Elon Musk announces a big change to his tunneling venture: It will ‘prioritize pedestrians and cyclists over cars’

Getty Images | Diego Donamaria

Billionaire Elon Musk is changing the plan for his tunneling venture.

Instead of creating first underground transport system to help cars circumnavigate traffic congestion, Musk is shifting his tunneling venture to be more like a mass transit system.

Musk announced the change over his personal Twitter account Friday.

The tunnels Musk is digging via his infrastructure business, The Boring Company, will house pods on tracks that zoom underground for pedestrians and bicyclists to travel in.

Those not driving should be allowed to go first as a matter of fairness, Musk says.

The Boring Company system will be different from a city subway system, says Musk, because the pods would go to more more locations and each pod will be smaller than a subway car.

Musk posted an animation of what the system will look like (embedded below).

The pods would be able to move up to 150 miles per hour, Musk says. One Twitter user asked whether it would be fair to call the pods buses. In a way, he says. Very fast buses.

Musk, who is already the boss of both electric car maker Tesla and aeronautics company SpaceX, says he tried to get others interested in building tunnels for years but failed and eventually took on the challenge himself.

"It's not because of some epiphany that I had one day driving on the 405," he says, referring to a famously congested highway in Los Angeles, where the tunnels are being built. "That's how it gets translated somehow. I was talking about tunnels for years and years, for probably five years or four years at least.

"Whenever I would give a talk and people would ask me about what opportunities do you see in the world, I would say, 'Tunnels. Can someone please build tunnels?'" Musk explained at the South by Southwest tech conference in Austin, Texas on Sunday.

"So after four or five years of begging people to build tunnels and still no tunnels, I was like, 'Okay, I am going to build a tunnel.' Like maybe I am missing something here, so I was basically talking people's ears off about tunnels for several years and then said, 'Well, let's find out what it takes to build a tunnel.' And so yeah, I started digging a tunnel."

Musk named the tunnel-digging machine "Godot," after the infamous no-show in Samuel Beckett's play, "Waiting for Godot."

"I kept waiting for it, it never came. Finally it did. And we have got it going and now we are making good progress."

He announced the first tunnel dig was completed at the end of June.

Building a mass transit system may seem a daunting task, but Musk says the majority of his time goes to Tesla and SpaceX.

"The Boring Company, to be clear, it's like literally 2 percent of my time. It's probably 20 percent of my tweets but tweets do not correlate to actual time spent. I mean, I sort of just have fun with The Boring Company," said Musk at SXSW.

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