LOS ANGELES: Elon Musk provided a clearer glimpse of what his proposed tunnel-based transportation system could look like, and it takes a populist bent.
The billionaire technology entrepreneur said his tunnelling startup, Boring Co., will prioritise pedestrians and cyclists in its hyperloop plan. The system “will still transport cars but only after all personalised mass transit needs are met,” Musk wrote on Twitter. “It’s a matter of courtesy and fairness. If someone can’t afford a car, they should go first.”
A concept video distributed last year by Musk showed carriages, which the Boring Co. calls sleds, that transport a car from point to point. A new video he tweeted on Friday demonstrated vehicles resembling subway cars carrying groups of people. They would load and unload at street level before descending into underground tunnels.
The Boring Co.’s “urban loop” would have thousands of small stations, each about the size of a parking space, where people can hop on and off, Musk wrote. This way, the trains can get passengers closer to their destinations and “blend seamlessly into the fabric of a city, rather than a small number of big stations like a subway.”
Musk published a white paper in 2013 outlining a transportation system using sealed tubes allowing for airplane-like speeds. He had once said he didn’t want to get into the business himself but changed his mind last year. The Boring Co. has begun digging test sites in Hawthorne, California, where Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. is located. Musk has said he would like to build a tunnel along the west side of Los Angeles. The startup near here is seeking approval from local jurisdictions, including Culver City, where his proposed tunnel would run.
The Boring Co. has secured a permit for a few miles between Baltimore and Washington but hasn’t begun construction. The route could be part of a system that one day connects Washington to New York, Musk has said. Taking a pro-pedestrian stance could help the company win over officials. A spokesman for Boring Co. didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Other hyperloop companies include Virgin Hyperloop One, Arrivo and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies. The startups are involved in feasibility studies in various parts of the world but don’t yet have signed contracts to start building and operating commercially.