Wednesday 23 October 2019

Elon Musk firm aiming to build Las Vegas transport system

Las Vegas’ tourism agency is recommending The Boring Company receives a contract to build an underground tunnel system for electric vehicles.

Conceptual drawing shows the entrance to the Las Vegas Convention Centre Loop outside a new exhibition hall proposed for Las Vegas (tvs design/Design Las Vegas/The Boring Company via AP)
Conceptual drawing shows the entrance to the Las Vegas Convention Centre Loop outside a new exhibition hall proposed for Las Vegas (tvs design/Design Las Vegas/The Boring Company via AP)

By Regina Garcia Cano, Associated Press

Entrepreneur Elon Musk’s dream of an express tunnel transit system could finally become a reality in Las Vegas after major setbacks in other cities.

Las Vegas’ tourism agency has announced it is recommending that an enterprise backed by the divisive billionaire receives a contract to build and operate an underground tunnel system through which autonomous electric vehicles would whisk people around a mega convention centre.

If approved, the system of just over a mile long would debut by January 2021 at the facility, which hosts more than 1 million people every year. The Musk-owned The Boring Company would build the project costing from 35 million to 55 million US dollars.

It is different from his beleaguered efforts to build underground tunnel systems in other cities because Mr Musk will be paid for it if the contract is approved.

I think it will be an attraction in and of itself, frankly Steve Hill, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority

Projects in Los Angeles and Chicago have drawn opposition and scepticism from residents and officials about whether they will actually open.

Mr Musk has faced recent criticism because of his behaviour and tweeting habits. He has had dust-ups with stock market regulators and agreed last year to step down as chairman of the board of Tesla, his electric car company.

But Las Vegas tourism officials are ready to get on board with a Musk project.

“It’s really innovative. I think it will be an attraction in and of itself, frankly,” Steve Hill, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, told The Associated Press.

Details of the project have not been finalised. But Mr Hill said the system will probably have three or four stations, each situated at entrances to the convention centre’s halls. People would be carried to the hall of their choice in electric vehicles moving through parallel tunnels, each running in one direction.

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Drawing of a high-occupancy Autonomous Electric Vehicle that would run in a tunnel between exhibition halls (The Boring Company via AP)

The fleet could include Tesla’s Model X and Model 3 and a vehicle with capacity for about 16 people, Mr Hill said. All vehicles would be fully autonomous, meaning they will not have backup human drivers.

The Las Vegas Convention Centre, which attracts worldwide gatherings including the premier Consumer Electronics Show, is undergoing an expansion. When finished, convention attendees could log about two miles walking from one end to the other. The distance led officials to look for a transportation solution.

The service within the convention centre is expected to be free for people attending events.

The convention centre is operated by the authority, which is funded by a county room tax and is responsible for promoting the destination around the world. The tourism agency is governed by a board of directors.

The authority is expected to present to the board the recommendation to select Mr Musk’s company on March 12. If approved, Mr Hill said the agency hopes to return to the board with a full design and proposed contract by June.

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