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Elon Musk firm tapped to build Chicago high-speed transit

© AFP/File | The Chicago announcement is the first time a major US city is willing to bank on Elon Musk's vision of the future of mass transit 

CHICAGO (AFP) - 

Elon Musk's The Boring Company has been tapped to build a high-speed underground transportation system for Chicago -- the first US city to bank on the entrepreneur's futuristic concept for mass transit.

The project, to be officially announced Thursday, would employ tunnels and autonomous electric vehicles called "skates" to zip passengers between the Midwestern city's downtown core and its busy airport.

Details remain to be hammered out, including the exact route of The Chicago Express Loop.

"We're really excited to work with the Mayor and the City to bring this new high-speed public transportation system to Chicago," Musk's The Boring Company tweeted Wednesday night.

The proposed transit system would consist of electric vehicles reaching speeds as high as 150 mph (240 kph) in underground tunnels, as they travel to O'Hare airport, one of the nation's busiest.

The vehicles would be built on a modified Tesla Model X chassis and carry eight to 16 passengers, the company said.

The company promised to cut journey times for the 20 miles between downtown and the airport to 12 minutes. A taxi currently can take as much as an hour or more with traffic.

Musk's company said the project would be privately funded, and that a ride would cost less than half the typical taxi or ride-share fare.

The proposed transit line is a slowed-down and modified version of the hyperloop concept -- a system of autonomous electric pods that Musk's company says could travel as fast as 600 miles per hour in vacuum tubes that eliminate air friction.

The Chicago project would not require a vacuum, because of the shorter route and slower speed.

Musk in May pitched a similar underground tunnel system in Los Angeles, and has proposed another that would link Washington DC and Baltimore.

© 2018 AFP