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Foodtubes Proposes Underground, Physical Internet

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the snail-mail-two-point-oh dept.

The Internet 431

geek4 writes "Automatically routed canisters could replace trucks with an Internet of things, says Foodtubes. A group of academics is proposing a system of underground tunnels which could deliver food and other goods in all weathers with massive energy savings. The Foodtubes group wants to put goods in metal capsules two meters long, which are shifted through underground polyethylene tubes at speeds of up to 60 miles per hour, directed by linear induction motors and routed by intelligent software to their destinations. The group, which includes an Oxford physics professor and logistics experts, wants £15 million to build a five-mile test circuit, and believes the scheme could fund itself if used by large supermarkets and local councils, and could expand because it uses an open architecture."

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Bush was right after all (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34432064)

... so it's like a series of tubes, right?

Re:Bush was right after all (5, Informative)

Sonny Yatsen (603655) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432086)

That was Ted Stevens, not George W. Bush.

Re:Bush was right after all (4, Informative)

The-Pheon (65392) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432124)

... so it's like a series of tubes, right?

Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) said that, not Bush.

Re:Bush was right after all (0)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432206)

Yep

Sounds like a new infrastructure terrorist target. Blow up the tubes...kill trade easily.

Much harder to blow up a bunch of individual trucks driving all over the place.

Re:Bush was right after all (5, Insightful)

gfreeman (456642) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432292)

But if it's internet-like, the cannisters will re-route and still get to the destination.

Re:Bush was right after all (3, Funny)

AndrewNeo (979708) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432476)

Unfortunately this will be more like UDP, and the destroyed canisters won't get resent.

Re:Bush was right after all (4, Insightful)

gfreeman (456642) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432532)

True, but destroyed trucks do not get re-sent either.

Re:Bush was right after all (1)

mibe (1778804) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432720)

Well since they've already got a veritable terror cornucopia of choice targets, what's the harm in adding one more? Sewage treatment, food distribution centers, your kids' schools, the security line at the airport, hospitals, etc etc.

OHH MAHH GODD! TURRRISSTS! (5, Insightful)

Bananatree3 (872975) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432788)

Terrorists can kill trade infinitely more easily by blowing up ocean-going freighters in international waters, taking out big dams, placing some explosives at the foot of mainline power line runs, or even UPS/Fedex/postal centers.

The terrorists have won in my opinion, if the first thing you can think of is only how it could be a potential weakness.

We have hundreds of nerve centers that are already weak.

Man in the middle (4, Funny)

DeBaas (470886) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432072)

Ok, I'll be the man in the middle

Re:Man in the middle (4, Funny)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432130)

A sandwich comes in at one end, and empty wrapper is left behind at the other. Nice.

Re:Man in the middle (3, Informative)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432240)

Any good Man in the Middle is able to send the data to its original destination with at least trying to make it appear like it hasn't been tampered with, probably by some self signed Cert.

So, I mean, things like Chocolate bars, or Apple juice, you could probably get away with.

Re:Man in the middle (4, Funny)

SwordsmanLuke (1083699) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432382)

So what you're saying is, if you want to avoid detection, the data must only be sniffed, not consumed.

Re:Man in the middle (4, Funny)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432570)

Well, if you stole one slice of ham off of every ham sandwich being sent, you would have a lot of ham.

Re:Man in the middle (2)

Hogwash McFly (678207) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432626)

You're thinking of salami [wikipedia.org] , surely?

Re:Man in the middle (2)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432756)

I'm in your internets, eating your cheezburgers.

Re:Man in the middle (4, Insightful)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432514)

Well, at 2 meters long, I'm sure plenty of people will try that one.

Hope they can hold their breath.

Re:Man in the middle (1)

Nimey (114278) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432674)

Isn't that what you do every Friday?

Sounds likes Denver airports luggage system (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34432100)

Yeah, that worked real well.

And what happens when a capsule full of something like corn syrup breaks?

Re:Sounds likes Denver airports luggage system (3, Insightful)

gfreeman (456642) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432312)

Same as if a router goes down. Cannisters/data is rerouted, send in an engineer to fix the problem.

Re:Sounds likes Denver airports luggage system (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34432472)

Yes, but think about collisions!

