get residents onside — the Boring Company suffered a setback at the end of November when it was forced to abandon plans for a proposed tunnel following protests by residents in a Los Angeles suburb.

But with many cities struggling with gridlocked streets, proposals for solutions are always welcome by the authorities. On a positive note for the Boring Company, it’s been selected to enter into negotiations to design a high-speed, 18-mile tunnel link between downtown Chicago and O’Hare International Airport, and the company’s idea for a route between Dodger Stadium and a transit hub in Los Angeles also received supportive responses from the authorities.

If December’s demonstration turns out to be more than just a fancy theme park ride, perhaps Musk’s ambitious subterranean plan really could transform city traffic across the nation, though admittedly it’s going to be a far from straightforward task.

Updated on December 6: Added information on the new unveiling date and other details. 

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