On Thursday, Elon Musk posted on his Instagram account about the progress of his Boring Company’s first underground tunnel in Los Angeles along with a video footage of the tunnel. Musk said the work on the tunnel was almost done and after final regulatory approvals, the tunnel construction company would be able to offer free demo rides to the public in a few months.
The Boring Company that was established by the CEO of Tesla (TSLA) in December 2016 is building tunnels to provide infrastructure for the Hyperloop system that aims to transport cars and people via pods at very high speeds to reduce travel time drastically. The company is looking to build tunnels faster and at low costs by using improved tunneling methods. Musk believes that once the tunnel is fully functional, the cost of traveling through it would be cheaper than taking a bus.
Last month, the Los Angeles City Council granted an environmental review exemption for a 2.7-mile tunnel through West LA, for the building and testing of the transportation system. The tunnel, which could be more than 60 feet under the ground, has no stations on its route and was given the exemption due to its short distance.
Musk said that work on a tunnel linking New York City and Washington DC had begun and that he expects the work on another tunnel between Los Angeles and San Francisco to start next year.
Despite Musk’s optimism, skeptics remain doubtful over the viability of the project. They believe the project at full scale will come under heavy inspection that could put it off schedule by several years. The political and environmental review processes are likely to take long.
Secondly, underground tunneling and construction tend to face many risks like major utility lines, old oil wells and earthquake faults. These come with their own set of dangers such as the risk of explosions. There are also issues with permits and permissions from property owners. All these could add up against the project, which may face more difficulties, as it is being undertaken by a private company as opposed to public agencies that are backed by the law.
Musk seems to have a supporter in Richard Branson, chairman of Virgin Hyperloop One, who recently stated that the Hyperloop would be ready for passengers in three years, ie. by 2021. Skeptics don’t buy this theory either.