Trending: Company backed by Bill Gates claims solar breakthrough, looks to replace fossil fuels in industrial plants
Tunnel boring machine
The tunnel boring machine nicknamed “Godot” sits in a chamber. (Elon Musk via Instagram)

The billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, Elon Musk, says he spends only about 2 percent of his time working on tunnels, and some of that time was allotted this week to tweeting about the digging that’s being done on SpaceX’s property in Hawthorne, Calif.

Musk tweeted video clips that highlighted the riggings for a “car/pod elevator” that’s taking shape in an old parking lot. “Should be operating next week,” he said.

In its on-the-scene report, the Daily Breeze says the finishing touches are being put on a roughly 600-foot-long bore pit and tunnel entrance, dug 20 feet beneath the ground-level lot.

Musk’s aim is to extend the tunnel as an experiment that could lead to a high-speed transit system for cars beneath Los Angeles. He jokingly calls his venture The Boring Company.

One problem: Musk hasn’t yet gotten the regulatory go-ahead to dig beyond SpaceX property. The Daily Breeze said the permits required for a 2-mile-long tunnel are being sought from city, county and state authorities.

“We’re currently getting comments from all the underground utilities and agencies who have live underground substructures” that could be impacted by the project, Hawthorne’s interim city manager, Arnie Shadbehr, was quoted as saying. “Tunneling has to meet all the regulatory standards and requirements by the state before we even consider issuing permits. We’re not there yet.”

Musk has said tunnel-boring machines could be made much more efficient, opening the way for the construction 3-D underground network equipped with high-speed rail pods. Cars could be lowered into the network with street-level elevators like the one being built at SpaceX.

The technology could also be applied above ground to create Hyperloop-based mass transit systems, Musk said in April during a TED talk in Vancouver, B.C.

Seattleites can be forgiven if they’re skeptical about Musk’s vision, in light of the years-long struggle to bore a transit tunnel downtown. And anyone who’s used a parking garage equipped with car elevators might wonder whether having them on city streets would merely lead to a different kind of traffic jam.

Nevertheless, Musk persists. And if Musk is known for anything, it’s for coming up with technological innovations that overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles – inspiring fans in the process.

Here are just a few of this week’s tweets about Musk’s boring machine, which he nicknamed “Godot”:

Subscribe to GeekWire's Space & Science weekly newsletter


Job Listings on GeekWork

Find more jobs on GeekWork. Employers, post a job here.