This week at the at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics in Shanghai, China, a bunch of Japanese researchers led by Yusuke Sugahara at Tohoku University showed off a prototype transport that hovers inches above the ground without maglev rails. To put it into geeky Star Wars speak: this is the Landspeeder you're looking for.
Categorized as a "ground-effect vehicle," the unmanned plane-train uses fast-moving air and several plane wings to levitate itself above the ground. The plan is to use this prototype vehicle to create an Aero Train (below) that's capable of traveling at 124 miles per hour in a "U-shaped concrete channel."
As shown in the demo video (without the safety channel), the "train" looks wobbly a few times, but is generally stable at its slow speeds. Crank that speed up and stuff this sucker into a channel and who know's what it'll feel like eating dinner on this thing.
The prototype train has been in the works for a year and was presented at the IRCA 2011 in China as part of a study. I think it's incredible that people are still experimenting with ways to kill the wheel. No matter how you look at it, hover vehicles still make up a majority of the concept ideas that litter sci-fi entertainment. With that said, the first one to create a hover train or car that isn't rinky-dink will have DVICE's everlasting respect.