The technology behind Elon Musk’s plan to beat Los Angeles traffic using high-speed underground ‘skates’ may tap into an outdated method seen in vintage roller coasters.
After the unveiling event earlier this month to show off the mile-long stretch of LA’s first tunnel, some engineers have pointed out that it bears semblance to the side-friction roller coasters that were largely phased out starting in the early 1900s.
Experts say achieving stability at high speeds in such a system would be a challenge, and the sideways motion it relies on could make for a nausea-inducing ride, according to NBC News.
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When Musk unveiled his underground tunnel, dubbed the ‘loop,’ things did not quite go to plan. Many riders complained of a ‘surprisingly bumpy’ journey, as each car is equipped with ‘tracking wheels’ (pictured) that help it travel along concrete sections used to support the car
WHERE IS THE FIRST BORING CO TUNNEL?
The test tunnel runs about 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) under the streets of Hawthorne, California, where Musk’s SpaceX headquarters sits.
The tunnel, meant to be a ‘proof of concept,’ is being used to help Musk and The Boring Company conduct research and development for a broader system in traffic-plagued Los Angeles and beyond.
One, known as the Dugout Loop , would take LA baseball fans to Dodger Stadium from one of three subway stations.
Another would take travelers from downtown Chicago to O’Hare International Airport.
Both projects are in the environmental review phase.
The latest input from engineers and amusement-park enthusiasts lines up with reports from the first people to ride in The Boring Company’s LA tunnel, dubbed the Loop.
Inside, each car is retrofitted with horizontal wheel guides that cost about $300 a pop, and are used to keep them on the concrete tracks.
Following the Dec. 18 test-run, though, reporters said it was a ‘white knuckle ride,’ ‘felt like riding on a dirt road,’ and even complained of motion sickness.
This could, in part, be because it’s much like a futuristic side-friction roller coaster, like Pennsylvania’s Leap-the-Dips attraction built in 1902.
Due to the lateral motion of side-friction roller coasters, these rides make it ‘feel like you’re actually going to fall off the track,’ Pete Trabucco, author of “America’s Top Roller Coasters and Amusement Parks,’ told NBC.
‘The side motion stuff actually gets people sick.’
After the unveiling event this month to show off the mile-long stretch of LA’s first tunnel, some engineers have pointed out that it bears semblance to the side-friction roller coasters that started to phase out in the early 1900s. The wooden Leap-the-Dips ride of this style is shown
‘It’s much more like an underground highway than it is a subway,’ Musk said. ‘It’s not like you’re going through a whole series of stops. Nope, the main arteries will be going super fast, and it’s only when you want to get off the loop system that you slow down’
This ‘old school’ style has largely gone out of fashion in the amusement park world due to smoother, more efficient techniques, Nick Weisenberger, an automotive engineer who co-manages the site Coaster101, told NBC.
‘You’re not really securing the vehicle to the track,’ Weisenberger told NBC.
At the time of the test run, Musk told the LA Times that it is ‘just a prototype,’ and is still ‘a little rough around the edges.’
At speeds of 40-50mph, however, the Loop hadn’t even hit its full speed potential.
Musk has promised in the past that it will one day achieve 150mph transport.
Likely contributing to the motion sickness was the fact that the Model X in the test tunnel traveled on two molded concrete shelves along the wall
WHAT ARE PEOPLE SAYING ABOUT THE BORING COMPANY TUNNEL?
Bloomberg: The actual means of transit in the tunnel, once envisioned as tube-encased skates that individual vehicles would drive off and on, was simpler at the launch than it was at conception. The skates are gone, and instead, individual Teslas were driving along fixed guideways.
The Verge: Whether or not the tunnel system will work to cure LA’s traffic, I couldn’t possibly say. Nice party, though.
The Associated Press: The car jostled significantly during the ride, which was bumpy enough to give one reporter motion sickness while another yelled, “Woo!”
The New York Times: The Hawthorne tunnel is at best a proof of concept. To make such a system extensive enough to serve one of the world’s biggest metropolitan areas, with private funding, seems a herculean proposition.
CNN: The trip was bumpy at times as we jostled against the tunnel. The narrow space made the low speeds — we traveled mostly at 35 mph — feel faster. It felt like an amusement park ride.
The Los Angeles Times: The trip through the tunnel took about two minutes, illuminated by the car’s headlights and a strip of blue neon lights tacked to the ceiling. The Model X rolled on two molded concrete shelves along the wall, which were so uneven in places that it felt like riding on a dirt road.
Musk’s presentation, punctuated by a glitzy entrance aboard a Tesla Model X that traveled through the company’s accent-lit, 1.14-mile test tunnel, filled in a few details about his ambitious plans to destroy LA congestion with new and improved tunnel boring processes. But the test tunnel still seems to be a test tunnel, and the Boring Company in a deeply experimental phase. A bevy of questions remain.
As for the bumpy ride, Musk said problems with the paving machine were to blame.
Despite the hiccups, The Boring Company boss hailed the trial ‘epic’ and a ‘eureka moment.’
Musk plans to charge fares of around $1.00 per rider as a way to avoid miles of congestion.
So far, the firm has spent $10million (£7.9million) on the project across two years.