Chicago had a freight tube system for decades (4, Informative)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432466)

Re:Chicago had a freight tube system for decades (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34432744)

Upton Sinclair's The Jungle has a description of this.

It was done primarily to bypass the Teamsters union.

The Teamsters are too powerful politically to ever let this happen on a large scale. Only a union man can take boxes off, or put boxes on, a truck.

We are going to need new acronyms (5, Funny)

paiute (550198) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432140)

DDOS = distributed denial of snacks

We are going to need new laws (4, Funny)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432288)

We also need legislation to stop these DDOSnack attacks...call it The 'Canned-Spam Act'

Re:We are going to need new acronyms (3, Funny)

masman (811765) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432592)

DDOS = Distributed Delivery of Snakes

Logistic issues I see: (5, Insightful)

mlts (1038732) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432154)

1: Getting right of way to drill the holes needed for that stuff.
2: Maintaining it. It sounds like if the induction motors break down, fixing those would be a PITA.
3: Unsticking the cargo if it gets jammed somewhere.
4: How many of these can travel through the tube network at a time? If the induction motors can't handle that many, it might not be as efficient as the company touts.
5: Security of cargo. I'm sure there will be people who would love to divert things to their end.
6: Transients climbing in the tubes, and cleaning the messes up if they get struck. If a bum dies in the tunnel, does the company get sued for wrongful death?
7: Plans for power outages.

There are a number of basic logistical concerns. It would be nice to have a freight tunnel system, but it is fraught with a number of issues.

Re:Logistic issues I see: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34432362)

1: Getting right of way to drill the holes needed for that stuff.
2: Maintaining it. It sounds like if the induction motors break down, fixing those would be a PITA.
3: Unsticking the cargo if it gets jammed somewhere.
4: How many of these can travel through the tube network at a time? If the induction motors can't handle that many, it might not be as efficient as the company touts.
5: Security of cargo. I'm sure there will be people who would love to divert things to their end.
6: Transients climbing in the tubes, and cleaning the messes up if they get struck. If a bum dies in the tunnel, does the company get sued for wrongful death?
7: Plans for power outages.

There are a number of basic logistical concerns. It would be nice to have a freight tunnel system, but it is fraught with a number of issues.

Re: #6: Replace "transient" with "child" for even more outrage power!
Re: #7: Power infrastructure required, and who pays for the actual power.

8: If the canister travels through different networks, and ArcherDanielsComcast thinks it hasn't been paid enough for transit, what happens to a "dropped" capsule?
9: Earthquakes. Because Japan will want this.
10: Military applications: If you can ship food, why not weapons?
11: Terrorism applications: For that matter, why not bombs?
12: Legal issues: What if someone ships illegal cargo, like heroin? Endangered species? Illegal immigrants?

Some things are better kept, literally, above ground.

Re:Logistic issues I see: (1)

VatuLevu (1923418) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432448)

10: Military applications: If you can ship food, why not weapons? 11: Terrorism applications: For that matter, why not bombs?

That was my first thought, I suppose the company would have security at the loading points, but what about the destination and anywhere in between?

Re:Logistic issues I see: (3, Insightful)

Bobakitoo (1814374) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432426)

All these consern apply for surface road, bridge and tunel. I am sure these were evocated when the automobile became widely used.

In fact, forget the underground tube. Just lay them on the street. And make them larger so they can carry 2 to 4 person. These are the self driving car we been waiting for. Safer then flying cars. No more trafic jam. No more road deicing and thier awful effect on the environement. Tubes are the road of the future.

Re:Logistic issues I see: (1)

mdielmann (514750) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432518)

Tubes are the road of the future.

As seen on Futurama [youtube.com] !

Re:Logistic issues I see: (3, Insightful)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432470)

There are other reliability issues too:
1. Every network system I'm aware of relies on being able to duplicate packets at virtually no cost. Obviously, a physical packet can't be duplicated like that.
2. Dropped packets in an electronic system aren't a problem. In a physical system, it leaves a pile of crap.

