Serial entrepreneur Elon Musk is making headway on his plan to dig tunnels underneath Los Angeles.
Musk tweeted Wednesday that the Boring Company, his latest venture led by SpaceX engineer Steve Davis, had begun digging under LA’s Interstate 105.
Here’s what you need to know about the project:
Musk said on Twitter in December that he wanted to build a tunnel boring machine because LA traffic was driving him “nuts.”
Musk, however, was considering building a tunnel even before he got stuck in LA traffic.
Hawthorne City Manager Arnie Shadbehr told The Los Angeles Daily News in January that Musk had been working with city officials for a year to build a bridge or tunnel.
Musk wanted to use a bridge or tunnel so that employees could easily cross Crenshaw Boulevard, which separates the SpaceX parking lot from the SpaceX campus building, Shadbehr said.
In fact, Musk tweeted about his plans for a tunnel just a few hours after three SpaceX employees were hit by a car crossing Crenshaw Boulevard after a day’s work, NBC Los Angeles reported at the time.
Musk doesn’t need permission to dig on the SpaceX property, but will need permits and more extensive approval to extend the tunnel beyond the SpaceX property line.
The Boring Company has completed the first segment of the project on SpaceX’s property, Musk said Wednesday.
The Tesla and SpaceX CEO’s ultimate goal is to build as many as 30 layers of tunnels beneath Interstate 105. Musk has said the tunnels would transport cars on an electric skate and could even accommodate a Hyperloop.
The skate would propel cars through the tunnel at a maximum speed of 130 mph — fast enough to get from Westwood to Los Angeles in five minutes, Musk said.
Musk said last Monday that he had “promising conversations” with Mayor Eric Garcetti about the project.
Los Angeles is contemplating the addition of an express train that would travel between Los Angeles International Airport and Union Station, a main transit hub that connects Los Angeles to distant suburbs.
Garcetti said he was considering using Musk’s tunnel to support the rail connection.
Musk is juggling quite a few projects on top of the Boring Company, including Tesla’s upcoming Model 3 launch and the rollout of a solar roof product. He also launched an artificial-intelligence company, Neuralink, while being the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla.
But Musk said the Boring Company was taking only “2 or 3 per cent” of his time. Interns and Tesla employees are working part-time on the project.
Tunnel-boring is a notoriously expensive process. The Boring Company is looking to cut down costs by building a machine that can dig and place reinforcements in the wall at the same time, Musk said. Tunnelling machines traditionally dig for half the time and then go back to add reinforcements, a longer and costlier process.
Musk said the Boring Company would also cut costs by improving the power and thermal limit of its tunnelling machine by “a factor of four or five.”
“We have a pet snail called Gary. … So Gary is capable of currently going 14 times faster than a tunnel boring machine,” Musk said. “We want to beat Gary. He is not a patient little fellow, and that will be victory.”
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