LAS VEGAS — Dozens of people were waiting in line at the Vegas Loop station Wednesday afternoon, hoping to hop into a Tesla car to travel across the CES center.
Three Tesla Ys and a Tesla X were parked to take passengers, mostly journalists, as it was a day open only to the media before the official opening of the CES 2023 trade show in Las Vegas.
The Vegas Loop was built in 2020 by Elon Musk’s The Boring Company, with the aim of relieving traffic jams by making an underway highway for ferrying travelers.
The length of the tunnel with just a 12-foot diameter was extended to 4.7 kilometers (3.5 miles) for this year’s show, with the number of stopping stations across the exhibition expanded from three to five.
Musk had previously said the vehicles would be fully operational self-driving cars in the near future, though that vision has yet to be realized.
The cars in the loop were, rather, human-driven Teslas, taking up to four passengers at a time. No fee is required for the ride if passengers can provide a registered badge for the CES.
Assigned to a white Model X after waiting a few minutes, the vehicle immediately went through a very narrow, curved tunnel.
Lights that filled the tunnel changed color throughout the drive, reminiscent of the original “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” boat ride or like taking some form of futuristic transportation in a sci-fi movie.
The car was very quiet and smooth, powered fully by electricity.
It took less than a minute to get to North Hall from Central Hall. The distance is approximately 1 mile, or a 20-minute walk.
“Today, only 40 vehicles are operational,” driver Tray said. “But there will be some 80 starting from Thursday when the show actually opens.”
It was an amazing experience, but riders getting out of the car may still be left with a few lingering questions: Can this really be a solution to reduce the Vegas traffic congestion?
The Boring Company said the average wait time of the vehicles at last year’s event was less than 15 seconds. However, only 4,500 people came to the CES last year amid the Omicron wave — half the usual.
The Consumer Technology Association, the organizer of the CES, expects that there will be more than 10,000 visitors to the four-day event this year.
The Vegas Loop was harshly criticized last year after a passenger posted a video online showing a Tesla cruising through the tunnel and then getting stuck in a traffic jam.
The experience also casts doubt on Musk’s ambitious goal of making a Hyperloop train.
Musk established The Boring Company to build the hyperloop, a kind of next-generation, ultra-fast train that can run at a maximum speed of 1,300 kilometers per hour.
Musk initially announced that he would make tunnels in various major cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, Baltimore and New York.
Los Angeles is the only place with his tunnel so far.
Tesla will not otherwise participate in the CES 2023.
BY SARAH CHEA [firstname.lastname@example.org]