One of the biggest engineering challenges of building a towering skyscraper isn’t keeping the structure from falling over, it’s moving all the people around inside of it. To improve efficiency, and facilitate the construction of even taller buildings, Germany’s ThyssenKrupp has completely redesigned elevators so that they can move sideways now, too.
The traditional design of elevators has cars that only move up and down in a shaft, raised and lowered by a winch-powered cable. It works well enough in smaller buildings, but wait times become problematic as elevator shafts get taller and taller. That’s why the lobbies of larger skyscrapers have elevators that only service the upper floors.
YouTube’s Tom Scott recently visited ThyssenKrupp’s 800-foot tall testing tower in Germany, and there he experienced the company’s new MULTI elevator system that allows cars to move both vertically and horizontally using magnetic linear induction motors—the same technology that powers high-speed maglev trains.
Eliminating the cable not only reduces the amount of infrastructure needed to run an elevator, it also allows shafts to be built almost infinitely long because the weight of the strong steel cable itself is no longer a limitation. But the biggest advantage is that elevators can now move sideways along horizontal shafts, allowing complete loops to be constructed inside a building, and elevators to hop between shafts in order to find the quickest route to their destination floor.
To ensure the new system is as safe as the elevator design we’ve relied on for the past 160 years, ThyssenKrupp is undertaking years of testing and refinement. But one day, it might eliminate the agonizing wait for the next elevator, delivering cars as frequently as every 15 to 30 seconds so you’re not left standing there, constantly pushing the call button.