Evacuated Tube Transport (ETT) is a concept created in the 90s by engineer Daryl Oster that would allow frictionless high speed travel. The main website of the proposed technology asks you to imagine traveling from New York to Los Angeles in 45 minutes or from Washington D.C. to Beijing in two hours. Oster believes these travel times will be possible using the new technology.
The concept aims to create safe, enclosed transportation through tubes at speeds of up to 4,000 mph. These extreme speeds are possible due to the vacuum environment within the tube along with magnetic levitation, allowing completely frictionless travel like what astronauts experience outside of Earth’s atmosphere. The technology will run on electricity at efficiencies of “fifty times more transportation per kilowatt hour than electric cars and trains,” according to its creator.
Oster proposes to begin testing the new form of travel by first using it to ship materials globally – an experimental stage that would have low cost and liability before moving onto human travel. Conceptually, six people could fit into a car of their own, allowing at least as much space as humans have now in commercial airline seats. Each car will require life support systems that provide enough oxygen to its passengers for the duration of travel. Oster believes the extreme speeds will have little impact on humans, pointing out that “astronauts in orbit travel faster than 20,000 mph.”
If the concept pans out, the economic and environmental impact of the new technology could be significant. Oster estimates that his concept, if realized, will replace half of U.S. transportation and save many of the 20,000 lives lost each year to automobile accidents. In the video above, he comes to the estimation of total savings being somewhere around $2.3 trillion each year.
Recently the ETT’s creator has been working with the Korean Rail Research Institute to help them with their own Tube Transport technology. In 2009, the KRRI met with Chinese companies to discuss a collaborative production of the ETT concept.
It’s hard to decide after watching the somewhat sensationalist video whether the whole idea is the destined future of travel or merely some crackpot concept. At the very least, expressed overseas interest in Oster’s new concept of revolutionized travel shows some level of validity. Flying around the world in vacuum-sealed tubes certainly sounds like the future, but how well the ambitious concept translates to the real world will have to be seen as the project progresses.