Tesla, SpaceX, and Boring Company CEO Elon Musk is good at finding alternative markets for his products. He did this with the lithium-ion batteries he was building and sourcing for his Model S, X, and eventually Model 3 cars: by developing a line of stationary storage battery products, he tapped into another well of potential customers at little additional expense.
Similarly, Musk told mayors on Thursday that he wants The Boring Company to dig sewers, water transport, and electrical tunnels under cities, in addition to the transportation-focused tunnels he hopes to dig to house electric skate systems.
Musk mentioned this alternate use for his boring machines at the National League of Cities' City Summit, during a "fireside chat" with Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti. According to Forbes, Musk told the audience, "The Boring Company is also going to do tunneling for, like, water transport, sewage, electrical. We're not going to turn our noses up at sewage tunnels. We're happy to do that too."
The Boring Company is built on the premise that tunneling technology has not been adequately developed. Musk claims that his boring machines will tunnel faster than the industry's best machines.
The Thursday conversation with Garcetti also turned to The Boring Company's inception. According to Curbed, Musk's initial idea was turning the perennially gridlocked 405 freeway into a double-decker highway. Curbed notes that multi-level freeways are not unheard of in Los Angeles, despite posing a seismic risk. In Northern California, stacked freeways are less common after "a stacked section of a Bay Bridge on-ramp collapsed in the Loma Prieta earthquake, killing 42 people," the LA-based news site writes.
Musk contended that his stacked freeways would have been seismically sound. Instead, the billionaire chose not to pursue the project because he couldn't figure out a way to design off-ramps that wouldn't suffer gridlock. Tunnels with frequent, small-scale elevators, are apparently the ticket.
In December 2016, the CEO tweeted that he hated traffic so much he was going to build tunnels. At Thursday's fireside chat, Garcetti said he received a text from Musk the day after Musk made that tweet. The text asked the LA mayor, "Do I need permits for this?" Garcetti, laughing, told the audience that he responded "yes, there are probably going to be some permits that you need."