Elon Musk picked to build futuristic tube link to Chicago airport

Taking a gamble on an unproven transport system, the city of Chicago has selected Elon Musk’s The Boring Company to finance, build and operate a new high-speed transit link to the city’s O’Hare International Airport.

Musk set up The Boring Company only in December 2016 to develop the concept of "3D" urban transport, called Loop, in which autonomous electric vehicles whizz along tunnels at up to 150mph.

The win, reported by Bloomberg and confirmed by The Boring Company on Twitter, has not been announced by the city council.

Unless contradicted by the office of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, it means The Boring Company was chosen over the other shortlisted party, a consortium comprising UK consulting engineer Mott MacDonald and Scottish transport conglomerate First Transit, with financiers Meridiam, Antarctica Capital, and JLC Infrastructure.

These two parties were shortlisted in March this year.

The Boring Company did not team up with financiers, engineers or contractors, but entered the race on its own, armed only with its futuristic vision.

"We’re really excited to work with the Mayor and the City to bring this new high-speed public transportation system to Chicago!" tweeted The Boring Company last night.

The city challenged contestants to propose an express transit service that could get passengers from downtown to O’Hare in 20 minutes. The nature of the service, including whether it was above or below ground, was left to the proposers.

Musk may not be such a gamble for the the city after all, since the chosen developer will have to finance the project itself, and recoup costs from fares or advertising.

The O’Hare link will be seen as a test for The Boring Company, whose mission is to revolutionise not only urban transport, but tunnel construction itself. Musk believes it is possible to to cut the cost of tunnelling to a tenth of what it is now (about a billion dollars a mile, he says), while dramatically ramping up the speed of tunnel construction.

City officials will negotiate exclusively with Boring for a year over details of the project, Bloomberg said.

  • See our backgrounder on Musk’s vision for Loop here.

Image: Artist’s conception of an autonomous pod in Musk’s "Loop" transit system (The Boring Company)

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