Elon Musk's Boring Company Is Pivoting to Focus on Moving Pedestrians

Elon Musk's Boring Company Is Pivoting to Focus on Moving Pedestrians

Multitasking entrepreneur Elon Musk announced on Friday that the underground urban transportation system planned by his Boring Company would adjust to prioritizing pedestrians and cyclists over cars. The pivot came three months after Musk notoriously lambasted a critic of the project’s original, car-centric plan.

Adjusting The Boring Company plan: all tunnels & Hyperloop will prioritize pedestrians & cyclists over cars

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 9, 2018

The Boring Company, though wildly ambitious, is just a side project for Musk, who is also CEO of Tesla and SpaceX. It proposes to develop technology that will make tunnel-drilling faster and less expensive. When things began getting serious last Fall, the project’s core concept was to reduce urban traffic by transporting cars down those tunnels on electric sleds. The shift to giving pedestrians priority would make the system, which has received a very preliminary permit for work in Washington, D.C., something like a high-tech bus.

I guess you could say it’s a 150 mph, underground, autonomous, electric bus that automatically switches between tunnels and lifts. So, yes, a bus.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 9, 2018

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Better video coming soon, but it would look a bit like this: pic.twitter.com/C0iJPi8b4U

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 9, 2018

Musk said the Boring Company system would also still move cars, but “only after all personalized mass transit needs are met.” Musk called the shift “a matter of courtesy and fairness. If someone can’t afford a car, they should go first.”

Will still transport cars, but only after all personalized mass transit needs are met. It’s a matter of courtesy & fairness. If someone can’t afford a car, they should go first.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 9, 2018

The about-face suggests Musk may have learned more than it seemed from a December blowup with mass-transit advocate Jarrett Walker. Following comments in which Musk said public transit “sucks” because it’s shared with “a bunch of random strangers,” Walker characterized Musk’s attitude as “a luxury (or pathology) that only the rich can afford.”

Walker also reiterated widespread critiques of Musk’s futuristic transportation plans, which many experts have argued would be mathematically impossible to scale up to serve an entire urban population.

Musk, replying to Walker on Twitter, simply wrote: “You’re an idiot”.

Now, by opening up space for pedestrians and cyclists, Musk seems to be responding to both the moral and practical criticisms of the Boring Company’s ambitions. Making the system more pedestrian-focused, after all, has the potential to do much more to reduce traffic than simply moving cars underground. The remaining question is whether the system can also deliver on its promise of “personalization” — balancing the need to move high volumes of people, with a desire to get them very close to their destinations.

Boring Co urban loop system would have 1000’s of small stations the size of a single parking space that take you very close to your destination & blend seamlessly into the fabric of a city, rather than a small number of big stations like a subway

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 9, 2018

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