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*** UPDATED x1 *** What could possibly go wrong with Elon Musk’s “loop”?

Wednesday, Dec 19, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Gizmodo

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.

* AP

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!

* Yep

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.


  1. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 1:22 pm:

    And then you have to go park your special car. No thanks. Just give me the blue line.

  2. - Canon - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 1:22 pm:

    I have two words for all this: Blue Line

  3. - Northsider - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 1:25 pm:

    So he’s invented an underground, limited access (both physically and economically), private highway?


    Note to Chicago’s next mayor: Fill this sinkhole ASAP.

  4. - NeverPoliticallyCorrect - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 1:29 pm:

    Don’t know whether to laugh or scream at this level of foolishness.

  5. - Anon E Moose - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 1:29 pm:

    Um, the blue line goes from O’Hare to the Loop in 43 minutes for $2.50. How is this an improvement?

  6. - DuPage Saint - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 1:30 pm:

    Everyone driving their own modified car in a tunnel
    Bet the carbon monoxide is fun

  7. - Soccermom - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 1:32 pm:

    Um, isn’t this just like lower Wacker, only worse?

  8. - Anon324 - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 1:34 pm:

    *Sigh* what a joke.Given the increasingly crowded trains as the neighborhoods along the blue line have gained popularity, an express subway line made sense. This…thing…does not.

  9. - Red Ranger - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 1:35 pm:

    The Simpsons “Monorail” episode saw this coming 20 years ago. “Monorail….monorail…mono…D’oh”

  10. - Six Degrees of Separation - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 1:40 pm:

    I don’t think the plan would be for private cars to enter and exit the tunnel…they would be autonomous vehicles lined up like taxis, ready to whisk the passengers away once they got in. It’s all about the throughput, though. A bus-like vehicle can carry way more passengers per hour than a fleet of taxis, and make more money too.

  11. - Stark - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 1:41 pm:

    Musk should be given no publicity until he actually follows through on a single one of his numerous promises and pronouncements. Of course he fell short. He’s in it for the attention not because he cares.

  12. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 1:43 pm:

    ===they would be autonomous vehicles lined up like taxis, ready to whisk the passengers away===

    First, autonomous vehicles do not exist. Second, have you ever been to an airport cab stand? Not a lot of “whisking” going on.

  13. - Walker - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 1:46 pm:

    Has Musk lost it?

  14. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 1:47 pm:

    Musk is a con man. But suckers are born every minute.

    You want to tell me markets are always rational? Explain this:

    Tesla has a market cap of $49 billion and trades at $342 a share. To date, it has produced 145,000 vehicles in its history and in 2017 had a net loss of $1.96 billion.

    By contrast, in 2017 Ford sold nearly 3 million vehicles and had a net profit of $7.6 billion. Yet it trades at $8.42 and has a market cap of $44.2 billion.

    How the heck is Tesla worth more than Ford, in a “rational” market?

  15. - Fav Human - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 1:47 pm:

    Not well thought out. Surely his love of rec. Weed has nothing to do with it. 😆😆😆😆

  16. - Six Degrees of Separation - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 1:51 pm:

    ===First, autonomous vehicles do not exist.===

    The people mover at O’Hare doesn’t have an operator. Same principle could be applied to these singular vehicles. I definitely understand the principle that singular vehicles would be time-consuming to load and unload passengers, even in a situation where they had the whole tunnel to themselves, thus my “bus-type vehicle” comment.

  17. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 1:54 pm:

    “It’s more of a *Shelbyville* idea”

  18. - Stuntman Bob's Brother - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 1:56 pm:

    I wonder if Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company will be hired to manage installation of support pilings. Hope Musk doesn’t skimp on sump pumps.

    Q) WWDD (What would Disney Do?)
    A) Train(s). Elevated if it makes sense.

  19. - Ha! - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 1:57 pm:

    “The Simpsons “Monorail” episode saw this coming 20 years ago. “Monorail….monorail…mono…D’oh””

    Red- wasn’t that the same episode that cast Trump as president?

