Elon Musk’s Boring Company unveiled its latest transportation experiment in Los Angeles last night. The Loop, not to be confused with the Hyperloop, was supposed to be a high-speed urban transportation system of the future. And the first reviews are in, but they’re pretty disappointing, to say the least.
Back when the concept was first announced, Musk promised that the Loop would utilize fully autonomous 16-passenger vehicles gliding along at speeds of 150 miles per hour. But the system that was demonstrated last night featured just regular Tesla cars driven manually on an underground one-mile track. And at an underwhelming speed of just 35-50 miles per hour. […]
Musk was reportedly making excuses throughout the night about why his system looked nothing like what he promised. And his concept now relies on every person having their own car.
“It’s much more like an underground highway than it is a subway,” Musk said, according to the Associated Press.
* Some Chicago aldermen were in LA for the unveiling…
Ald. Gilbert Villegas, 36th, chairman of the City Council’s Latino Caucus, was one of a group of aldermen and Chicago city officials who were in Los Angeles this week to take a ride through the tunnel, which runs just over a mile.
Villegas described the ride on Tuesday night as “a little bumpy” since Musk’s team had not yet smoothed out the surface of the tunnel. The top speed reached was about 34 mph, Villegas said, much slower than Musk’s promised future speed of 150 mph. Villegas said he believed the ride would have been twice as fast if the tunnel had been smooth. […]
In June, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Musk announced plans for an express, high-speed, underground connection between downtown and O’Hare International Airport.
On Tuesday, he explained for the first time in detail how the system, which he simply calls “loop,” could work on a larger scale beneath cities across the globe. Autonomous, electric vehicles could be lowered into the system on wall-less elevators, which could be placed almost anywhere cars can go. The cars would have to be fitted with specially designed side wheels that pop out perpendicular to the car’s regular tires and run along the tunnel’s track. The cost for such wheels would be about $200 or $300 a car, Musk said.
A number of autonomous cars would remain inside the tunnel system just for pedestrians and bicyclists. Once on the main arteries of the system, every car could run at top speed except when entering and exiting.
“It’s much more like an underground highway than it is a subway,” Musk said. […]
Tuesday’s reveal comes almost two years to the day since Musk announced on Twitter that “traffic is driving me nuts” and he was “going to build a tunnel boring machine and just start digging.”
So, lemme get this straight. You’re gonna have to wait in line inside your specially fitted autonomous vehicle (which doesn’t actually exist) along with hundreds of other people in their own personal autonomous vehicles (which don’t actually exist) and that’s not traffic?
Coulda fooled me.
* And the tunnel will have just one destination at each end?…
It does seem strange, though, that we’re taking this ride in a Model X — because until this evening, there were going to be “autonomous electric skates” that zip passengers around at 120 to 150 miles per hour. These skates were supposed to carry eight to 16 people in a pod or a single car. Unlike with a more conventional subway, these skates don’t stop between where a person gets on and where they might get off; every skate runs express to one’s final destination.
Anyway, the skates have been canceled. “The car is the skate,” Musk says.
* Imagine the traffic jams at O’Hare Airport to get into and out of this thing and the similar jams downtown. Also, they’d better be able to get into and out of those tunnels in a hurry or the whole tunnel system will be one gigantic traffic jam. Anyone who has ever tried to exit a completely full parking garage after a ballgame knows what I’m talking about here…
The lift slowly lowered our car into O’Leary Station, a circular hole Musk’s Boring Company had dug in the parking lot in Hawthorne, California.
The car emerged from the tunnel on an elevator erected inside a round shaft lined with corrugated metal.
So, entrance and egress won’t be fast at all. Just the opposite. Great!
Personal rapid transit is subject to the same problems as every other kind. If the system is underused, it’ll take you immediately where you need to go, says Juan Matute, the deputy director of UCLA’s Institute of Transportation Studies. But if people find it truly useful, bottlenecks will be created: long lines of cars waiting to get on, just like on the interstate. “It could choke on its success or just not be successful,” Matute says. “Either way it’s unlikely there will be significant changes to existing traffic congestion.”
*** UPDATE *** Crain’s…
Robert Rivkin flew to L.A. to see a hole in the ground and came away impressed. […]
Rivkin, the city’s deputy mayor, was among 13 people from Chicago, mostly aldermen, who visited a Tuesday night demonstration by Musk’s Boring Co. staged at a test site in Hawthorne, Calif. The vision for the Chicago project is grand: autonomous pods whisking along at 150 miles per hour to O’Hare at a cost of $20 to $25. […]
The big issue for Rivkin and others has more to do with the digging than anything else. “The question is whether you can tunnel cheaper and faster than previously has been done,” he said.
So, after all that, the biggest hurdle is just digging the tunnel and not the autonomous vehicles that don’t exist or the other stuff we talked about above?
This is not gonna end well.