Las Vegas bets on Elon Musk for tunnel transit system

LAS VEGAS (AP) — 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 announced on Wednesday it is recommending that an enterprise backed by the divisive billionaire receive 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 1.6 kilometre long would debut by January 2021 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, which hosts more than one million people every year. The Musk-owned The Boring Company would build the project costing from USD35 million to USD55 million.

It’s different from his beleaguered efforts to build underground tunnel systems in other cities because Musk will be paid for it if the contract is approved. Projects in Los Angeles and Chicago have drawn opposition and skepticism from residents and officials about whether they will actually open.

Musk has faced recent blowback 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.

This undated conceptual drawing provided by The Boring Company shows a high-occupancy Autonomous Electric Vehicle (AEV) that would run in a tunnel between exhibition halls at the Las Vegas Convention Center proposed for Las Vegas. – AP

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 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.

The fleet could include Tesla’s Model X and Model 3 and a vehicle with capacity for about 16 people. All vehicles would be fully autonomous, meaning they won’t have drivers.

Hill said the authority is looking at options that would allow 4,400 to 11,000 people to use the system per hour.