When he’s not building cars or launching rockets, Elon Musk somehow finds time in his schedule to toy with other ideas, like building tunnels underneath cities ostensibly to alleviate congestion. One of them is already operational in Las Vegas, ferrying passengers up and down the Las Vegas Strip.
There’s not anything super special about the tunnel itself, called the Las Vegas Loop. It’s just a claustrophobic, 1.7-mile tunnel with a standard paved road — though passengers are driven through it inside a Tesla Model 3 or Model X, of course. A driver upfront operates the car in manual, not autonomous, mode.
But more interestingly, TechCrunch got hold of internal documents which basically say that drivers can’t talk shit about the tunnel or their boss. It’s about as deferential as you’d expect for a leader who publicly called someone a “pedo guy” after they criticized him.
When drivers are asked whether they like working for Musk, they’re instructed to reply, “Yup, he’s a great leader! He motivates us to do good work.”
Not being paid for opinions — “Public fascination with our founder is inevitable and may dominate the conversation. Be as brief as possible, and do your best to shut down such conversation. If passengers continue to force the topic, politely say, ‘I’m sorry, but I really can’t comment’ and change the subject,” the Boring Company document says.
The Las Vegas Loop is constructed by the Boring Company, the outfit Musk created that has been developing its own tunnel-digging machines that are supposed to be faster than anything else out there. The basic idea is that addressing traffic requires more roadways, but building more on the surface level is impractical. More roads on the surface also tend to lead to more congestion, not less. But there’s heaps of space underground, and more tunnels could be added at different depths as traffic increases.
Not the Hyperloop we were promised — That’s fine, but it’s far from the Hyperloop concept Musk initially touted. The Hyperloop was an idea for transporting passengers at 150 miles per hour using a sealed tube system with low air pressure where a pod would be free of air resistance or friction. That would make getting around cities much faster, but proved too challenging, so Musk essentially gave up on it and went with the boring tunnel idea that transports passengers in a regular car at about 30 miles per hour.
At least in Vegas the tunnel could be a nice way to avoid walking a mile up and down The Strip on a sweltering day. The Boring Company says up to 4,400 people can move through the Vegas Loop per hour.
Snowflake tendencies — The team at the Boring Company was clearly anticipating that workers driving the cars might give their honest opinion about the eccentric Musk or his tunnel, and if word of that got out it wouldn’t be good for the driver or Boring Company executives. Another example of approved discourse reads “Is it true what I’ve read about him in the papers that he [is a mean boss / smokes pot / doesn’t let employees take vacations / etc.]?” Drivers are instructed to reply, “I haven’t seen that article, but that hasn’t been my experience.”
Of course, shit-talking your boss at work probably isn’t a good idea, no matter whether your boss is Elon Musk or not. But it’s unusual to get such specific guidance on how to talk about them in writing. Being one of the world’s wealthiest people hasn’t made Musk any less sensitive to people’s opinions apparently.
The documents obtained by TechCrunch also indicate that drivers had been caught by officials in Clark County ignoring safety rules, such as by not telling passengers they need to wear seatbelts.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida earlier this year accepted a proposal from the Boring Company to build a tunnel there. It seems like dense transportation would be a better investment in an area that’s severely lacking in it, rather than a proof-of-concept tunnel idea operated by a private company. But Elon Musk has a way of wooing people over with his aura.