Flying Train That Travels at 400 Miles Per Hour Unlikely to Take Flight

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a flying...train? One Russian engineer thinks airborne locomotives could outspeed conventional land travel and free up room below.

Inventor Dahir Semenov devised four variants of an electric flying train that travels at more than 400 miles an hour and could transport up to 2,000 passengers, a futuristic endeavor he said could improve the efficiency of existing public transport. But experts say his ideas, while "optimistic," aren't likely to take flight any time soon.

The flying vehicle would still travel by rail, albeit several hundred feet off the ground. The ultralight mega-train car is magnetically attached to a current collector, or an electronic arm that anchors the train to the rail as it flies, tilting its wings to smoothly navigate turns, engineering firm Dahir Insaat said.

Norman Garrick, engineering professor at the University of Connecticut and sustainable transportation expert, told NBC News that future method of travel will likely improve upon existing technology rather than experimental designs that would likely take years of refinement before human use.

"A lot of what is needed is not about necessarily new objects because we have a lot of objects that work," he said. "It is a matter of how we manage those kinds of things."

Several countries have already increased the speed and efficiency of traditional train travel. In Japan, South Korea and Russia, high-speed trains criss-cross entire regions connecting major cities in half the time it would take a car. China's Fuxing bullet train is the fastest in the world, topping out at 248 miles per hour.

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A woman sleeps on an Amtrak train in May 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A Russian engineer proposed a flying train that would carry up to 2,000 passengers at speeds of 400 miles per hour, but experts doubt the train's technology will become available in the near future. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)

Other emerging technologies have been stalled in development for several decades and still haven't reached their full potential. Engineers dreamed of self-driving cars for more than 40 years before companies tested prototypes (most of which crashed or flipped). Google, Uber and Tesla have all let autonomous vehicles loose—and they've all crashed sometime during 2018. Two of those incidents proved fatal, hampering developers' hopes that driverless vehicles will be consumer-ready in the next year or two.

Known for its outlandish CGI-rendered designs shared on YouTube, Semenov's firm, Dahir Insaat, previously proposed a gyroscopic bus system that shares the road with cars, traveling on rails between lanes mere feet above to ease travel in congested cities. They also drafted a video of "safe beds," designed to withstand earthquakes by collapsing the mattress (and the sleeping human atop it) into a chest below, fortified with steel beams to resist tremors and air vents to keep trapped humans alive.

Semenov disagrees with critics who judge his work as fantastical. He told the Australian student newspaper Honi Soit he only shares videos of the ideas when he's positive "the solution found is technically feasible, and there is not a single barrier to realize it."

Despite the popularity of Semenov's videos, a flying car will likely launch before his proposed train does. Rolls-Royce said Monday that its flying taxi, powered by propellers that eliminate the need to recharge, could enter production within the next few years, in close competition with concepts backed by Google and Uber.

Flying Train That Travels at 400 Miles Per Hour Unlikely to Take Flight | Tech & Science
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