Musk empire converges as Boring tunnel to link LA with SpaceX

Tesla Motors Inc CEO Elon Musk talks about Tesla’s new battery swapping programme in Hawthorne, California June 20, 2013. — Reuters pic
Tesla Motors Inc CEO Elon Musk talks about Tesla’s new battery swapping programme in Hawthorne, California June 20, 2013. — Reuters pic

SAN FRANCISCO, May 17 — Tesla-driving Angelenos may soon be able to hop out of their battery-powered car, board an electric pod in a Boring Co tunnel and get to the port where SpaceX is about to build massive rockets that it aims to fly to Mars.

This ultimate Elon Musk experience was hinted at by the chief executive officer of Tesla Inc, Space Exploration Technologies Corp and Boring in a tweet this week teasing an information session that will take place today in Los Angeles.

Boring’s stated mission is to “solve the problem of soul-destroying traffic,” via a large network of tunnels, shuttling autonomous pods with the capacity to travel more than 600 miles per hour. Closely held SpaceX is going to build its next rocket, known as BFR, at the Port of Los Angeles, an area Musk envisions people getting to using a Boring Hyperloop — if the city approves the idea.

The “Boring Company Hyperloop will take you from city centre underground & ocean to spaceport in 10 to 15 mins,” Musk tweeted yesterday. But although the entrepreneur has always been long on vision, the City of Los Angeles is a complex, sprawling place. To realise Musk’s idea, Boring will need permits and buy-in from city officials and residents, many of whom felt blindsided when the company first made its goals public. In addition, local neighbourhood groups are suing the city over the company’s plans.

Last month, Los Angeles’s public works committee recommended that the proposed Boring tunnel be exempt from an environmental review process. If the full city council approves the exemption, it would effectively fast-track the effort, leapfrogging it ahead of comparable transportation projects. The proposal inspired a lawsuit against the city by the Brentwood Residents Coalition and the Sunset Coalition.

“I like the fact that brilliant guys are driving around Los Angeles trying to figure out how to make things better,” said John Given, a lawyer representing the groups, referring to Musk’s gridlock-inspired idea for tunnels. “That doesn’t mean we throw away our process.” Some of his clients plan to attend today’s meeting, he said.

Another big stakeholder in the Boring project is Los Angeles’s Metropolitan Transportation Agency. It has planned a tunnel for an underground train system of its own under the Sepulveda Pass, the same area where Boring has said it would like to work. As the plans for the Boring project became public, Metro CEO Phillip Washington wrote an April 17 letter to Musk informing him that all public mass transit systems in Los Angeles require Metro’s approval.

Boring officials were receptive to the letter, and met with Metro officials on April 30, according to Metro spokeswoman Pauletta Tonilas. Metro and Boring have now formed working groups in areas such as planning and engineering, and Metro plans to send representatives to today’s meeting.

Boring raised about US$113 million (RM448.3 million) in equity last month, with 90 per cent of the financing coming from Musk. SpaceX was valued at about US$25 billion in a financing round last month, while Tesla has a market capitalisation of about US$48.6 billion. — Bloomberg