flying car prototype
A flying car prototype. Photo: YouTube

With the prospect of self-driving automobiles, flying cars, hyperloops and electric vehicle tunnels in Los Angeles’ future, City Councilman Mike Bonin wants to know more from representatives of the companies proposing the technologies.

This is not the stuff of science fiction, as self-driving cars are close to being reality on Los Angeles streets.

And billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk wants to build a tunnel alongside the San Diego (405) Freeway that would whisk cars and people from the San Fernando Valley to LAX at speeds well over 100 mph.

In fact Musk’s company has already started digging at his Hawthorne headquarters.

Bonin included invitations to Uber, Musk’s Boring Co. and Hyperloop One to come before his Transportation Committee in a newly introduced motion, which also would direct the Department of Transportation and the Office of the Chief Legislative Analyst to prepare a report regarding issues the city needs to consider to prepare for regarding new and emerging transportation technologies.

The motion Tuesday also noted that at the recent LA CoMotion mobility festival, new electric mobility devices including scooters, e-bikes and autonomous shuttles were on display, and that the technologies often operate in a legal gray area with few places for early adopters to use them safely and legally.

“Any of these modes of transportation would be transformative — and all of them will likely face technological, regulatory, and psychological hurdles,” Bonin said.

“As a forward-looking city with a population hungry for better mobility options, Los Angeles must prepare for exciting new technologies, and consider the public policy and real world implications of flying vehicles, high-speed underground transit, and electric personal mobility devices on our streets,” he said.

Uber, the ride-hailing company, announced earlier this month that it wants to bring an airborne taxi service to the city by 2020. The company said it envisions a network of small, electric aircraft in numerous cities worldwide to enable four-person flights. The aircraft would differ from helicopters in that they would be quieter, safer, more affordable and more environmentally friendly, according to the company.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said he was supportive of Uber’s plan, and his office said discussions with the company about operating the technology in the city are in the preliminary stages.

Hawthorne leaders in August gave a green light to tech tycoon Elon Musk’s proposal to dig a test tunnel for electric cars underneath the city, extending from the headquarters of his company SpaceX.

Through the Boring Co., another of his companies, Musk said he hopes to eventually get permission to dig the tunnel that would end at Los Angeles International Airport, which is just across the 405/105 freeway interchange from Hawthorne. Boring Co. officials formally filed applications with the city on Thursday seeking approval to being digging, the Los Angeles Times reported. Exact details of the digging request were not immediately released.

Musk has said he envisions eventually building a vast underground network of tunnels throughout Los Angeles. He said on Twitter in June that he had “promising conversations” with Garcetti about building a tunnel network underneath the city, but that getting permits would be “harder than technology.”

Musk also has proposed a potentially revolutionary form of high-speed travel that would have people-carrying pods propelled through vacuum tubes, ultimately at speeds up to 700 mph. Such a system could potentially cut the commute time between Los Angeles and San Francisco to about 30 minutes.

California will allow the testing of autonomous vehicles on roads in 2018, and Uber is one of the companies that has received clearance for the tests.

–City News Service

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