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Vegas Loop plans still include self-driving and higher capacity vehicles

Now that the Boring Co.’s underground transit system has expanded into the Las Vegas Strip, officials are looking ahead to future options.

Two of those are topics the Road Warrior is often asked about when the Boring project comes up.

When will the system run autonomously and are futuristic, higher-capacity vehicles still in the works?

Good news, both of those are still on the docket.

Earlier this month, Boring opened the first offshoot from its underground people mover at the Las Vegas Convention Center with a link to a station at nearby Resorts World.

Resorts World marks the first of an anticipated 55 stations on the planned Vegas Loop that will stretch up and down the Las Vegas Strip and into downtown Las Vegas. The underground system will utilize a fleet of Teslas to transport passengers.

Steve Hill, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, noted that Tesla is continuing to work on its full autonomous driving mode for its vehicles. Consequently, Hill believes that some of the vehicles in the tunnels will operate on self-driving mode sometime in the next fiscal year.

“We are certainly headed toward an autonomous system,” Hill said. “We said at a (LVCVA) board meeting a month or two ago that our goal was, by the end of this fiscal year, to have some amount of autonomous driving happening in the system.”

Boring and Tesla owner Elon Musk tweeted last week that he expected the vehicles in operation in Las Vegas could be in full self-driving mode by the end of this year. Boring officials did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

Hill said he knows Musk likes to work fast, but he doesn’t think the entire system will be in autonomous mode this year.

One vehicle at a time will be switched to autonomous operations with safety drivers remaining in place until it’s proven the Teslas can operate safely and adequately on their own. At that point drivers will be removed altogether.

“I don’t think we’ll be fully autonomous by the end of this calendar year, but we think we’re in a position to start testing autonomy relatively soon,” Hill said.

High capacity vehicles to come

When Boring’s system was first introduced, renderings showed specially made vehicles that could fit up to 12 people. The futuristic look of the mock vehicle drew the attention of many when plans for the loop were first announced a few years back.

Then the coronavirus pandemic hit while the convention center portion of the system was being built. Officials decided to nix the higher capacity vehicles as a safety precaution.

The next phases of the Vegas Loop are planned for the area around Allegiant Stadium and the South Strip, the Caesars Loop near Flamingo and an offshoot extension to the Westgate. Portions of those phases are hoped to be ready for use sometime next year, Hill said.

Once the system expands, those larger vehicles are expected to be rolled out at some point.

“You may have seen … Elon tweeted out that he is working on a higher capacity vehicle and it’s able to be modified for different applications,” Hill said. “We think something along those lines, a version of that will be a part of this system.”

Hill said while vehicles with the ability to ferry large groups will be of use, the standard Teslas are a benefit to the system now and will be in the future as well.

“You can use those higher-occupancy vehicles when you have a group of people who want to go from one place to the same place,” Hill said. “Often folks don’t. The ability to have an individual car for people who want to go someplace different from where everybody else is going is an important aspect in the system. The higher occupancy vehicles will be helpful, too.”

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter. Send questions and comments to roadwarrior@reviewjournal.com.

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