It was only around 100 years ago now that what we think of as the modern car started revolutionizing the way we travel. What will transportation look like in another 100? One ex-BMW engineer is hard at work on a vision that seems completely nuts, yet he's totally serious about it. It would be nothing short of a revolution.
Said engineer is Peter Maskus, who has worked at BMW, Porsche and Ferrari and has now gone on to start his own company, the Swiss-based Acabion. If Maskus's grand design ever comes to fruition, then one day cars — like horse-drawn carriages today — won't even be allowed on the same elevated roadways as an Acabion.
So, what is this dream machine? Well, you can see the mock-up up above of Acabion's "da Vinci." It's small, ultra-fast and totally electric, with a potential top speed of 375 miles per hour (much faster than even the speediest maglev trains in the world today). It's this speed alone that will make it unsafe for something like today's automobiles to inhabit the same space as a zippier Acabion.
Of course, a vehicle like that won't be cheap. The "da Vinci" could cost upwards of $15 million to buy, and you obviously won't be able to blast off at 375 mph on any ol' highway. That price should come down quickly as production increases — just like it did with early automobiles — and the vehicle could be out as soon as 2015. That's why Maskus sees an entirely new infrastructure being put in place. If you thought this all already sounded crazy, this is where it gets insane.
"The speed potential of the Acabion is so dramatically higher than the speed potential of any car or motorcycle, that future perspective will most likely call for tracks allowing much more speed much safer than today's highways do," Maskus said. Elevated roadways will seperate Acabion vehicles from slower, clumsier cars, and by 2050 we'll be doing all of our driving on them, and at high speeds.
By 2100? You'll be able to go anywhere in the world in under two hours: "Two tubes between New York and Paris, 1.5 meters in diameter each, maglev driven and fully automatic controlled, will move three times more people between America and Europe than all airplanes do today." That's right, Acabion isn't just looking to oust the car, but trains and planes, too.
Obviously a series of vacuum tubes connecting the continents of the world sounds like it'll never happen, but, as Wired's Keith Barry points out, it "probably sounds as far-fetched today as an undersea telegraph cable did in the 1850s."
Far-fetched? Yes. Impossible? No. Maskus is definitely banking on a revolution from the ground up in the world of transportation, but it's a vision that's definitely alluring.