Elon Musk, a tech visionary and super-billionaire, appears to have solved the global problem of traffic congestion – he proposes building digging roads underneath existing roads and having cars slide along on “sleds” at speeds of up to 124 mph.
Citing an example of what sort of an impact such a transit system could have in urban areas, he cited the journey between Westwood and LAX Airport in Los Angeles as an example. Whereas it normally takes some 30 minutes to complete the journey in normal traffic, the car sleds would take just 5 to 6 minutes.
In Musk’s design, cars will connect to platforms, or sleds, that are linked to a roadway. They will then be lowered into a rabbit-warren of underground tunnels beneath a city’s streets, and whisked along to their destinations at high speeds - all under the careful watch of a centralized computer system.
Tests are already underway at Musk’s SpaceX facility in California, but a major drawback is the technology currently available in the tunnel boring sector. Tunnel boring machines of the present day are so slow – they’re capable of boring about 33 feet per day - that it would take years to dig an underground network beneath a city’s streets.
Other obstacles include the costs of mapping the geology, negotiating with city planners, and keeping the interests of those above ground at heart. When all of these things are considered, the whole thing starts to seem ridiculous, but on the other hand, the world has come a long way since the great engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, dug a tunnel beneath London’s River Thames after realizing that the last thing that the city needed was another bridge.
In addition, if there’s one thing that Elon Musk has that'll help solve a seemingly insurmountable problem, it’s cash - and truckloads of it. The thing is, the startup company he has set up specifically to figure out this problem, the Boring Company, is currently being staffed by interns and part-time workers. Their only goal at present is to get a tunnel boring machine to move faster than the company’s pet snail, named Gary.
Existing tunnel boring technology is so slow that Gary can actually move some 14 times faster than a tunnel boring machine can bore through rock. All of these things make this idea look really far-out, so it’s difficult to know how seriously to take Musk on this particular project.
He has even admitted that he and his team don’t really know what they’re doing, but with that being said, it’s tough not to feel enthusiastic about him sinking money and resources into a somewhat bonkers idea with a tiny hope of solving traffic congestion, which is the bane of our existence for many of us.
BONUS - Watch Elon Musk's idea in action:
Content and image source: Science Alert