The Boring Company is on its way to Las Vegas. The authority behind the city’s convention center announced on Wednesday that it has chosen Elon Musk’s tunnel-digging firm to build a transit system. The system will help visitors avoid walking two miles end-to-end by offering the use of autonomous electric cars, with the suggested option for future expansion to the city and airport.
“We are excited to work with the [Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority] to provide a world-class mass transit system in Las Vegas,” Steve Davis, president of The Boring Company, said in a statement. The company will have to wait for final approval from the authority’s board on March 12 before work can commence. “Upon approval, it can be in use by Las Vegas Convention Center guests within one year, supporting the LVCVA’s expansion timeline.”
The center, which hosts more than one million attendees per year, is perhaps best known in the tech world for hosting CES every January. The authority claims its ongoing expansion will be finished in time for the 2021 show. When complete it will cover 200 acres, more than double its pre-expansion size of around 73 acres.
This larger center could make getting around harder than ever, so the authority placed a request for information last year to gauge interest in a new transit system. This was followed by a request for proposal, which led to interviews with unnamed “qualified respondents” before the final decision. The Boring Company’s potential design is outlined below:
It’s a big win for Musk’s firm, unveiled at the start of 2017 after he grew increasingly frustrated with Los Angeles traffic. Tunnels would solve this, Musk reasons, as they enable cities to build 3D networks and solve the induced demand problem, with Musk claiming that Los Angeles could build enough tunnels to transport the entire population of the United States. In December 2018, The Boring Company revealed a 1.14-mile test tunnel in Hawthorne, California, with a design that uses autonomous electric cars moving at up to 150 mph.
Musk demonstrated this at the December launch with a Tesla Model X, which the firm will provide to ferry pedestrians and cyclists, but the system will support other car brands fitted with the appropriate guide wheels for safety. Hands-on impressions said the ride was bumpy and limited to 50 mph, though, and Musk has said the company’s next step is to demonstrate these higher speeds:
The Hawthorne tunnel’s $10 million construction cost ranks far lower than the estimated average price of a standard tunnel at $1 billion per mile, thanks to efficiencies in tunnel digging and by building a tunnel just 14 feet wide, around half the diameter of a single-lane road tunnel.
If the convention center board approves the authority’s plan, the next step will be finalizing the design, construction and operation plans. The two parties would then negotiate a contract for final approval, ready for the board to approve in June. The authority estimates the fiscal impact of the project at somewhere between $35 and $55 million.
It’s unclear what The Boring Company’s first public project will be. Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel announced in June 2018 he had chosen Musk to build a link between the city’s airport and downtown area, a trip that takes 16 miles by car. The project has since taken on the “X Line” moniker. Planners are pushing for the city council to approve the project before Emanuel’s second term finishes in May, but recent reports suggest that officials are cooling to the idea. Musk claimed at the unveiling that the link was unlikely to take longer than three years to build.
The firm has also held discussions with San Jose about building a link, and it has detailed proposals for a Los Angeles metro transfer to the Dodgers Stadium. An Australian politician has expressed interest in the company digging to solve Sydney’s traffic issues, and Musk claims he had discussions with CERN’s director about helping to build a new particle collider tunnel. Discussions with New York City, however, reportedly fell through over logistics issues.
“The selection of The Boring Company for the Las Vegas Convention Center’s on-property, guest transportation solution leads the way to the evolution of transportation overall in Southern Nevada,” LVCVA president and CEO, Steve Hill, said in a statement. “Our destination thrives on innovation and reinvention and The Boring Company’s concept allows us to continue providing the world-class experience our guests and clients have come to expect and move people in an efficient and cost-effective manner with advanced technology.”
If The Boring Company’s “loop” system proves successful, it could lead to more ambitious means of transportation. The hyperloop, first outlined in Musk’s 2013 white paper, could move pods through a vacuum-sealed tube at speeds of up to 700 mph. The company’s website claims that reduced tunneling costs would make such projects more viable, enabling trips from New York to Washington, D.C. in less than 30 minutes.
Future CES shows could pave the way for the future in more ways than one.