The Boring Company, Elon Musk’s tunneling venture, staged a race recently between two Tesla vehicles: one on the road in normal traffic, and the other in the 1.14-mile tunnel that runs underneath SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif. Suffice to say, it wasn’t much of a contest.
The tunnel Tesla was the clear victor, emerging out onto the road a full 3 minutes and 8 seconds before the one took surface streets. In fact, the car in the tunnel reached the finish line before the car in traffic even got passed the first red light.
Most notably, the Tesla in the tunnel hit a maximum speed of 127 mph. That’s significantly faster than what the Boring Company demonstrated for reporters and city officials (including our own Liz Lopatto) at a lavish event back in December. Those rides were also incredibly bumpy, which Musk attributed to a faulty paving machine. This one seemed to be smoother — at least according to the video footage.
The race was posted to Twitter less than 24 hours after the Boring Company received its first approval to dig a pair of tunnels beneath the Las Vegas Convention Center. The $48.6 million project is slated to be completed in time for the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2021 — though Musk has suggested it could be up and running by the end of the year.
The Boring Company first began with a 2016 tweet, in which Musk wrote, “Traffic is driving me nuts. Am going to build a tunnel boring machine and just start digging…” It has since grown to include the test tunnel in Hawthorne, the recently approved Las Vegas “people mover,” a $1 billion bid for a Chicago tunnel to O’Hare Airport that’s on the skids, and a Washington, DC-to-Baltimore tunnel, which is currently undergoing an environmental assessment.
Transportation advocates, though, are worried that a new tunnel network for cars will just create more above-ground congestion, especially as vehicle queue up to enter the tunnel. Musk has also been criticized for building tunnels that only accommodate cars rather than vehicles with greater capacity to carry more people.
The Boring Company staged this race to answer a simple question: which is faster, the road or the tunnel? But as The Verge’s deputy editor Thomas Ricker aptly notes, this is a false comparison and is the “equivalent of bragging about 5G speeds before any phones are released to consumers.”