Last August, The Boring Company — Elon Musk’s latest creation — received permission from the city of Hawthorne, California to construct a two mile long tunnel beneath the streets of the city. Hawthorne is where SpaceX has its headquarters and is near Los Angeles. On Saturday, October 28, Elon posted a photo on Instagram giving the world its first look inside the tunnel. Clearly, work has been proceeding nicely since digging began a few months ago.
Study the photo closely. What do you see? ????? Okay, time’s up. Starting at the top, what is that tube running down the center of the tunnel? Your guess is as good as anyone’s. It could be a ventilation duct or it could be carrying power to the boring machine somewhere out of sight ahead around the curve. Wait a minute. Did someone say curve? Yup. Apparently Elon’s magic tunnel maker is capable of going around corners, at least corners that aren’t too sharp.
Next, you might notice the walls of the tunnel are completely finished in what appear to be concrete slabs. On the right are carriers for conduits that probably carry communications links or power cables. Notice that three of the available rack spaces are already in use and three more are available. At the bottom of the tunnel is a set of tracks. What sort of device will ride on them? No one except Elon and some of his trusted lieutenants know for sure.
A clue could be available in another photo Elon posted on Instagram on Saturday. It shows a red Tesla mounted atop a pallet — electrified no doubt — which suggests cars inside the tunnel will not drive themselves but will be ferried aboard some sort of transporter. The wheels of the transporter are set much too wide apart to ride on the rails seen in the photo above. Will the Hawthorne tunnel have a flat roadway surface mounted above the tunnel floor? Or is it a Hyperloop test bed?
The Hawthorne tunnel is apparently a “proof of concept” exercise. Earlier this year, Brett Horton, the senior director of facilities and construction for SpaceX, said the city council meeting that approved the tunnel that the city can request the tunnel be filled with concrete slurry or dirt once the it is finished, according to The Verge.
The first real tunnel will be built in Maryland, it seems. That state has given permission to build a ten mile tube underneath state-owned land beneath a portion of Interstate 95 south of Baltimore. Eventually, that section is expected to be part of an underground link that connects New York City with Washington, DC. Whether it will transport automobiles on electric sleds or be part of a Hyperloop system is not clear at this time.
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