Traveling cross-country can be a drag, and flying across the world is downright exhausting. But what if there was a way to dramatically speed up the process? Evacuated Tube Transport is a super-high-speed airless, frictionless transportation system that promises to do just that. The company ET3 says that its proposed vacuum tube system could travel at speeds of up to 4,000 miles per hour — fast enough to whisk passengers from New York to London or Los Angeles in just about 45 minutes, and from New York to Beijing in about two hours!

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The concept of evacuated tube transport has been around since the early 1990s at least, but it has never been tested, and the speeds and efficiencies promised by ET3 haven’t been proven. ET3’s proposed design calls for six-person cylindrical capsules that would travel in a frictionless, maglev-powered tube. Although it would catapult the capsules at unthinkable speeds, ET3 says it would somehow maintain a low g-force, limiting discomfort for passengers.

The folks at ET3 believe that such a system would be roughly 50 times as efficient as traveling by train or electric cars, because it eliminates both air resistance and friction with the surface of the road or track. Even more impressive, the company claims that ETT infrastructure could be built for about one-tenth of what it costs to build high-speed rail and a quarter of what it currently costs to build roads. And the company claims that a tube system would only use about 1/20th the material needed to build a high-speed rail system because the vehicles are so light. For now, the idea of a worldwide network of vacuum tubes will remain firmly in the realm of fantasy, but it’s still fun to dream.

+ ET3

Via io9