The Boring Company, a venture that builds underground tunnels for hyperloop transportation systems, has announced that it will be launching operations in China very soon. The announcement was made by the company’s founder, Elon Musk, in a tweet.
Musk will be attending the World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) 2019 in Shanghai between August 29 and 31. If everything goes as planned, he will be launching Chinese operations of The Boring Company during the trip. The company promises that its underground tunnels will help reduce traffic congestion in major cities.
Given that China is growing quite rapidly, Musk is hoping that his company’s solutions will be implemented in cities like Beijing, Harbin, Jinan, and others that often see large-scale traffic congestion. Beijing’s gridlock alone is estimated to cost its citizens around US$131 per person per year. By reducing traffic congestion, the gains in GDP could be significant. As to why tunnels will solve traffic woes, The Boring Company has quite a compelling argument.
“To solve the problem of soul-destroying traffic, roads must go 3D, which means either flying cars or tunnels. Unlike flying cars, tunnels are weatherproof, out of sight, and won’t fall on your head. A large network of tunnels many levels deep would help alleviate congestion in any city, no matter how large it grew (just keep adding levels). The key to making this work is increasing tunneling speed and dropping costs by a factor of 10 or more – this is the goal of The Boring Company,” according to the firm’s official website.
Last year, California-based Hyperloop Transportation Technologies entered into a 50-50 partnership with a Chinese state company to build a 6-mile vacuum-sealed tube in the city of Guizhou. The tube will allow for capsules to travel at the speed of sound. After evaluating the performance and gains of the hyperloop system, both companies plan on expanding the tube and to begin commercial transport services. Though Guizhou is one of the least developed regions in the country, it is a key site for land routes in Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Last December, The Boring Company opened its test tunnel in Hawthorne, California. Costing about US$10 million, the tunnel will be used in the research and development of the firm’s tunneling and public transportation solutions. It is located beneath SpaceX headquarters.
In May 2018, the company won a contract from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority to build and operate a loop of underground tunnels that will ferry customers in autonomous vehicles at the city’s convention center. The project will connect downtown Las Vegas with the Boulevard Resort Corridor, the convention center, and McCarran International Airport. The contract is valued at US$48.6 million and requires the system to be operational by 2021. However, Musk announced that it would be up and running by the end of this year.
On the East Coast, The Boring Company has proposed to create a high-speed transit system linking Washington, D.C. and Baltimore. The company plans to dig two, 35.3-mile tunnels between the cities at a depth of 30 to 90 feet from the surface. The tunnels will be bookended by two stations, one located near Camden Yards in Baltimore and the other a mile from Union Station in D.C.