We know Elon Musk as the founder of Tesla and SpaceX, two highly ambitious companies whose successes have continued to mount in recent years. Musk himself has no lack of ambition. In 2013, he announced the launch of a huge research company to create a fifth mode of transport along with cars, boats, planes, and trains: the Hyperloop. Traveling inside capsules launched at more than 1,000 km/h through vacuum tubes? We can do it, says the billionaire. Trials will increase in 2017. So we shouldn’t have been surprised when he announced on Twitter that he intends to build tunnels under Los Angeles to try to redirect the California city’s strangling traffic.
The media thought it was a joke
Early on the morning of December 17, Elon Musk posted a tweet provoking several thousand reactions on Twitter: “Traffic is driving me nuts. Am going to build a tunnel boring machine and just start digging…” The idea made Internet users laugh, thinking it was a joke by the SpaceX founder. The following tweets continued to make them laugh. Musk proposed creating a company called The Boring Company. After a journalist from The Verge asked him if he was serious, he ended the ambiguity by confirming he was going to do it. Online media took note of the exchange.
The company, called Tunnels, really exists
There was indeed one joke among Musk’s tweets: the company is not called The Boring Company. It’s called Tunnels. “Tunnels (yes, tunnels),” he added to his bio, continuing the humorous tone. Since then, the parenthetical has disappeared and eliminated any suspicion of a hoax by the billionaire. Journalists remained on an expectant edge for a full month until, on January 25, Elon Musk confirmed once again on Twitter that he was serious about his tunneling project. “Exciting progress on the tunnel front. Plan to start digging in a month or so,” he posted, before responding “Yep” to a user who asked him if he was really, really serious. He then added that the tunnel would begin at his office at SpaceX and arrive at the intersection of Crenshaw Blvd and Interstate 105, five minutes away from the Los Angeles airport. The Verge remained cautiously skeptical following the improbable tweet.
Workers dug a trench into SpaceX’s parking lot in January
Five days later, doubts were officially lifted when Wired published a short report on the subject: That weekend, SpaceX employees had dug a 10m x 15m hole five meters deep in the company parking lot. Elon Musk’s project? To analyze the innards of a tunnel-boring machine andfind out how to improve its efficiency “by 500 to 1,000%.” The entrepreneur is convinced that the tunnels are a key technology to improving future transportation. He posted a photo of the guinea pig machine in early February.
Elon Musk has been working on his secret project for a full year
Elon Musk’s idea doesn’t seem so absurd after all, and the CEO of Tesla Motors has taken on bigger challenges in the past. It’s this impulsive decision to dig holes in his own parking lot that has made him look eccentric to his observers. But in reality, it’s a misleading appearance: the site Ulyces.co reveals in an investigation that Elon Musk has been working with the city services of Hawthorne for a full year on the question. It was first a question of foot bridges clogging the boulevard that separates the SpaceX factory from the lot where its employees parked. But Elon Musk abandoned the idea in favor of digging a tunnel under the route: a chance for him to explore the possibilities of a technology that could represent the future of the Hyperloop and to guarantee the security of Los Angeles pedestrians in the US’ most traffic-jammed city.