The city of Las Vegas has approved a $71 million contract for Elon Musk’s Boring Company to build an underground transit line that’s scheduled to be completed by January 2021, just in time for the Consumer Electronics Show. But it remains to be seen whether Musk’s high-speed transportation concept can really live up to the hype.
The new transit project, dubbed the LVCC Loop, will connect the Las Vegas Convention Center’s New Exhibit Hall with other convention halls down the street. It currently takes 15 to 20 minutes to walk from the New Exhibit Hall to the other halls. That same distance will take about 1 minute with the new underground LVCC Loop, according to the Boring Company.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority approved the contract late Wednesday which will reportedly be just 2km long and have three underground stations. Mayor Carolyn Goodman was the only member of the 14-person board to vote against the project, according to the Las Vegas Sun. Mayor Goodman supported a competing proposal by the Doppelmayr/Garaventa Group from Austria.
But it remains to be seen whether the Boring Company’s new Loop will just be a regular Tesla Model X in a tunnel. Because that’s all Musk has been able to deliver so far.
Musk got a lot of press when he first announced that he’d be bringing the Boring Company’s so-called Loop technology (not to be confused with the Hyperloop concept) to cities like Chicago and Los Angeles. But when his test tunnel opened in L.A. back in December, it became clear that there wasn’t any revolutionary technology at work. Musk had “invented” driving a car through a tunnel.
“The trip through the tunnel took about two minutes, illuminated by the car’s headlights and a strip of blue neon lights tacked to the ceiling,” L.A. Times transportation reporter Laura J. Nelson wrote at the time.
“The Model X rolled on two moulded concrete shelves along the wall, which were so uneven in places that it felt like riding on a dirt road.”
When Musk first pitched his Loop idea, we saw glitzy videos of large autonomous vehicles that could hold up to 16 people. But whereas the concept videos looked like something out of Tron or Minority Report, the reality was much different.
This is what Musk promised:
And this is what Musk delivered at his 2km test tunnel in Los Angeles back in December:
The L.A. demonstration was just a test, but it was disappointing by almost every measure. The Boring Company demonstration featured human drivers in regular Tesla vehicles travelling at roughly 56km per hour. The ride and was so bumpy that it gave one reporter motion sickness, according to the Associated Press. The entire experience was a far cry from the futuristic ideas that were being promised. And that’s the gamble that the city of Las Vegas has taken.
At the end of the day, it seems like Las Vegas is banking on the novelty of having something built by Elon Musk, a man who knows how to get a lot of press, even this will be the Boring Company’s first rodeo.
“This is truly a unique and one-of-a-kind project,” the Las Vegas board’s vice chairman, Bill Noonan, told the Las Vegas Sun. “People will come from all over the country to see it.”
“This project is going to be a real benefit to our customers,” Noonan continued. “But it also has an opportunity because it’s innovative and leads to a low-cost system, to help solve congestion problems not only in the resort corridor, but throughout the community.”
Time will tell, Mr. Noonan. And while we’re not rooting against the Boring Company, it’s become increasingly clear that Elon Musk is much less adept at building mass transit than he is at electric cars and rockets.