Pneumatic Futurama-style transport systems were proposed as far back as the late 1800’s following the invention of pneumatic tubes for carrying mail around buildings. Swiss company Acabion sees such vacuum tube-based mass transport systems becoming a reality by 2100 and has conceived a vehicle capable of traveling at speeds of almost 12,500 mph (20,000 km/h) on such a platform. The company envisages a global network that would let users circle the globe in less than two hours and make transcontinental journeys possible in less than the time it currently takes to get across town.
The first step in Acabion’s grand vision for the future is the latest version of its GTBO road-ready streamliner – the GTBO VII “da vinci.” This fully electric vehicle would have a top speed of 373 mph (600 km/h) would be orders of magnitude more efficient than a current fully electric compact car.
Thanks to its reduced projected area, turbulence and aerodynamic drag, weight and rolling resistance, Acabion says at 12.4 mph (20 km/h) the vehicle is eight times (or 800 percent) more efficient and at 124 mph (200 km/h) it is 10 times more efficient than a current fully electric vehicle, however, the company claims efficiencies 25 times (2,500 percent) greater than such vehicles are ultimately possible.
The GTBO has been designed for speed and efficiency. Like the Zerotracer, it drives on two main wheels like a motorcycle, with two additional side wheels activated when driving at slow speeds or for parking. Acabion hopes to start selling its streamliners by 2015 for an estimated US$3 million but says prices will drop with mass production.
The company anticipates that, due to the streamliner’s speed potential, by 2050 new elevated roadways – like those mooted for cyclists in the Kolelinia concept – will be needed to separate it from its dilly-dallying forebears.
These fully automated high speed tracks would initially transport people at speeds of around 186.4 mph (300 km/h), before stepping up to 373 mph (600 km/h) in subsequent decades. The tracks would be used for both city and continental mid- and long-range trips with a 1,700+ mile (2,735 km) trip from Los Angeles to Memphis that would currently take more than a day cut to around four hours.
Additionally, the vehicles wouldn’t rely on their own battery packs for power but would draw their energy inductively from the roads themselves, which would be supplied with 100 percent solar power.
But even elevated tracks won’t suffice for the speeds people will be expecting by 2100. For long continental and intercontinental journeys Acabion envisages a global network of maglev-driven vacuum tubes, dubbed “traffic internet”, which will make it possible to travel at speeds of 12,427 mph (20,000 km/h). The company says that public commuter vacuum tube transport systems that would require larger tubes wouldn’t be feasible, but a 10-foot (3 m) diameter tube that would fit a streamliner would be. And such a system would still transport the same number as it would allow constant use instead of trains being spread out at regular intervals. Such a network would not only cross land, but also stretch through oceans, making a 30 minute commute from New York to Paris or San Francisco to Prague a reality.
While such a vision might seem outlandish now, Acabion is confident vacuum tube transport systems will come – and when they do, the company hopes its streamliners will be right inside, ferrying drivers around the globe at breakneck speed.