Elon Musk Says 3D Tunnels Solve Classic "Induced Demand Traffic" Problem

Elon Musk claims to have a solution for the classic “induced demand problem” — and the answer is in three dimensions. At the Boring Company’s grand opening in Hawthrone, California on Tuesday, the founder explained how his vision will allow cities to keep expanding their car capacity by digging autonomous car-supporting narrow passages. While adding a lane to a freeway is a two-dimensional solution, rows stacked on rows of tunnels is a 3D alternative.

“The thing about going 3D is that you can just keep expanding the number of tunnels,” Musk said, while standing outside the blue-lit Boring Company test tunnel. “One of the questions we’re often asked is ‘Sure, well if you build this tunnel, people will use it, and then it’ll just get full, and we’ll be back to where we started, it’s like adding a lane on the freeway.’ You add the lane and the traffic expands to the full available volume. The thing about going 3D is that you can have 16 tunnels going in the same direction.”

Musk standing next to The Boring Company's tunnel.
Musk standing next to The Boring Company's tunnel.

See more: Why Only Self-Driving EVs Will Be Allowed in Elon Musk’s Boring Tunnels

The company’s goal is to build small tunnels of less than 14 feet in diameter, far smaller than the standard 28 feet for a single lane car tunnel, allowing for cheaper and faster construction. Standing outside the firm’s first 1.14-mile test tunnel, Musk explained how autonomous cars would be fitted with guide wheels to glide through at speeds of up to 150 mph before exiting at an elevator, off-ramp or spiral staircase. The company would provide public cars so pedestrians and people with bicycles could also use the tunnels.

Musk explained that this tunnel-based idea allows for so much capacity that it solves the induced demand issue, where new roads built to solve traffic woes fill up quickly as people are encouraged to drive. “You can have as many tunnels as you want,” Musk said. “I’m pretty sure everyone in the United States is not going to move to, but you could literally build enough tunnels to transport everyone in the United States in LA. There is no limit.”

Musk has big plans for his firm. Beyond the test tunnel, the company aims to build ideas like a connection for the Los Angeles Dodgers stadium to the nearby metro line, and a “loop” connecting Chicago airport to the downtown area. The latter project aims to pass the city council before May.

Related video: The Boring Company Demonstrates Its Radical New Tunnel Idea

Media via The Boring Company