Elon Musk has ambitious plans for his tunneling company — here’s what we know

Elon Musk said he thinks tunnels could help relieve traffic congestion by giving cars an alternate route to cut across cities.

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Elon Musk said he thinks tunnels could help relieve traffic congestion by giving cars an alternate route to cut across cities.
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TED

Elon Musk is taking his newest venture underground.

The Tesla and SpaceX CEO revealed in April his plan for the Boring Company, a new venture that is exploring a way to cut tunneling costs in order to relieve traffic congestion on roads and highways.

Details on Musk’s exact plan and its feasibility are still scarce, but here’s what we know so far:


Musk aims to build an underground network of tunnels where cars and trains could travel at super high-speeds.

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The Boring Company

Musk said on Twitter in December that he wanted to build a tunnel boring machine because LA traffic was driving him “nuts.”

Los Angeles has the worst traffic of all the cities in the US, so Musk’s frustrations aren’t unique to him.

In February, Musk fleshed out his plan in a Bloomberg profile. He said the company’s ultimate goal is to build an underground network that “includes as many as 30 levels of tunnels for cars and high-speed trains such as the Hyperloop.”


The Boring Company is currently testing a tunnel boring machine that was used for a sewer project in Sunnydale, California. The ultimate goals is to use the machine, named Godot, to learn how tunneling technology can be altered to dig tunnels faster and at a lower cost.

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Screenshot

Source: Boring Company tunnel presentation, via Electrek.

The Boring Company is looking to cut down costs by building a machine that can dig and place reinforcements in the wall at the same time, Musk said in April. Tunneling machines traditionally dig for half the time and then go back to add reinforcements, a longer and costlier process.

Godot has successfully dug a tunnel on SpaceX’s parking lot at the intersection of Crenshaw Boulevard and Rocket Road in Los Angeles.


The Boring Company was granted approval in August to extend the tunnel two miles beyond SpaceX’s parking lot. That means the tunnel will continue under the city of Hawthorne.

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trekandshoot/Shutterstock

The tunnel can only be used for research and development. Once the Boring Company has completed its tests, the city of Hawthorne can request that the Boring Company fill the tunnel back up with soil.


Musk posted a photo on Saturday of the LA tunnel, which now measures 500 feet long.


The tunnel will be used to test Godot as well as Musk’s futuristic car skate. Musk has said the car skate can transport cars and pedestrians through the tunnel at speeds up to 130 mph.


The electric skate could also transport passenger cars, pictured below, so pedestrians could use the tunnel system.

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Boring Company

Source: Business Insider


It makes sense that Musk would want to explore a tunneling system that integrates cars in a city like Los Angeles. But the Boring Company is exploring ways to use tunnels to support a high-speed rail or Hyperloop.

Musk is in talks with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel about digging a tunnel to support a high-speed rail connection between downtown Chicago and O’Hare International Airport, according to the Chicago Tribune.


Musk said the Boring Company plans to dig a tunnel that would support a Hyperloop between New York and Washington DC.

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Elon Musk first outlined a Hyperloop, pictured here, in a 2013 research paper.
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Tesla

The Hyperloop would make stops in Baltimore and Philadelphia, Musk has said. It would travel between New York and Washington DC in just 29 minutes.


The Boring Company was granted state approval to dig a 10.3-mile tunnel beneath the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. It would be the first leg of a Hyperloop system that would extend from Baltimore to New York with stops in Washington and Philadelphia.

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Orhan Cam/Shutterstock

Source: Baltimore Sun


Although some startups are pursuing Hyperloop technology, the Boring Company plans to build the system without outside help.

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Hyperloop One

Source: Bloomberg

Tesla’s Hyperloop pod recently set a speed record of 220 mph on a test track at SpaceX.

Hyperloop One, a startup headed by venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar, has announced two successful tests of its Hyperloop system. Some universities and colleges have also demonstrated Hyperloop technology through a SpaceX competition.

But the system has yet to be fully proven.


There are quite a few moving parts that will determine whether the Boring Company can execute Musk’s vision. Not only does it need to demonstrate proven Hyperloop technology, but secure state and city permits to dig across the US.

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Hyperloop One

Musk has acknowledged that getting necessary permits will take “a lot of work.”


But if all goes according to plan, Musk could enter the realm of city planning sooner than we think.