Is Elon Musk’s electric rollerskate tunnel to O’Hare just an elaborate prank on Chicago?
The Tesla and Space X CEO’s bizarre, pot smoke-filled performance on Joe Rogan’s podcast Thursday night makes it an open question. Near the beginning of the rambling two-and-a-half hour conversation on The Joe Rogan Experience — and before the two shared a joint — Musk described The Boring Company as a “hobby company” that started as a joke.
“And we decided to make it real, and dig a tunnel under L.A.,” he said. “And then other people asked us to build tunnels so we said yes in a few cases.”
Those “other people” includes the city of Chicago, which in June gave the Boring Company the green light to build a high-speed electric pod-based underground mass transit system in Chicago to O’Hare. Since the announcement, details of the Boring Company’s deal with the city of Chicago have remained maddeningly scarce. The Better Government Association sued the city last month for failing to provide public documents relating to the project.
Musk bragged that the whole project would cost less than a $1 billion and be operational within three years. Mayor Rahm Emanuel praised it as “the fast lane to the city’s future” and pooh-poohed critics who said the numbers for the “Tesla-in-a-tunnel” didn’t seem to add up.
“Look, there were doubters about putting a man on the moon,” Emanuel told CBS News in June while on a mini-media tour with Musk. Even after he announced he wouldn’t run for re-election earlier this week, the mayor said he still wants to move forward with the plan.
But one of those doubters now appears to be Musk himself. He casually admitted that his plan to build a high-tech underground transportation network in Los Angeles—one that he described as “like an underground snake”—may not work.
“I’m not asserting that it’s going to be successful,” Musk told Rogan. ” … I’ve lived in L.A. for 16 years. And the traffic has always been terrible. I don’t see any other ideas for improving the traffic. So in desperation, we’re going to dig a tunnel. And maybe that tunnel will be successful, and maybe it won’t. I’m not trying to convince you it’s going to work.”
Rogan seemed dumbfounded by the statement. “This is a project you’ve started though, right?” he asked.
“We’ve dug about a mile. It’s quite long,” Musk said matter-of-factly. “It would take a long time to walk it.”
This far, the Boring Company’s biggest accomplishment—beyond digging a mile-long hole in the ground in Los Angeles—is convincing the public to buy 50,000 baseball caps bearing the company’s logo and 20,000 devices dubbed “not-a-flamethrowers.” The flamethrowers, Musk says, were based on a gag from Mel Brooks’s Star Wars spoof.
“In Spaceballs the Movie, (the Yoda parody character) Yogurt goes through the merchandising section, and they have a flamethrower in the merchandising section…the kids love that one,” Musk said. “And it’s like, ‘We should do a flamethrower.'”
“Does anyone tell you no?” Rogan wondered. Isn’t selling a $500 flamethrower online a dumb idea?
“Yeah, it’s a terrible idea. Terrible, you shouldn’t buy one. I said don’t buy this flamethrower. Don’t buy it. Still, people bought it,” Musk replied. “To be totally frank it’s just a roofing torch with an air-rifle cover. It’s not a real flamethrower. We were very clear, this is not actually a flamethrower.”
In other words, Musk duped a bunch of suckers into buying his fake flamethrowers.
Did he pull off the same feat with several municipalities buying into his unproven underground “electric skates” transit systems? Time will tell.