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Elon Musk’s first Hyperloop tunnel in California is gone

Elon Musk’s first Hyperloop tunnel in California is gone


The test tunnel that hosted student competitions in 2018 and 2019 has been removed and replaced with parking spots for SpaceX employees.

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The Hyperloop tube
The Hyperloop tube hosted student competitions in 2018 and 2019.
Photo by Pauline Acalin for The Verge

Elon Musk’s first prototype Hyperloop tunnel is no more. Bloomberg reports that the roughly one-mile-long white steel tunnel running along Jack Northrop Avenue near SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, has been removed and will be replaced with parking spaces for employees.

Perhaps you’ll recall that before Musk assumed the mantle of free speech champion, he set out to circumvent “soul-destroying traffic” by building the Hyperloop, a theoretical system of tunnels that would revolutionize transportation. He also claimed to be able to dig tunnels faster and more efficiently than most current tunnel boring systems, which he rightly argued were laborious and costly.

By pairing these things together, Musk said he could change the way most people got around, even reducing the travel time between San Francisco and Los Angeles to 30 minutes. The Hawthorne tunnel was meant to serve as a demonstration of Musk’s vision.

Pave paradise, put up a parking lot

But now they’ve removed it and put up a parking lot. Precision Construction Services was one of the contractors that installed the prototype tube, and earlier this year, the company’s owner Erik Wright was informed it would be torn down. Bloomberg also viewed the site and reported that “no trace of the Hyperloop tube remained.” (Assumedly, the underground test tunnel that Musk debuted in 2018 remains.)

The above-ground tube was the centerpiece of a Hyperloop competition in 2018 when dozens of student teams from around the world gathered in the SpaceX parking lot to race their pods and celebrate all things Musk. There was another student competition the following year, and Musk predicted that a third race would feature a “10km vacuum tunnel with a curve.”

But in the last few years, Musk’s Hyperloop ambitions have been severely scaled back. His original proposal for an underground transit system, with magnetically levitating shuttles traveling through nearly airless tubes at speeds of up to hundreds of miles an hour, has been replaced with tunnels that can only accommodate Tesla vehicles. Other Hyperloop startups have shut down or pivoted to cargo shipments.

Meanwhile, Musk’s Boring Company has been working to build out a system of tunnels underneath Las Vegas for a few years now, while the company’s efforts to dig in other cities, like ChicagoLos Angeles, and the Northeast Corridor, have fizzled.