Elon Musk Gave Us A Test Ride Of His Futuristic Travel Tunnel In Hawthorne
By Sue Carpenter and Jessica Ogilvie
Whether or not underground tunnels will be the solution to L.A.'s horrendous, and worsening, traffic problem, the idea took a big step forward Tuesday night. Elon Musk's Boring Company gave test rides inside his much-hyped tunnel in Hawthorne to select members of the public and press (including us).
Calling his so-called Loop system the only solution to soul-crushing traffic, Musk has spent much of the past year building a proof of concept, the entrance for which is in the parking lot of another one of his companies - Space X, also in Hawthorne.
Measuring 1.14-miles in length and 12 feet in diameter, the system is designed for use with autonomous and electric vehicles like the ones he makes at his other company, Tesla.
Our test ride began inside a Tesla X parked off a nondescript alley off 120th Street. The car was positioned in the center of a metal disc, the middle of which was lowered via elevator about 30 feet to the tunnel's opening.
The Model X then rolled forward. When the red entrance lighting switched to green, the driver floored it, and we were off, sashaying through the white tube at 40 miles per hour without another car in sight -- the only sounds being the SUV's horizontal accessory wheels riding the tunnel walls and the car radio.
And did we mention, there's Wi-Fi and cell service in the tunnel?
Here's a look at what a ride (not ours) looks like:
Designed to be an underground freeway system with multiple small vehicles traveling directly to their destinations at speeds of about 150 miles per hour, the Loop is designed to be used with both publicly and privately owned vehicles, which Musk said will be lowered into the tunnels with a network of elevators and spiral entrances.
Musk said the advantage to moving traffic underground is that tunnels are weatherproof, quiet to construct and to operate.
The Los Angeles Times reported this week that the tunnel has been built largely in secret, and that while residents know about its existence, they don't know much else about what's going on underground. At least one business has been displaced by Musk's Hawthorne invasion.
Two boring machines were used to complete the work. And the dirt dug out of the tunnel was used to make concrete onsite for the tunnel itself. Excess dirt was used to make construction bricks that are expected to later be sold at one of the entrances.
On Tuesday night, Musk admitted to the tunnel's limitations. The average tunnel costs $1 billion and three to six months per mile to build. The 1.14-mile section of Hawthorne tunnel cost about $10 million, he added.
Musk being Musk, though, said he has a plan that would make the process 15 times faster and less expensive. Few details on that were shared.
The tunnels are part of Musk's vision of improved transportation in and around Los Angeles, which appears to have its roots in a tweet he sent in December 2016. The tweet echoed what literally every other Angeleno also experiences on a near-daily basis: frustration with traffic.
Traffic is driving me nuts. Am going to build a tunnel boring machine and just start digging...— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 17, 2016
Following the tweet, Musk established The Boring Company and began his explorations.
The Hawthorne tunnel, however, isn't the only tunnel Musk has proposed. Below is a couple of other digging projects he's pitched:
The tunnel under Sepulveda Boulevard was the first such endeavor following his frustrated tweet. It would have traveled 2.7 miles, and Musk called it a proof of concept.
It hasn't stopped Musk from pursuing his dreams elsewhere though (read: in Hawthorne).
Musk has also proposed a tunnel that would carry passengers to Dodger Stadium from Los Feliz, East Hollywood and Rampart Village. The proposed transit system would transport eight to 16 passengers per vehicle, with a cap of 1,400 people per ballgame or event.
According to The Boring Company's website, Dugout Loop -- like the Sepulveda Boulevard tunnel and the Hawthorne Test Tunnel, interestingly enough -- is still just an "operational proof of concept."
8:14 p.m.: This article was updated with details from our ride inside the underground tunnel.
This article was originally published at 1:53 p.m.
Hey, thanks. You read the entire story. And we love you for that. Here at LAist, our goal is to cover the stories that matter to you, not advertisers. We don't have paywalls, but we do have payments (aka bills). So if you love independent, local journalism, join us. Let's make the world a better place, together. Donate now.