Speed Reads

Going up... and over

A German company plans to overthrow the boring old up-and-down elevator

You probably don't give too much thought to elevators, unless you happen to be waiting for one or stuck between floors. But Willy Wonka flights of fancy aside, the elevator's basic design hasn't fundamentally changed in 160 years — the elevator car goes up and down, one box per shaft. Well, German elevator firm ThyssenKrupp has given the topic a lot of thought, and they have declared the elevator inadequate to the demands of the modern city.

"The era of the rope-dependent elevator is now over," the company said in unveiling its new MULTI elevator technology, which it calls "a landmark revolution in the elevator industry and a new and efficient transport solution for mid and high-rise buildings."

The new design trades cables for a system based on magnetic levitation (like some super high-speed trains) that will allow elevators to move horizontally as well as vertically, and circulate with several units in a shaft at a time. That will make your wait virtually disappear, with a car arriving "every 15 to 30 seconds," ThyssenKrupp promises. If you're having a hard time envisioning the MULTI elevators, the firm explains and illustrates the concept in the video below. The first of these elevators is forecast to show up in an actual building in 2016. --Peter Weber