The Boring Company’s commuting-focused tunnels haven’t exactly caught on, and Elon Musk’s outfit appears ready to switch tacks as a result. The Verge reports that Bloomberg has obtained what it says is a Boring Company pitch deck focusing on freight-focused tunnels that would be 21 feet across, or nearly twice as wide as the 12-foot tunnels the firm has dug so far. They would be wide enough to hold two shipping containers side-by-side where just one would be a tight fit in existing tunnels, according to the documents.
Cargo would sit on “battery-powered freight carriers” that are ultimately moving shelves.
It’s not clear just how many would-be clients are getting this pitch, although California’s San Bernardino County is said to be one of them. The Boring Company reportedly wants to foster interest in a freight tunnel that would reduce traffic on roads around the area. It would fulfill an “Inland Port” concept that companies have explored for decades.
This wouldn’t strictly be a new effort. The Boring Company has envisioned freight almost since the start, and frequent rival Virgin Hyperloop has long considered freight a key part of its plan. This is more of a shift in focus than an about-face, albeit a significant one.
The rethink appears to be in response to a chilly reception to The Boring Company’s commuter plans. Musk’s startup abandoned plans for a Los Angeles tunnel in 2018 following a lawsuit over its environmental impact, and the company was already shifting its attention to mass transit and pedestrians around the same year. Moreover, there are signs that even the transit-oriented Loop isn’t as promising as it initially sounded. TechCrunch noted that the planned Las Vegas Convention Center system might only carry a maximum of 1,200 people per hour, not the 4,000 The Boring Company initially touted. Simply put, the firm’s initial strategy isn’t panning out as hoped.
The larger freight tunnels could help The Boring Company win more customers, including those who might have frowned on the commuter passages. As Moles executive director Tom Groark told Bloomberg, though, Musk’s crew may have to be careful with costs. Large tunnels are historically expensive, and The Boring Company may need to use some unconventional strategies (such as using fixed-width tunnels) to make those corridors practical.
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