The country that invented the bullet train now has something much faster: the floating bullet train.
It’s called a “maglev” train, for “magnetic levitation.” Instead of wheels: magnets. Instead of an engine: more magnets. And it goes more than 300 miles per hour–100 mph faster than the current “bullet trains.”
The public just got its first glimpse of a prototype, as Asahi Shimbun reports.
Because there is no driver, there is no windshield as there are on conventional bullet trains. Instead, a remotely located computer controls the train’s operation. A camera on the nose of the first car senses hazards that could lead to an accident, such as an animal running across the track.
Maglev technology has been kicked around for decades, and proposed as a future alternative to air travel. But so far it’s been mostly speculative. The only commercial implementation in China runs fewer than 20 miles, from an airport to a train station.
One reason for that is the cost. Japan’s system will take $64 billion, and isn’t expected to run from Tokyo to Osaka until 2045.
Given the challenges advocates of conventional, wheels-on-tracks high-speed rail has had in the United States, Americas aren’t likely to travel on a floating magnet train that’s faster than a Formula 1 racer any time soon–unless they’re on vacation in Asia.