Rumor: High-speed tube travel concept in the works

Is it really possible to travel between New York and LA in under an hour? An engineer in Colorado believes he has developed the future of travel.

TRUE: Prototypes for tube travel are complete; company searching for a test site

Imagine traveling from New York to Los Angeles in less time than it takes to get through those annoying airport security lines. Well, a company called ET3 out of Longmont, Colo., has developed a concept for the Evacuated Tube Transport, an airless, frictionless tube that can propel vehicles up to 4,000 miles per hour, effectively moving you from Los Angeles to New York in 45 minutes, all for the low, low cost of $100.

MSN News spoke with Daryl Oster, CEO of Inc., about his concept for future travel, a vision that is farther along than you might think. While this latest concept of high-speed travel sounds like something straight out of a science fiction movie, Oster said prototypes and mock-ups have already been built and the company hopes to perform a three-mile test run by the end of the year.

"We're ready for full-scale implementation," Oster said.

Related:  Billionaire reveals "Hyperloop" train spec

Powered by magnetic levitation

Maglev (derived from magnetic levitation) propels vehicles with magnets rather than with wheels, axles and bearings. After decades of research, there currently are only two commercial maglev transport systems in the world. In April 2004, Shanghai began commercial operations of the high-speed Transrapid system. One year later, the relatively low-speed HSST "Linimo" line began operation in Japan in time for the 2005 World Expo. In its first three months, the Linimo line carried more than 10 million passengers.

The ET3 concept operates under the same concept. Each capsule is made of nano-engineered concrete and provides a pressurized environment for "outer space" travel conditions. They are 16 feet long, 5 feet in diameter and weigh 400 pounds empty and would be propelled through the tubes using high-temperature superconductor maglev, or HTSM for short. (Watch Oster explain the concept.)

Oster said detailed routes would be fully automated and would run alongside interstates to prevent crowding and traffic congestion problems. The capsules would move through an airless tube on a magnetic track approximately 18 feet off the ground. All movement is controlled by manipulating the magnetic forces that are at play between the track and the capsule. The tube length is the entire trip, and capsules enter the tube via an airlock.

LA to New York in 45 minutes: Colorado company has developed a concept for high-speed tube travel.Photo courtesy of ET3

Oster said the seating space will accommodate a 6-foot-8-inch individual in standard seating, or larger individuals can take a whole row (or whole capsule). The capsule seating mockup has been tried by more than 1,000 "passengers," including sumo wrestler-sized men who proclaim the ET3 capsule seat much more comfortable than any aircraft seating, Oster said.

According to the ET3 website, the speed in initial ET3 systems would be "600 km/h (370 mph) for in-state trips, and will be developed to 6,500 km/h (4,000 mph) for international travel that will allow passenger or cargo travel from New York to Beijing in 2 hours."

But wouldn't traveling at that speed feel like doing barrel rolls in a fighter jet? Actually, Oster says the ET3 would produce 1G of force at top speed, comparable to riding in a car on a highway.

'Paradigm shift'

Now that prototypes have been built, Oster's biggest challenge is finding a site to perform a three-mile test run. High on the list are California, Canada, Texas and Nevada.

"At 4,000 mph, the ET3 could move over 1 million passengers every hour in each direction from New York to Los Angeles," Oster said.

Oster said ET3 has developed an open consortium, welcoming scientists from all over the world to throw their ideas into the hat. With all the world's resources and scientific minds at work, he envisions a "paradigm shift" in modes of travel, starting with his ET3.

"Henry Ford had to build a bunch of factories to get through every phase of making his automobiles," Oster said. "Now, all the capacity exists all over the world to build the ET3."

Related: Elon Musk promises his 800-mph Hyperloop train will really suck



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