BMW’s solution to L.A. traffic: A river-going submarine


That $1.08-billion plan to restore the Los Angeles River? Small potatoes. The folks at BMW are thinking big-time when it comes to the river.

What if you could avoid L.A.’s notorious traffic by traveling around the city in a mini, self-driving submarine?

Imagine — you could whoosh downtown in minutes in your own submarine-like pod.


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It is the brainchild of BMW Group DesignWorks USA. The conceptual plan was offered as part of the Los Angeles Auto Show’s annual design challenge. This year’s theme is “Biomimicry and Mobility 2025: Nature’s Answer to Human Challenges.” BMW came up with the idea of using the river as an alternative to clogged freeways.

And it makes perfect sense.

The river itself follows some of L.A.’s most congested freeways — from the 101 in the San Fernando Valley to the 5 through downtown to the 710 to Long Beach. Then there are miles and miles of tributaries that snake through the region as narrow, concrete-lined channels.

The L.A. River has always been one of the region’s most underappreciated assets. Turns out, we just need to stop thinking of it as a waterway and start making it a speedway.

Of course, there are all kinds of real-world, practical problems with using the flood-control network as a high-speed rapid-transit system. Most of the year, the river is only a couple of feet deep, so you’d have to pump lots of water into the system to operate a submarine. Where would we get that much water? Then there are plants, fish and other wildlife in the river that could be impacted by high-speed watercraft. And there’s money and safety and stuff like that.

But don’t let details deter this big idea. Submarines in the L.A. River: This is the future.


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