An engineering professor has dismissed as unrealistic tech entrepreneur Elon Musk’s futuristic vision of underground traffic tunnels.
Musk, chief executive of several hi-tech companies including Tesla and SpaceX, recently gave a TED talk on his plans to tunnel under Los Angeles to alleviate traffic pressures in the city, which he described as “soul-destroying.”
At the talk in Vancouver he explained plans for a 3D tunnel network, with cars entering and leaving the tunnel on lifts integrated into existing roads.
“By having an elevator, sort of a car skate that’s on an elevator, you can integrate the entrances and exists to the tunnel network just by using two parking spaces,” he said.
Cars could travel on the electric skates through the tunnels at speeds of up to 130mph, according to Musk. He also hinted that the tunnel network could span a greater area than expected.
“There’s no real limit to how many levels of tunnel you can have. You can go much further deep than you can go up,” he said.
Musk first announced his idea for the tunnels last year while stuck in traffic.
Traffic is driving me nuts. Am going to build a tunnel boring machine and just start digging...— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 17, 2016
He has since created a company called The Boring Company to carry out his project. Musk has started digging near his SpaceX office in the city, and a tunnel boring machine (TBM) has been built for the project.
But US academic Costa Samaras, a civil and environmental engineer at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, has said the project is too complex, and autonomous vehicle technology must be mastered before Musk’s complex idea can be realised.
“Maybe let’s figure out shared, fully driverless, electric mobility first?” Samaras told news website Axios.
Samaras, who worked on New York’s £1.9bn number seven subway line extension, added that with sharing models associated with autonomous vehicles, the cost of driving could be less than a bus ticket and so road traffic could actually increase.