In 2016, Musk launched his subterranean tunnel-drilling enterprise after becoming fed up with the traffic in our surface world. Now the Boring Company has opened its first underground Loop beneath the Las Vegas Convention Center.
The concept is surprisingly simple. Avoid gridlock by taking traffic underground. Simplify the transport experience by putting high-tech vehicles (read: Teslas) on a one-way loop and delivering on-demand rides. Dig tunnels where once there was dirt.
The experience is also… surprisingly simple. Get in the car, drive through a tunnel, get out the other side. But while it’s not exactly the high-speed robo-taxi of the future that I’d hoped for, there’s no doubt that this is the future of convenience.
The 1.7-mile Vegas Loop consists of three passenger stations (two above ground, one below), connected by stretches of 12-foot-wide tunnels, all lit with color-changing LED lights. Inside the Loop, a fleet of 62 Teslas circles around, picking up and dropping off passengers and turning a 25-minute walk across the mammoth convention center into a two-minute ride in all-electric comfort.
While the Boring Company unveiled its first tunnel in late 2018 in California, this is the first Loop that is fully operational and open to the public (although passengers need to be attending a convention at the LVCC to be able to ride).
In the early days, Musk’s tunnel company was selling a real vision of the future. Cars descending on elevator platforms the size of a single parking space and zooming along tracks inside a massive network of subterranean tunnels. Transportation pods, big enough to hold 16 people, . A ride from downtown Los Angeles to LAX in eight minutes, all for $1.
The Vegas Loop doesn’t deliver on that promise yet. The short stretches between stations certainly make the trip go fast, but not because you’re traveling at high speed — the drivers can’t drive faster than 35 miles per hour. Still, the experience feels slick and efficient. Cars zip in and out of the flow of the Loop, pulling into bays and quickly loading and unloading passengers. While there weren’t huge crowds on opening day (and I’d be very curious to see how the network handles peak CES crowds) knots of waiting passengers were quick to disperse into waiting cars.
The network has been tested to move 4,400 passengers an hour. If they’re all stopping to take selfies? Well, YMMV.
According to Lori Nelson-Kraft from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, this Loop is just the start. The Boring Company has plans to extend the Loop from downtown Las Vegas, through the central tourist hub of the strip and out to the city’s stadium and airport, which Nelson-Kraft says would be a “gamechanger” for transport in the city. Riders will call a car via an app like they order a rideshare, and one day the drivers will disappear altogether.
For now, the reality is a little more practical. Less “maze of underground tunnels served by a fleet of high-speed, autonomous electro-cars.” More “can you please take me over there because my feet are very sore.”
If you were hoping for Musk’s giddy vision of the future, you might have to wait a lot longer. But if you want a convenient, comfortable journey through a rainbow tunnel, all without the traffic, your ride has arrived.