Elon Musk tweeted on Friday that the first commercial tunnel by his startup The Boring Company will "hopefully" be open for business sometime in 2020. The tunnel will connect the existing South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center to the North and Central Halls and the New Exhibit Hall, currently under construction. This will allow convention-goers to get from the South Hall to the New Hall in a one-minute ride instead of a 15-minute walk. And whether or not it's actually fully operational by December 31, 2020, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority says the tunnel will be up and running for sure when the Consumer Electronics Show opens on January 6, 2021.
Musk, a frequent Twitter user, made his prediction in answer to a question from a fan of the concept who was wondering how soon there might be a Boring Company tunnel in San Francisco. Musk tweeted back that the company would complete its Las Vegas tunnel before starting on any other projects.
Hopefully fully operational in 2020-- Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 28, 2019
As you may remember, this whole thing began as a set of tweets sent out by an impatient Musk while stuck in a Los Angeles traffic jam.
I am actually going to do this-- Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 17, 2016
It shall be called "The Boring Company"-- Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 17, 2016
The Boring Company has three other projects at various stages of environmental review and legal wrangling: a proposed tunnel connecting Dodger Stadium to one of the Red Line Metro stations in Los Angeles, a tunnel connecting Chicago's O'Hare Airport with downtown, and a proposed 35-mile tunnel connecting Washington, D.C. and Baltimore. The first tunnel to actually be completed is a mile-long test tunnel in Hawthorne, California which opened in 2018 and is being used for testing and invitation-only demos. The Las Vegas Convention Center Loop is only the second Boring Company tunnel to break ground, and the first built for passenger use. (In case you're wondering, the Las Vegas Convention Center tunnel will be a Loop and not a Hyperloop because it goes only a short distance and will not need a vacuum to reduce air friction.)
Musk claims that a Boring Company tunnel is both safer and more affordable to build than a traditional tunnel for a few reasons. For one thing, there is no high voltage (the third rail in a traditional train tunnel) and no internal combustion engines needed to get people from one end of the tunnel to the other. Instead, the company will use autonomous electric vehicles -- Tesla Model X cars specially adapted with "alignment wheels" to run on tracks inside the tunnel, and a bigger chassis that accommodates up to 16 passengers both sitting and standing. Because the vehicles are autonomous, they won't need to be connected to each other as train cars would. Thus, each car can rise by itself to street level using an elevator platform, which means a station for the Loop could be as small as two parking spaces, he says.
Maybe someday Los Angeles?
Musk is hoping the Convention Center Loop will be only the beginning of a larger system of Loops in Las Vegas, connecting the Fremont Street Experience pedestrian mall at the north end of the line to all the big hotels on the Strip, to the Las Vegas Stadium, and to McCarran International Airport at the south end of the line. Eventually perhaps it could reach all the way to Los Angeles. (Which by then might have its own Loop system.)
How likely is Musk to make that end-of-2020 deadline to have this first Loop open for customers? He freely admits that there's a difference between real time and "Elon time," and seasoned Musk observers know that his timelines have a tendency to get pushed back. In the case of this project, construction was originally scheduled to begin in May 2019 but instead began in November.
Now that it's underway, though, there may be good reason to hope that it really will be finished in a little over a year. And that those attending CES 2021 will have a really quick way to get from one exhibit hall to the other.