  20. - lakeside - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 1:59 pm:

    Now… imagine a world where there is a subway-like system that takes people directly from downtown to O’Hare, with regular stops so the people who actually live in Chicago and pay for its upkeep can use it.

    Voila - you have created the Blue Line. We are truly living in the future.

    Elon. Go try this boondoggle in New York where there is a legitimate difficulty getting to and from the majority of the airports. Leave us alone. (That goes for Rahm, too.)

  21. - Michelle Flaherty - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 2:01 pm:

    And the solution to the inevitable underground congestion, which was created to try to solve the ground-level congestion, is … to rebuild and open Meigs so people can fly over the ground-level and underground-level congestion between O’Hare to downtown.

    And that’s why it’s called the “loop”

  22. - Bogey Golfer - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 2:02 pm:

    Snake oil salesman for the 21st century.

  23. - Leslie K - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 2:02 pm:

    Even those who think he’s talented at designing nifty vehicles should admit Musk doesn’t appear to have the skill set to design the transportation systems for those vehicles to run on. Putting cars underground doesn’t solve the system problems.

  24. - NoGifts - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 2:03 pm:

    Watch the interview with Elon Musk on the Joe Rogan Experience (2+ hours….couldn’t watch in one sitting!). In that, he starts out by saying “I’m not saying it’s going to work.” There you have it.

  25. - Linus - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 2:03 pm:

    For the love of all that’s holy, invest further in the Blue Line (and other existing public transit options, in general).

    The Boring Company is earning its name the wrong way, with these tiresome, fantasy-travel schemes.

  26. - 47th Ward - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 2:04 pm:

    Rich Daley allowed Frank Kruesi to dig under block 37 and spend millions before anyone figured out that you can’t run express trains on the existing blue line tracks. Next to that debacle, this isn’t surprising. At least the exit hole downtown is ready.

  27. - DuPage Dave - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 2:07 pm:

    Rich is right. The lines to get on and off the ride would be terrible. Hasn’t he ever been to Disney World or similar place with rides?

    Musk has had success in other ventures. Unfortunately some successful people assume they can be a success in anything they try. Rauner being a prominent example. The Musk tunnel business will be about as successful and Rauner’s term of office.

  28. - Chunga - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 2:28 pm:

    Look at how bad the Vegas monorail failed.
    Las Vegas traffic is even worse than Chicago
    But it still failed.

  29. - @misterjayem - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 2:29 pm:

    “The top speed reached was about 34 mph”

    The Rocket, the creation of a British engineer and inventor named Robert Stephenson, reached a top speed of 30 mph.

    In 1830.

    – MrJM

  30. - Steve Rogers - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 2:32 pm:

    Gov. Rauner and Elon Musk announce a system of canals to criss-cross Illinois to help with transportation. Rauner wants to finish the project before he leaves office, so he calls on Judge Elihu Smails to oversee the effort because “the world needs ditch diggers too.”

  31. - a drop in - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 2:34 pm:

    If you stare at a picture of Elon Musk long enough it morphs into a picture of Professor Harold Hill.

  32. - ArchPundit - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 2:45 pm:

    Next up–hydrofoils

  33. - lakeside - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 2:50 pm:

    “Transit blimps - but the disruption is you fill them with hydrogen.”

  34. - NoGifts - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 2:53 pm:

    Watch Elon Musk interview on the Joe Rogan Experience. “I didn’t say it was going to work.”

  35. - Stuntman Bob's Brother - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 2:54 pm:

    ==Look at how bad the Vegas monorail failed.
    Las Vegas traffic is even worse than Chicago
    But it still failed==

    Changa, that’s because they stuck it on the back 40, away from where the people want to be, with long walks to get to it and trains you had to wait a long time for - I think the Vegas monorail was designed to fail. If they would have ran it down the middle of the Strip, or just east or west of the Strip on the casino properties, it would have done much, much better. I haven’t been to Vegas for well over a decade, their whole business model moved away from what made Vegas popular to begin with - if it was a place for Suckers before, now it’s designed for those giant Lollypops. But people keep lining up for more, I just don’t get it.

