Elon Musk is not a fan of Los Angeles traffic, and he is not even hiding his frustration over it.
In December 2016, Musk even tweeted that he is thinking of building a machine to bore tunnels under the city to cut traffic and, while it sounded like a joke at first, the Tesla co-founder and chief executive officer proved that he was incredibly serious with the idea.
On Jan. 25, Musk tweeted that his company will start digging a tunnel in a month's time, though the project is still currently limited to company property. Just two days after his tweet, he announced that his company will begin digging the tunnel from across his desk at the SpaceX office.
I am actually going to do this
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 17, 2016
Exciting progress on the tunnel front. Plan to start digging in a month or so. — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 25, 2017
@_wsimson Starting across from my desk at SpaceX. Crenshaw and the 105 Freeway, which is 5 mins from LAX
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 25, 2017
"I really do think tunnels are the key to solving urban gridlock. Being stuck in traffic is soul-destroying. Self-driving cars will actually make it worse by making vehicle travel more affordable," Musk told The Verge in a Twitter direct message.
It is actually a little funny that Musk thinks this way about the role of autonomous vehicles in worsening traffic conditions since Tesla has been focused on improving its own autopilot software.
The good thing is that Musk has already played a big part in easing traffic problems in L.A. with his ideas. Here are two ways he is doing so:
Musk's Theory Behind Tunnels
Musk's plan to dig tunnels under the Los Angeles public highway is intriguing, at the very least, but there is still no way to tell what his plans really are. Some speculate that the planned tunnels could be a subway, while others believe it to be for vehicles. But Musk has yet to confirm any of the theories.
Then again, SpaceX has just successfully concluded the first-ever Hyperloop Pod Competition at the SpaceX Headquarters from Jan. 27 to 29, so we have an idea that he is interested in developing a functional hyperloop.
And we start digging the tunnel tonight https://t.co/UYSIU0qg34
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 28, 2017
If this is Musk's end game, a hyperloop under L.A would definitely ease traffic and significantly decrease travel time — that is, if the project receives the proper permits and doesn't run into any trouble during the dig.
For now, the hyperloop or any tunnels under L.A. highways related to Musk's idea is still a fantasy. "We are not aware of any permit applications for a tunnel beneath the Public Right of Way. Any such permit application for a tunnel beneath the Public Right of Way would require City Council approval," Mary Nemick from the Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering said.
On The Road: Easing Traffic Through The Tesla Autopilot Feature
If you are looking for an existing and truly significant action Musk took to improve the traffic situation, it is through Tesla's Autopilot feature.
Auto steer limited to 45 mph on highways for now, i.e. heavy traffic, where it is needed most. Limit will raise as we get more data. — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 22, 2017
Report highlight: “The data show that the Tesla vehicles crash rate dropped by almost 40 percent after Autosteer installation.”
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 19, 2017
Tesla has been rolling out upgrades to its autonomous driving system and that is a huge help not only for Tesla owners but to the traffic situation as well. This is because, despite the company's attempts to break its acceleration record, Tesla vehicles always prioritize the safety of, first and foremost, its driver and passengers and, by extension, other motorists and pedestrians.
My favorite new feature is the always-on max temp control for keeping kids and pets safe from overheating. — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 21, 2016
Autopilot prevents serious injury or death of a pedestrian in NY (owner anecdote confirmed by vehicle logs) pic.twitter.com/NceuqckqCK
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 21, 2016
By focusing on the safety of passengers, Tesla vehicles have avoided vehicle collisions that could have led to critical injuries and deaths, by extension, causing traffic.
@TeslaMotors Autopilot saves another life. Dare folk to RT that as much as previous context-free clickbait https://t.co/d1ayEfV0Aa @elonmusk — Mike Burrows (@zebedee666) October 19, 2016
— TechCrunch (@TechCrunch) November 18, 2016
Model S smashes into semi truck trailer and lifts it off the ground. Driver walks away. https://t.co/NSuMvcYaA6 — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 1, 2016
— Electrek.Co (@ElectrekCo) December 27, 2016
In times that it was unable to avoid a collision, however, the passengers remained safe inside their Tesla vehicles.
So, even if Musk said, "We have no idea what we're doing — I want to be clear about that," during the Hyperloop competition and none of us are really sure what his plans are for the tunnel, we can at least rest assured that it will probably do some good.