What is the Boring Company?
Like many of Elon Musk's most controversial ideas, The Boring Company began as a tweet. Musk was presumably sitting in a Los Angelean rush hour on Dec. 18, 2016 when he wrote, "Traffic is driving me nuts. Am going to build a tunnel boring machine and just start digging..." If Musk were anyone but the $22.1 billion CEO of Tesla, he might have left it at that, but just minutes later, it seemed that he had given the idea some serious thought.
"I am actually going to do this. It shall be called 'The Boring Company,'" Musk said in a series of tweets. But unlike his proposals to "take Tesla private," build a "media credibility website" or pilot a mini-submarine in Thailand — ideas that were either hated, unsuccessful, or both — The Boring Company may just be Musk's most successful social media pitch to date. The Tesla CEO officially launched The Boring Company in January 2017, but not before returning to Twitter to coin a company slogan: "Boring, it's what we do."
The Boring Company broke ground one month later in February 2017 while digging a test hole on the premises of SpaceX. The test dig reportedly began on a Friday afternoon, when Musk said "Let's get started today and see what's the biggest hole we can dig between now and Sunday afternoon, running 24 hours a day." At the end of that period, The Boring Company had managed to produce a hole measuring 30 feet wide, 50 feet long, and 15 feet deep.
What Does The Boring Company Do?
While Elon Musk has demonstrated concern over what happens on land and up in space, he also seems to be interested in what goes on underground. Just two years after its founding, the Boring Company is an infrastructure and tunnel construction company with contracts in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Hawthorne, California. The company's self-stated goal is "to solve the problem of soul-destroying traffic" by building a network of transportation corridors underground. How exactly are they going to do that? Musk has suggested that he has the technology and the means to increase tunneling speed and drop costs by a factor of 10 or more. For context, the most expensive tunneling projects can cost as much as $1 billion per mile in urban areas.
Reimagining Public Transit
The Boring Company debuted its first completed stretch of underground tunnel on Dec. 19, 2018 in Hawthorne, California. When the project was first proposed, Musk suggested that pods capable of carrying 16 passengers at once would shoot through the tunnel at speeds of up to 150 miles per hour. But the project that The Boring Company unveiled in December looked remarkably different: instead of passenger pods, Tesla Model Xs were equipped with "tracking wheels," a guiding system similar to the way that vehicles are moved through a car wash. First riders reported that the tracking wheels made rides extremely bumpy even at the test speed of approximately 40 mph. Almost two years to the day after Musk first tweeted about Los Angeles traffic, The Boring Company had completed its first 1.14 mile tunnel at the construction cost of $10 million.
Love it or hate it, The Boring Company's first tunnel will now pave the way for the company's work in Chicago and Maryland, where it has negotiated contracts to build public transit systems. In February 2018, the City of Chicago announced a competition to build a high-speed transportation network from downtown Chicago to the O'Hare Airport. The Boring Company entered the contest with the proposal to transport passengers from downtown to the airport in 12 minutes using automated electric cars. Musk described using a "loop" system, in which 16 passengers (and their luggage) would be transported at speeds of 125 to 150 mph in pods that depart every half-minute. That's a tall order, especially after Musk's performance in Los Angeles, but in June 2018 Chicago nonetheless selected The Boring Company out of four competing bids. If the Boring Company successfully completes the tunnel, the private company's valuation could soar to as much as $16 billion.
Selling Recreational Flamethrowers
Elon Musk hasn’t been able to keep some of the promises he's made in the past, but when it comes to his Boring Company’s pledge to bring a recreational flamethrower to the market, the Tesla CEO appeared to deliver. In December 2017, Musk vowed to make a Boring Company flamethrower if the company could sell 50,000 branded hats for $20 each, and on Christmas Eve he announced on Twitter that the goal had been met. Shortly after the release, Musk tweeted: "Apparently, some customs agencies are saying they won’t allow shipment of anything called a 'Flamethrower'. To solve this, we are renaming it 'Not a Flamethrower'." Flamethrower or not, the Boring Company sold 20,000 units for $500 each on limited release, earning the company unprecedented media exposure and $02 million in revenues.