Elon Musk's Boring Loop is finally transporting passengers in Las Vegas
It's not quite the high-speed, driverless future we'd hoped for, but it certainly beats walking.
Claire ReillyFormer Principal Video Producer
Claire Reilly was a video host, journalist and producer covering all things space, futurism, science and culture. Whether she's covering breaking news, explaining complex science topics or exploring the weirder sides of tech culture, Claire gets to the heart of why technology matters to everyone. She's been a regular commentator on broadcast news, and in her spare time, she's a cabaret enthusiast, Simpsons aficionado and closet country music lover. She originally hails from Sydney but now calls San Francisco home.
ExpertiseSpace, Futurism, Science and Sci-Tech, Robotics, Tech CultureCredentials
Webby Award Winner (Best Video Host, 2021), Webby Nominee (Podcasts, 2021), Gold Telly (Documentary Series, 2021), Silver Telly (Video Writing, 2021), W3 Award (Best Host, 2020), Australian IT Journalism Awards (Best Journalist, Best News Journalist 2017)
In 2016, Musk launched his subterranean tunnel-drilling enterprise after becoming fed up with the traffic in our surface world. O Tuesday, the Boring Company opened its first underground Loop beneath the Las Vegas Convention Center.
The concept is surprisingly simple: Avoid gridlock by taking traffic underground. Simplify the transport experience by putting high-tech vehicles (read: Teslas) on a one-way loop and delivering on-demand rides. Dig tunnels where once there was dirt.
Watch this: Road testing the Boring Company Loop under Las Vegas
The experience is also… surprisingly simple. Get in the car, drive through a tunnel, get out the other side. But while it's not exactly the high-speed robo-taxi of the future that I'd hoped for, there's no doubt that this is the future of convenience.
The 1.7-mile Vegas Loop consists of three passenger stations (two above ground, one below), connected by stretches of 12-foot-wide tunnels, all lit with color-changing LED lights. Inside the Loop, a fleet of 62 Teslas circles around, picking up and dropping off passengers and turning a 25-minute walk across the mammoth convention center into a two-minute ride in all-electric comfort.
While the Boring Company unveiled its first tunnel in late 2018 in California, this is the first Loop that is fully operational and open to the public (although passengers need to be attending a convention at the LVCC to be able to ride).
The Vegas Loop doesn't deliver on that promise yet. The short stretches between stations certainly make the trip go fast, but not because you're traveling at high speed -- the drivers can't drive faster than 35 miles per hour. Still, the experience feels slick and efficient. Cars zip in and out of the flow of the Loop, pulling into bays and quickly loading and unloading passengers. While there weren't huge crowds on opening day (and I'd be very curious to see how the network handles peak
crowds) knots of waiting passengers were quick to disperse into waiting cars.
The network has been tested to move 4,400 passengers an hour. If they're all stopping to take selfies? Well, YMMV.
According to Lori Nelson-Kraft from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, this Loop is just the start. The Boring Company has plans to extend the Loop from downtown Las Vegas, through the central tourist hub of the strip and out to the city's stadium and airport, which Nelson-Kraft says would be a "gamechanger" for transport in the city. Riders will call a car via an app like they order a rideshare, and one day the drivers will disappear altogether.
For now, the reality is a little more practical. Less "maze of underground tunnels served by a fleet of high-speed, autonomous electro-cars." More "can you please take me over there because my feet are very sore."
If you were hoping for Musk's giddy vision of the future, you might have to wait a lot longer. But if you want a convenient, comfortable journey through a rainbow tunnel, all without the traffic, your ride has arrived.