Elon Musk Reveals Boring Company's First Car Elevator For Underground Tunnel

The potential for a half-hour shuttle between major cities in an underground tunnel is fascinating, but Elon Musk is still hoping to fix traffic issues even further. He demonstrated a prototype lift that would send personal vehicles down into these tunnels.


Nov. 19 2020, Updated 9:40 p.m. ET

Driving through underground tunnels is likely the answer to traffic congestion in bigger cities. Just a week ago, Elon Musk said that he was approved to start tunneling a path between New York City and Washington DC, with more of a focus on the hyperloop system. However, the entrepreneur hasn’t abandoned the idea of personal cars taking this route.

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Musk posted a video on Instagram showing an elevator test to lower vehicles into the system. The test car used is -- what else -- a Tesla, specifically the Model S. As they showed in a previously released teaser, the process looks pretty straightforward. Park the car on the lift, and it will sink into the Earth.

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Everything looks pretty swift, and the platform will need to be slow enough for drivers to feel like they’re still in control and the floor hasn’t fallen from beneath them. There’s certainly a lot of questions the lift raises after viewing the video without any specific details. For starters, what vehicles will this be limited to? The elevator well looked pretty tight around the Model S. Perhaps those with similar electric cars could use autonomous features for the vehicle to pull itself onto the elevator.

Safety is also a pressing concern. One doesn’t expect to see rails and all the security options on a prototype, but what is the plan to keep people from falling in? Is there a guard that will be spread out over the hole to prevent other cars from potentially getting stuck in there, or falling and causing damage to the vehicle and person being pulled down? What happens when something malfunctions in the process.

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Using the lift could cause far more issues than a ramp, but for Musk’s vision, the latter doesn’t seem plausible. He wants to build multiple tunnels below the ground, and having dozens of one-way ramps would be confusing -- it’s already hard enough to manage one-way streets in bigger cities.

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All testing is currently done at SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California, which Musk is also head of. This has also been the testing facility for the Boring Company, previously digging into the ground with their boring system. They’ve been able to complete the first section of the tunnel and they currently linked SpaceX’s parking lot to the building itself.

Hyperloops still seem like the better option for underground tunnel usage. There’s a lot of potential for personal driving, but a lot more details have to be released until the public is comfortable with using this method. Once we know more on subjects like safety precautions, how technical issues are corrected, and what emergency vehicles can do to help those underground, we can envision clearer traffic on the busiest roads.

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