The Elon Musk-owned The Boring Company (TBC) is designing a wider tunnel aimed at moving freight underground. The 21-foot tunnel is nearly double the 12-foot size TBC currently builds to transport passengers, in particular those in Tesla cars made by the electric vehicle company founded by Musk.
The wider size tunnels feature three configurations. Two of the options feature a single freight container being transported in either the narrower 12-foot tunnel or the wider 21-foot tunnel. The third option allows for two, side-by-side shipping containers with a foot of space between them in the wider tunnel. With all three options, the freight container is transported through the tunnel on battery-powered carriers, similar to those on flatbed trucks.
The company recently pitched its wider tunnels to San Bernardino County, California, in negotiations to build a four-mile tunnel connecting a light-rail station to its local Ontario International Airport to ease congestion on busy roads.
The idea of using underground tunnels to move freight containers is not new. A company in Switzerland is awaiting approval on a network of tunnels to transport containers and pallets by autonomous vehicles, and in 2016, Amazon received a patent for a network delivery system comprised of underground conveyor belts and vacuum tubes to transport containers and packages.
TBC’s expanded freight scope is in line with Musk’s intention when starting the company in 2016 to use tunnels and autonomous vehicles to ease traffic congestion. This June, TBC debuted its “Teslas in Tunnels” system built under the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) in Nevada. The twin, 0.8-mile tunnels allow Tesla vehicles to travel the LVCC Loop at a depth of 30 feet. The loop system features three underground stations, one at either end and one in the middle.
Getting from one end of the LVCC campus to the other is a 45-minute walk. The new tunnel system is designed to alleviate the long ride-hailing and taxi lines and get convention-goers to their destination in two minutes. TBC expects to eventually transport 4,400 people per hour through the LVCC Loop at a maximum speed of 150 miles per hour. Currently, the Tesla vehicles are being operated by human drivers, but the goal is to automate the driving.
TBC hopes to build a vast tunnel system under the entire city, including the airport and the Las Vegas Strip, that would transport over 50,000 passengers per hour. TBC also submitted a Teslas in Tunnels proposal to Miami, Florida, officials.
Musk’s original vision for TBC featured underground roadway systems hundreds of miles long to relieve traffic congestion throughout the U.S. His idea incorporated an elevator-like system that transported automated vehicles from aboveground roadways to underground tunnels. His scaled down idea focuses on shorter tunnels to address congestion concerns in big cities.
With the passenger tunnel system, cost was a key selling point, with TBC beating its competitors’ pricing. The company loses that marketing appeal with its freight tunnels since drilling deeper and wider drives up project costs.
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