  36. - Michelle Flaherty - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 2:57 pm:

    It’s rare that Amtrak gets to snicker at someone’s idea.

  37. - Anon221 - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 2:57 pm:

    Fire. Flood. Earthquake… all reasons to stay out of that claustrophobic mess of an idea. Didn’t see too many escape hatches on the test run.

  38. - A Jack - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 3:33 pm:

    A car tunnel to O’Hare is just silly. Now if Musk wants to build a high speed rail tunnel under Lake Michigan like the one under the English Channel that could be useful.

  39. - Montrose - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 3:33 pm:

    We should have given the contract to Johnny Canal.

  40. - OneMan - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 3:36 pm:

    Guess I am going to be the big contrarian today.

    Built a mile long tunnel with private money. Don’t see that too often in and of itself.

    If I recall the early conversations about this, it was in big part coming up with a way to dig tunnel faster and cheaper. Don’t know if that was accomplished or not, but that was at least going to be a big part of the focus. If they accomplished that, that is a big deal.
    Not sure if they did, but you can read about what they were looking to do here.

    A mile of light rail tunnel costs about $400 million in Toronto, 2.6 billion per mile in NYC, and $450 million in Paris. If they figured out how to get that cost down. That is a big deal.

  41. - benniefly2 - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 3:36 pm:

    ==Look at how bad the Vegas monorail failed.
    Las Vegas traffic is even worse than Chicago
    But it still failed==

    To double down, as it were, on what was already said above, it failed for a multitude of reasons but that doesn’t mean one couldn’t succeed. If they had run it from the Airport Terminal over to Las Vegas Blvd and then right up the middle Las Vegas Blvd all the way to Freemont, the the thing would likely be minting money. However, since they ran it only from MGM to the Sahara (or whatever they call it these days) and the line was located over a quarter mile or more east of the Strip for most of the route, it was always going to fail.

  42. - Christopher - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 3:39 pm:

    When my husband, who lived in the Los Angeles (”San Fernando Valley”) area for over 30 years saw Musk’s track demonstrated on TV last night, the first thing he said was about an earthquake. As others have warned… not if, when.

  43. - OneMan - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 4:19 pm:

    Well, CalTrans is building tunnels now…

    And the longest highway tunnel in North America is in Alaska which is seismically active.

    LA has a subway so at least some folks are willing to accept that risk now.

    Then again if you believe this trailer you are just kind of screwed no matter what.

  44. - Precinct Captain - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 4:34 pm:

    Just build a dang subway to O’Hare or a new set of tracks above the existing Blue Line tracks. Of course, only a numbskull from Rahm’s administration is impressed. Symbolic of the whole tenure of Rahm.

  45. - Horizontal Man - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 4:42 pm:

    Musk bought a used tunnel boring machine from another contractor. The progress from this machine was slower than the previous owner. Musk doesn’t have any magic.

    Previous comments have covered the lack of magic elsewhere.

  46. - Stuntman Bob's Brother - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 5:41 pm:

    Just piling on: It’s too bad there isn’t an entity in Chicago, maybe one with experience in, say, waste and floodwaters, who could possibly weigh in on boring deep tunnels under Chicago.

  47. - Suburban Mom - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 10:24 pm:

    Gold star to misterjayem for the Stephenson Rocket reference.

    But boy, yeah, I hope Chicago is at this very moment writing their angry lawyer letter to the Boring Company.

  48. - Anonymous - Thursday, Dec 20, 18 @ 9:19 am:

    So its just an effort to sell Tesla vehicles.

  49. - titan - Thursday, Dec 20, 18 @ 9:27 am:

    I saw an article saying that Boring did the tunnel there at $10MIL per mile. Other recent public projects that had per mile costs of $240MIL (DC), $490MIL (Boston) and $920MIL (Seattle).

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