The Boring Company Refocuses on Buses -- and Social Good

Tesla chief Elon Musk caught a lot of flak last year for his public comments about mass transit, which were widely interpreted as a veiled dig from a billionaire CEO at people who can’t afford cars.

But Musk appears to have adjusted his car-first mindset when it comes the Boring Company, trading in his vision of a car-first operation with that of a tunnel that prioritizes pedestrian & cyclist traffic, then bus, then car traffic. Musk released an animated video Friday on his Twitter account that shows this scenario. A mini-bus with “LAX Terminal” lighting up its destination display descends from the street to the tunnel and hits 150 mph.

The shift for Musk is an incredibly positive signal — a massive underground tunnel network should prioritize the needs of all people, not just those with cars — and shows an evolution in his thinking from when he first revealed the Boring Company video more than 300 days ago at the TED conference in Vancouver. That video featured a red Tesla Model 3 heading into the tunnel.

An artist's rendering of what a Boring Company bus would look like.

The Boring Company

An artist's rendering of what a Boring Company bus would look like.

“It’s a matter of courtesy & fairness.”

“Adjusting The Boring Company plan: all tunnels & Hyperloop will prioritize pedestrians & cyclists over cars,” Musk announced Friday. “Will still transport cars, but only after all personalized mass transit needs are met. It’s a matter of courtesy & fairness. If someone can’t afford a car, they should go first. [Boring Company] urban loop system would have thousands of small stations the size of a single parking space that take you very close to your destination & blend seamlessly into the fabric of a city, rather than a small number of big stations like a subway.”

Here’s the first Boring Company video, released in April 2017:

The new video released by Musk on Friday replaces that sedan above with a bus.

At the Boring Company headquarters behind SpaceX in Southern California, work continues on the project, with Musk releasing a video of the vehicle elevator this past summer. Here’s a side-by-side view of the animation and the prototype:

“I think public transport is painful.”

Below are Musk’s comments from December that show how he feels about current mass transit:

“I think public transport is painful. It sucks. Why do you want to get on something with a lot of other people, that doesn’t leave where you want it to leave, doesn’t start where you want it to start, doesn’t end where you want it to end? And it doesn’t go all the time,” he said during a Tesla event at the Neural Information Processing Systems Conference in Long Beach, California, as Wired reported. “It’s a pain in the ass. That’s why everyone doesn’t like it. And there’s like a bunch of random strangers, one of who might be a serial killer, OK, great. And so that’s why people like individualized transport, that goes where you want, when you want.”

After Wired published the article, he saw waves of criticism that generally fell under the theme of “Elon doesn’t care about poor people.” Musk swiftly replied like this: “It’s just a really bad and fundamentally misleading article that doesn’t actually represent my point of view at all.”

Musk’s master plan for the Boring Company is to build a 3D network of underground tunnels through which hyperloop tubes, pedestrians, and vehicles like buses and cars can travel. He wants to do it ten times cheaper and faster that current tunnel-boring projects.

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