LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Billions of dollars worth of entrepreneur Elon Musk pledged on Thursday to cheer his controversial dream of digging a high-speed network of "mass transit mass transit" tunnels under Los Angeles without disruption or surface noise could.
Musk, the hi-tech tycoon in Silicon Valley who founded the Tesla Inc. electric car maker, also said he offers free travel through the first two research tunnels he completes to get public feedback before he continues with a larger system.
"Like a weird little Disney ride in L.A.," Musk said, casually dressed in denim, laughing and applause.
It remained uncertain whether building permits he had previously received or applied for from different sources would allow the public access to his tunnels on an experimental basis. [L1N1SJ00Z]
Musk, known for facing major technical challenges with which he has little experience, ended his play in modest terms and told the audience that "realizing his vision" can only happen with public support ".
The performance was a rare personal appearance for Musk at such a public event, a City Hall meeting attended by about 700 people at Leo Baeck Temple, a synagogue in the city's affluent Bel-Air district, Musk one Residence.
Steve Davis, a top manager of Musk's matching underground transit company, the Boring Company, joined him on stage.
ROCK STAR TREATMENT
Musk's prominence status preceded him Visitors pushed and pushed into the crowded hall before the event started. Half joking that he had been late because of the heavy traffic, Musk was greeted on arrival and standing ovations at the end of the one-hour session.
Whether convinced critics turned, remained to be seen.
Boring's efforts to win the swift approval of a 2.7-mile tunnel under a heavily traveled stretch of the West Side of Los Angeles have challenged two neighborhood organizations in court.
It also comes as Musk wrestles with production issues for the rollout of his highly anticipated Model 3 sedan at Tesla, with some investors having his overlapping leadership roles at Boring and his rocket company SpaceX stretch him too thin.
Resistance to his tunnel project is a new challenge for Musk. Opponents claim that the Boring derogation, which provides for a lengthy environmental audit of the Los Angeles Test Tunnel, violates state law prohibiting such exemptions for large-scale, one-off projects.
But Musk denied taking any shortcuts, even with the relinquishment that said Boring faces "600 pages of permits that would be needed for this tunnel." He added he plans to submit a full environmental study for the tunnel network as a whole when the time comes.
Under the tiny neighboring community of Hawthorne, where Boring and SpaceX are headquartered, a somewhat shorter test tunnel has already been largely completed.
Musk and Davis swore that the public had no fear of their excavation plans, which would be different from conventional tunnels if they ran deeper underground, far below the utility lines.
"You will not hear us, you will not feel us, you will not even know we exist," Davis said.
Musk said the first two tunnel segments would serve as proof-of-concept locations to demonstrate ideas for a traffic relief network of subterranean tubes, passenger-carrying "pods" and individual cars from place to place at high speeds wipe.
Musk started his raid on public transport after complaining about Twitter traffic at the end of 2016. He vowed to "build a boring machine and just dig"
In an apparent win, the Los Angeles transit authority announced its support for Musk's tunnel ambitions, chirping that the agency and Boring had a "big meeting" on Thursday and would be "partners moving forward."
Report and writing by Steve Gorman; Additional reporting by Dana Feldman; Arrangement by Peter Cooney and Peter Graff