LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Multimillionaire businessman Elon Musk promised an enthusiastic audience on Thursday that his controversial dream of digging a high-speed network of "mass transit" tunnels under Los Angeles could be achieved without disturbance or noise. the surface .
Musk, the high-tech mogul of Silicon Valley who founded Tesla Inc. electric car maker, also said he would offer free travel through the first two research tunnels that complete to get public feedback before proceeding with a larger system.
"Like a weird little Disney ride at LAA," said Musk, casually dressed in denim, laughing and applauding.
It is not yet clear if the construction permits he has received so far, or if he is still requesting from several agencies, would allow public access to his tunnels on an experimental basis. [L1N1SJ00Z]
Known for aggressively facing large-scale technical challenges with which he has had little previous experience, Musk ended his presentation on a humble note, telling the audience that he understood that his vision "could only be given with public support "
The performance marked a rare personal appearance for Musk at a public event of this kind, a city-style meeting attended by some 700 people at the Leo Baeck Temple, a synagogue in the affluent Bel-Air district of the city. city, where Musk has a residence.
Joining him on stage was Steve Davis, a senior executive at the Musk underground transit company, called the Boring Company.
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Musk's celebrity status preceded him, as some visitors pushed and pushed into the crowded room before the event began. Half joking that he was late due to heavy traffic, Musk received an enthusiastic welcome upon arrival, and a standing ovation at the end of the hour-long session.
It remained to be seen if die-hard critics were influenced.
Boring's effort to obtain accelerated approval of the city from a 2.7-mile-long tunnel under a crowded stretch of the West Side of Los Angeles has provoked a judicial challenge from two neighborhood organizations.
It also comes when Musk struggles with production problems for the launch of its expected Model 3 sedan at Tesla, with some investors worried about its overlapping leadership roles at Boring and its SpaceX rocket-building company has it too thin.
Resistance to his tunnel construction project marks a new kind of challenge for Musk. Opponents say that the exemption that Boring seeks in a long environmental review of the Los Angeles test tunnel violates the state law that prohibits such exemptions for large projects in a gradual manner.
But Musk denied having tried to cut corners, saying that even with the resignation, Boring faces "600 pages of permits that would be necessary for this tunnel." He added that he has every intention of undergoing a complete environmental study for the network tunnel as a whole when the time comes.
A slightly shorter test tunnel is already largely completed below the small neighboring town of Hawthorne, where Boring and SpaceX are based.
Musk and Davis promised that the public has nothing to fear from their excavation plans, which they say will differ from conventional tunnels by running deeper underground, well below utility lines.
"They will not listen to us, they will not feel us, they will not even know we exist," Davis said.
Musk said the first two tunnel segments would serve as proof-of-concept sites to demonstrate ideas for a network of underground tubes that lighten traffic and transport "pods" and individual cars from one location to another at high speeds.
Musk launched his foray into public transport after complaining about traffic on Twitter in late 2016, and promised to "build a boring machine and start digging".
In an apparent gain announced earlier, the Los Angeles transit authority expressed support for the ambitions of the Musk tunnel, tweeting that the agency and Boring had a "big meeting" on Thursday and that "they would be partners that move forward" .
Report and writing by Steve Gorman; Additional reports by Dana Feldman; Edition of Peter Cooney and Peter Graff