Amazing! A car in its own tunnel moving at 127 mph will win a race every time
By now, everyone knows that Elon Musk likes tunnels. Years after the Hyperloopmigrated from a series of sketches to full-size prototypes, previewing a system of airless tubes designed to carry passengers at triple-digit speeds between cities, another tunnel-related project has been working its way through the, ahem, pipeline.
Back in December of last year The Boring Company invited journalists on a bumpy ride through a one-car tunnel, in a Tesla Model X sitting on guide-skates of sorts to prevent it from bumping into the curb or getting stuck. This prototype tunnel previewed The Boring Company’s solution to traffic congestion: individual tunnels that would transport cars at high speeds between two specific destinations, mounted on the aforementioned skates to keep the car in line. While the Hyperloop tech has received its share of criticism for being eye-wateringly expensive per mile, inviting comparisons to the Shelbyville Monorail episode of “The Simpsons” and making flying cars seem cheaper and more practical by comparison, the tunnel boring project has been moving along. In fact, it’s gotten the green light in the form of a $48.6 million contract for a system of tunnels beneath the Las Vegas Convention Center, planned to be ready in time for the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2021.
The Boring Company posted a video online just days ago featuring a race between two Teslas — one above ground in traffic and one in a tunnel below — to demonstrate the superiority of tunnels in moving cars from point A to point B.
But one crucial change has occurred between the time journalists got a ride in a Tesla Model X in a prototype tunnel in December of last year: the car in tunnel was no longer wearing the wheel guides that Tesla Model X wore in the prototype tunnel a few months ago, instead relying on Autopilot to keep itself centered in the tunnel. Which makes it…just a car in a super small tunnel.
“This is simple and just works,” Elon Musk tweeted when asked what happened to the skate idea.
As you have no doubt concluded, even before watching the video above, a race between a car in traffic and a car in its own private tunnel that just happens to go from your house to your office, or two other arbitrary destinations around town, will inevitably be won by the car in the tunnel, which in this test reached a slightly scary 127 mph. But as with every prototype test of Boring Company tunnels and Hyperloop, each test that inches closer to the desired vision tends to reveal the expensive and narrow nature of the concept, while highlighting more realistic alternatives.
As Twitter users have been pointing out to the Boring Company for several years now, small tunnels meant for one car are not an efficient way to move traffic that, ultimately, needs to go to different destinations and in a higher volume than a one-lane tunnel permits. Of course, having your own car tunnel from your house to your office will be more efficient that sitting at stop lights, but this seems like an awfully Bond-villanesque concept. And scaled up, where instead of one car you can have a (indulge us for a minute here) a group of electric buses strung together that move on tracks for low rolling resistance and carry dozens or perhaps hundreds of people between stations, you could have something we’ll call a sub-terranean way, or sub-way for short. (That sounds like an idea worth putting into practice — someone should look into that).