Elon Musk announced last week that his Boring Company has completed a two-mile tunnel underneath SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California. It’s a proof-of-concept for his vision of an underground public transportation system, first in LA and Chicago, then elsewhere, that would transport cars on autonomously-driven platforms called “skates” at speeds exceeding 100mph.
Musk claims it will help reduce congestion on surface roads. Yet the answer to that is not having a one-car-at-a-time system which can become similarly over-congested if demand gets high enough — especially if everyone has to get to a sole starting point to begin a nonstop trip — but rather a more robust public transportation system, one that can move hundreds of people simultaneously on the same vehicle (e.g. a subway).
The same can be said for the efforts to build out fleets of self-driving taxis. The technology is brilliant, but all you’re doing is taking people out of their own cars and putting them into someone else’s. Ask anyone who’s tried to get across Manhattan in a yellow taxi how much better the traffic was than if they were in their own Camry. Trust me, it’s no less frustrating.
Sadly, the US continues to lag behind much of the world when it comes to infrastructure. The fact that we still don’t have high-speed rail anywhere in this country is shameful, considering how common it is in many parts of Europe, Japan, and China. The same goes for solar power. In both cases (and so many others), it’s because we have no long-term vision at the leadership level.
I applaud Musk’s attempts to develop something new — I’m a fan of his paradigm-changing work at SpaceX and Tesla — but I fail to see how his Boring tunnels fix the problem rather than shifting it from above ground to below.