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Elon Musk says low-cost tunnels will revolutionize city driving

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Elon Musk on Tuesday took a break from futuristic electric cars and private space travel to unveil a low-cost tunnel he sees as a godsend for city traffic.

The billionaire behind Tesla and SpaceX late Tuesday put the spotlight on the a 1.14 mile (1.8 kilometer) tunnel created by his Boring Company for about $10 million.

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The sample tunnel is part of Musk’s vision to have an underground network that cars, preferably Teslas, can be lowered to by lifts, then slotted into tracks and propelled along at speeds up to 150 mph (241 kmh).

“The only way to solve this is to go 3D, for the transport system to match the living quarters,” Musk said of solving the problem of traffic congestion in urban areas.

“It’s all relatively simple. No Nobel Prize is needed here.”

An entrance to a sample tunnel was shown publicly for the first time in this city near Los Angeles as the initial stage of Musk’s project to revolutionize city traffic by zipping along below congested streets.

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Musk founded the Boring company two years ago as a self-financed, side-endeavor to his work at Tesla and SpaceX.

Specially designed equipment drills tunnels wide enough to accommodate a car on a track. The network envisioned is an expandable mesh of tunnels and elevators capable of having more than 4,000 cars pass through per hour.

“The deepest mines are deeper than the tallest buildings,” Musk said.

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“The profound breakthrough is very simple: it’s the ability to turn a normal car into a passively stable vehicle by adding the deployable tracking wheels, stabilizing wheels, so that it can travel at high speed through a small tunnel.”

Tunnels will eventually be open to all compatible self-driving electric vehicles, but for now Boring is using Teslas in the tube.

– Soul-crushing inspiration –

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The idea for the project came to the billionaire of South African origin when he was fuming at the wheel of his car, trapped in traffic jams between his Bel Air villa and the SpaceX offices in Hawthorne.

It is a journey that takes him more than 90 minutes and he considered soul-crushing.

The “tunnel test” unveiled Tuesday appeared simple: a narrow tube, only 3.65m in diameter (12 feet), freshly painted white, in which a Tesla Model X is fitted with stabilizers on wheels to slot into the track and avoid bumping the walls.

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An early idea about placing cars on an electric sled of sorts was deemed too complex and abandoned, said Musk.

The entrance to the tunnel was dug in a parking lot in Hawthorne, with an elevator platform on a street corner raising and lowering cars to the track.

Journalists and others attending the event got to bolt through the short tunnel at about 40 mph (65 kmh) in what felt somewhat akin to an amusement park ride.

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Musk brushed aside worries about earthquakes in temblor-prone California, repeatedly contending that tunnels were the safest place to be when plates shift and the earth shakes.

– Slower than a snail –

The broad vision is that electric vehicles on city streets would be able to easily drop into tunnels or rise out using elevator platforms built into streets, or ramps where space allows.

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Boring has partnered with public transit in Los Angeles to study the possibility of connecting tunnels with subway stations.

Chicago chose Boring for its project for a high-speed, capsule-shaped train connecting the city center to the airport. Requests for drilling services flow in at a rate of five to 20 a week, according to Boring president Steve Davis.

For his idea to succeed, Musk must manage to slash the time and cost of tunnel drilling. Conventional tunnels take, on average two to four months to dig a mile (1.6 kilometer} proceeding “14 times slower than a snail” while costing a billion dollars, he said.

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The Boring company, on the other hand, was on the cusp of deploying a prototype “Prufrock” machine capable of drilling 15 times faster than the best gear in use now, according to Musk.

Like the “Godot” and “Line-Storm” models that came before that machine, the nickname was inspired by a literary work. Prufrock came from a poem by T.S. Eliot.

Musk’s mechanical recipe includes using batteries and electric motors to boost power to boring machinery while eliminating harmful exhaust fumes.

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Tunnels are also small-bore, using extracted dirt to build walls.

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… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

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Trump aides desperately try to downplay ‘order’ to US companies to leave China

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Donald Trump's top aides on Sunday downplayed the idea of US companies being forced to abandon China any time soon, as an edict from the president ordering businesses to start looking for alternatives has been met with skepticism.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House economics advisor Larry Kudlow took to the airwaves from France, where Trump is participating in the G7 summit, to smooth out tensions in the business community prompted by Trump's Friday tweet.

Trump said he has "no plan now" to bring US companies in line, and his aides quickly reinforced the message.

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Trump sparks confusion at G7 before doubling down on China tariffs

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President Donald Trump doubled down Sunday on his hard line against China after sowing confusion with statements that he might be willing to soften a trade war G7 partners fear threatens the world economy.

At the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, Trump announced a major trade deal with Japan and promised more of the same with Britain, once Brexit is done.

But the positives were overshadowed by a mix-up over his apparent expression of regret for the latest escalation in the US-China dispute.

"I have second thoughts about everything," he conceded to reporters when asked if he regretted his decision on Friday to ramp up tariffs on all Chinese imports, worth some $550 billion, in retaliation for Beijing's earlier hike of levies on US goods.

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Persecuted Christians eye long-sought freedom in Sudan

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Sudan's Christians suffered decades of persecution under the regime of Islamist general Omar al-Bashir. Now they hope his downfall will give the religious freedom they have long prayed for.

Deep within the maze of dusty alleys that honeycomb Omdurman, Khartoum's sprawling twin city, Yousef Zamgila's church is not visible from the street.

It is hidden in the courtyard of a friend's home and consists of a few iron benches, a pulpit and crosses hastily painted on pillars holding a corrugated roof.

"The previous centre got destroyed because we didn't have the right papers. They always refused... So we use the land of our neighbours," says the Lutheran reverend.

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