The Boring Company, Elon Musk’s tunneling company, has been selected by the City of Chicago to build a high-speed transportation service that will run between O’Hare Airport and the city center.
The project called Loop will be an underground transport system in which passengers will be transported with electric ‘skates’, or shuttles, at speeds of up to 241 km/h. It concerns a route of a distance of about 24 km, the construction of which is fully financed with private money. Chicago has not revealed how much construction will cost, but it would be less than $1 billion. Experts question the feasibility of this, for example, a 14km extension of a Paris metro line to Orly airport is said to cost around $450 million per mile.
Under the plan, the heart of The Chicago Express Loop will be autonomous electric skates made by Tesla. These vehicles are in fact shuttles that, according to The Boring Company, are based on the Tesla Model X. The shuttles drive in the underground tunnels on a concrete track, over which they probably move via the wheels and electric motors on a rail. The required electrical energy comes from built-in batteries. The distance from downtown Chicago to the airport can be covered in 12 minutes on these skates, and they can carry eight to 16 passengers in a shuttle. Instead, there is also room for a single car.
The Boring Company has been digging tunnels for underground transportation for some time, something Musk says is the future. By mid-May, his company had nearly completed its first tunnel under Los Angeles. It is the intention that similar electric shuttles will eventually be used here for the transport of passengers. The Chicago airport project will likely use a major underground station in the center of the city as the line’s starting point. The Los Angeles tunnel, on the other hand, is to become part of a dense network of thousands of small stations the size of a parking lot, where passengers can sit above ground, after which the shuttles will descend vertically via an elevator system to enter a tunnel.
According to Musk, the Loop will eventually be developed into the Hyperloop system, in which shuttles skim through a vacuum tube at much higher speeds. Musk states that the Hyperloop technology will mainly be used for longer distances, for example to significantly shorten the travel time between Washington DC and New York.