The Elevators Of The Future Will Travel A Mile High–And Sideways

If you want to go to the top of a tall building, chances are you’ll need to make some stops. Most elevators run on a rope and pulley-type system, which limits how high they can go. The Burj Khalifa, in Dubai, has the world’s tallest elevator, at 1,654 feet high. But even that won’t get you anywhere near the observation deck.

That’s one reason manufacturers are looking to move to “ropeless” systems like the one being developed by ThyssenKrupp. The German company is making an elevator, called the Multi, that uses magnetic levitation–the same technology that speeds the world’s fastest trains. It could go as high needed, perhaps up to a mile.

In a Wonka-like feat of engineering, the system also moves sideways, opening up the possibility that elevators could go across floors as well as between them. See the video here:

ThyssenKrupp is currently building a 800-foot tower in Rottweil, Germany, to test the Multi. It will have nine shafts, three of them for the new product. The building, set to open in 2016, will allow the company to prove the safety of horizontal movement and to see how many elevators could run on the same track.

Spokesperson Michael Ridder says the Multi could increase a building’s usable area by up to a quarter, because fewer shafts will be needed to transport the same number of people. If so, elevators of the future could run more like subway trains, with many carriages running in the same space.