Before the days of faxes and email, the fastest and most efficient way to get stuff from one place to another within a building was to send it through a pneumatic tube. The Internet has rendered most of these systems obsolete, but there are some things you just can't digitize, and a company called Foodtubes wants to replace big trucks with a series of tubes to deliver groceries.
Foodtubes says that trucks, which are the backbone of food transport around the world, are hopelessly inefficient and outdated. Trucks spend 92% of their fuel just hauling their own weight down the road while clogging highways and barfing out CO2.
Foodtubes' solution involves replacing each one of these trucks with a bunch of little capsules that would transport food and other goods around urban areas through a network underground tubes. 45 capsules would be about equivalent to one truck in terms of cargo capacity, and they'd zip around at 60 miles an hour powered by air pressure or linear induction motors, pulling over at stations below grocery stores to unload. Brilliant!
This kind of thing makes sense in a lot of ways. After all, it's how we get water and sewage and stuff taken care of. And maybe in the future, we'd even get tube outlets in our houses, making grocery shopping a thing of the past.
So why hasn't this happened yet? Well, never mind the massive amount of capital investment and infrastructure changes that would be required to get a system like this to work. Obviously, it's a conspiracy:
"The freight industry is deeply entrenched at every level of government and commerce," Foodtubes warns. "They claim rights to profit from dominating our roads, shaking our buildings and polluting our air. Many traditional politicians and food bosses are oil-junkies, dedicated to keeping things as they are--whatever the social costs."
Damn the Man. Foodtubes is determined to keep fighting the good fight, and after testing things out with a five mile above ground test circuit, and they hope to eventually encircle the UK with a thousand miles of pneumatic tubes full of food.
Image from a 1994 US government research report on tube freight