Elon Musk's Boring wins Chicago Airport express train bid

June 14, 2018 18:23
Elon Musk's The Boring Company will build a high-speed express train that will cut travel time from downtown Chicago to the O'Hare International Airport from 40 minutes at present to just 20 minutes or less. Photo: Reuters

Tech titan Elon Musk's The Boring Company won the competition to build a high-speed express train connecting downtown Chicago to the O'Hare International Airport, giving the 18-month-old startup a big boost in legitimacy, Bloomberg reports.

Musk’s solution is the Hyperloop, an "ultra high-speed" underground transit system in which passengers ride through a vacuum tunnel system in self-driving electric pods with pressurized cabins at speeds of more than 600 miles (966 kilometers) per hour.

Tech media The Verge said the express vehicle will carry up to 16 passengers each, plus their luggage, and would depart O'Hare and downtown Chicago as frequently as every 30 seconds.

Currently, a 40-minute ride on Chicago Transit Authority train is available. According to the proposal from the city government, the goal of the project is to connect downtown to the airport, about 15 miles (25 km) away, in 20 minutes or less, with service every 15 minutes for the greater part of the day.

Boring said the Hyperloop ride would cost less than current taxi and ride-share services.

Started as the billionaire's futuristic idea, Boring aims to build a series of high-speed tunnels to travel underground to “solve the problem of soul-destroying traffic”.

The company is already digging a tunnel under Los Angeles, the first phase of which was officially completed in May. It plans to offer free rides through the LA tunnels within a few months, and the service is expected to charge passengers just US$1 to ride within the city.

Last October, the company got permission from Maryland officials to build a 10-mile tunnel in the state, which is planned to transport people underground between New York and Washington in just 29 minutes.

The city of Chicago will negotiate exclusively with Boring for one year over details of the project. A final agreement requires approval from the city council, according to Bloomberg.

No government funding is involved in the project. Musk's company, which lacks construction experience aside from a test tunnel it is digging in the Los Angeles suburb Hawthorne, California, would have to shoulder the entire construction, operating, and maintenance costs.

Boring has estimated the project would cost less than US$1 billion, Chicago Tribune reported, citing a source familiar with the firm's proposal.

The tunneling venture has raised money by selling company merchandise including hats and flamethrowers.

After bringing in US$1 million from selling 50,000 hats, it sold 20,000 flamethrowers worth about US$10 million in just five days and delivered the gadgets to buyers this week.

Musk also said the company is going to sell "LEGO-like interlocking" hollow bricks made from the rocks dugged beneath Los Angeles where the firm is tunneling.

Musk, who is already running Tesla, SpaceX, and the OpenAI project, has recently decided to cut about 4,100 jobs, or about 9 percent of the cash-strapped Tesla’s workforce, saying the cuts were “difficult but necessary” for the company’s reorganization.

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