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Is Elon Musk actually building a fallout shelter in the SpaceX parking lot?

Published Feb 16th, 2017 3:13PM EST
Elon Musk Boring Company
Image: Schildhorn/BFA/REX/Shutterstock

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In the past few months, Elon Musk has very publicly and rather abruptly embarked on a project to build tunnels to solve LA’s traffic problem. It’s a very Musk solution to a very real problem, and about the kind of thing you would expect from a real-life Tony Stark.

But suspend reality and put on your tinfoil hat for a second, and consider the rather terrifying idea that it could all be an elaborate cover for Musk’s ultimate fallout shelter.

A new Bloomberg profile on Musk’s subterranean ambitions lays out the timeline of this new project in detail, but here’s the short version: back in December, Musk tweeted about traffic problems in LA, and how he might start a tunneling enterprise — the “Boring Company” — to do something about it.

Since then, Musk has started experimenting, mostly by digging a big hole in the parking lot of the SpaceX headquarters in LA. The plan for the hole is to turn it into an experimental tunnel, which will somehow let Musk design a world-leading tunneling machine. That, in turn, will enable digging multi-story tunnels under LA, solving the traffic problems and simultaneously making Musk even more money.

It’s a far-fetched concept from an engineering standpoint — Musk is just assuming that one outside look can disrupt generations of tunneling experience — but given what he’s achieved thus far, you can probably give him the benefit of the doubt here.

But what’s more interesting, from an /r/conspiracy perspective, are the lingering questions about what Musk is doing and where he’s doing them.

First, there’s the hole and its location. From the photos in Bloomberg, you can see that there’s no tunnel thus far, just a big hole in the ground. Granted, this is how most tunneling projects start, but it would also be a good entrance shaft for a nuclear fallout shelter.

That gets more convincing when you think about location. Musk said that his choice of the SpaceX parking lot was to make things easy regarding permits. But digging an experimental tunnel in the middle of a city really doesn’t seem like such a good idea. As soon as Musk gets to the edge of his property, he’ll need permits on permits, and careful planning to avoid any of the subterranean infrastructure that already exists. Building in a city also limits the space available on the surface, which hampers construction.

Surely, it would be easier for him to buy a piece of nearby desert — or even use a part of Tesla’s gargantuan Gigafactory — where he can safely experiment in the middle of nowhere? Of course, a fallout shelter out in the desert would be less convenient and useful for Musk than one within walking distance of his desk.

Then there’s the question of timing. Musk started this project in December, just as SpaceX was ramping up for a major year of launches, and Tesla was prepping for a make-or-break car to come to market. It’s a bad time to be starting another moonshot, and strange when you consider that Musk gave away his Hyperloop idea for free because he was too busy to see in through.

But you know what did happen in fall 2016? Donald Trump took the presidency, causing our collective chances of apocalypse to get that little bit bigger. Musk is in a better position than most to know this, since he’s met with Trump multiple times and serves on his economic advisory board. So, if Trump is really poised to start WW3, Musk is better-informed (and better-prepared?) than most.

There’s one other part about the Bloomberg interview that seems off: Musk’s vision of the future. His justification for tunneling is that it’s the only way to solve the problem of congestion in cities.

In the long term, he might be right, but it seems like a strange observation given Musk’s other companies. Tesla is at the forefront of developing autonomous cars, which are widely predicted to completely change urban transportation. The current model of car ownership, with vehicles being owned by individuals and only being used for a few hours a day, is due to change.

Instead, an Uber-on-steroids is meant to happen, which should drastically decrease the number of vehicles on the road. Add that to autonomous cars that can drive faster, closer, and don’t need to stop for intersections, and the total capacity of our roads could increase dramatically, all without having to dig obscenely expensive tunnels.

Yes, this is all a dumb conspiracy theory that has zero evidence and is almost certainly false. But it’s also worth remembering that billionaires building secretive underground shelters is not a conspiracy theory, but rather a well-reported reality.

Sure, Musk is probably building a tunnel and not a real-life Fallout: Shelter. But if you were a billionaire engineering genius with concerns about the stability of western civilization and access to unlimited resources, a tunneling project sure would be a good cover.

Chris Mills
Chris Mills News Editor

Chris Mills has been a news editor and writer for over 15 years, starting at Future Publishing, Gawker Media, and then BGR. He studied at McGill University in Quebec, Canada.