Re:Logistic issues I see: (4, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432494)

There are similar issues with relying on Semis to ship goods

1: Getting right of way to expand or build new roads
2: Wear and tear on publicly owned roads
3: Traffic accidents killing innocent bystanders
4: Massive inefficiencies at every level, even in the best conditions
5: Security of cargo is still an issue
6: Plans for storms, road outages, construction
7: Cost of an estimated 10 million semi drivers in the US alone

Basically, there are logistical issues that are similarly difficult to overcome with one of the systems that is currently commonly used.

Re:Logistic issues I see: (2)

datapharmer (1099455) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432504)

1. Use the "drill baby drill" process (hire the oil companies, they are good at getting these rights.)
2. Induction... psshhhhh. that's no problem, we're going to keep a vacuum cleaner nearby to pull them out all pneumatic tube 1800s style.
3. see 2
4. as many as you can fit end to end. If you need to squeeze in more you can try compression, but tar might make the food taste funny
5. This is simple to solve by using "quantum" type security. Don't try to prevent theft, just make sure you know when it happens by placing a few poisoned cans through the tubes. If someone takes the wrong ones it should be easy to figure out who the culprit was.
6. This is a two part solution: a. meat grinder, b. irobot scooba
7. make sure the containers float, flood them out.

You left out the most important one (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34432550)

How much energy is this going to cost, in a resource constrained world?

Re:Logistic issues I see: (4, Informative)

gfreeman (456642) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432568)

1: Getting right of way to drill the holes needed for that stuff.

Similar to problems laying fiber right now. Next time a road is dug up to repair something, stick in a foodtube as well. Eventually a network will start to take shape - it may take a couple of decades, but at minimal disruption and cost.

2: Maintaining it. It sounds like if the induction motors break down, fixing those would be a PITA.

Have service cannisters using onboard power that can push the broken cannister to the next service chute.

3: Unsticking the cargo if it gets jammed somewhere.

See above.

4: How many of these can travel through the tube network at a time? If the induction motors can't handle that many, it might not be as efficient as the company touts.

Depends on the length of each link, and how far apart the service depots are.

5: Security of cargo. I'm sure there will be people who would love to divert things to their end.

That's something that already happens in real life with trucks, and especially the internet. It's an inherent problem whichever way you choose to distribute things.

6: Transients climbing in the tubes, and cleaning the messes up if they get struck. If a bum dies in the tunnel, does the company get sued for wrongful death?

I'd have thought the tubes would be sealed, the only entrance/exits being at the service depots. If a bum breaks into a power station and gets electrocuted, does the power company get sued?

7: Plans for power outages.

IP networks are subject to those too. Some small UPS at each depot to ensure that cannisters get to a depot in the event of a power outage, rather than get stuck in tunnels.

Re:Logistic issues I see: (2)

i kan reed (749298) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432572)

I'd like to point out that these are all either problems faced with city water systems, the internet, or traditional shipping. People tend to be pretty miffed if a water line bursts, their ISP loses power, or a UPS truck is totaled with their fragile package on board. The reality is people tend to survive these sorts of failures becomes it's not actually deadly to go without water for 2 hours. Your grocery parcel can probably wait a day without you starving.

Re:Logistic issues I see: (2)

Bobakitoo (1814374) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432582)

After some research it turn out that once again, old idea is new again [wikipedia.org] . Sorry for the double post.

Re:Logistic issues I see: (1)

jemenake (595948) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432628)

About 6-7 years ago, it struck me that, if we had some kind of local and interstate above-ground monorail system that we could attach cars/pods to, it would solve make a lot of things a lot easier. Since everything's on a rail system controlled by a central computer, the occupants don't even need to be able to drive (or even be people at all... ), so you could have your rail-enabled car drop your kid off at school, or deliver your golf-clubs to your friend's house... 8 hours away. Any time you want to take a trip across the country, get on the monorail, punch in the destination, and take a nap, get drunk, screw, whatever.

Granted, it's a pie-in-the-sky wish, but it seems to have more payoff (people would be able to ride it, and you wouldn't be as limited in the form-factor of devices that could run on it, since stuff doesn't have to snugly fit the tube) and less implementation hassle (I presume that erecting suspended stuff is cheaper than digging trenches for tunnels, you wouldn't have as many right-of-way problems since you could build the monorail over existing highways and streets, it might be easier to keep bums and kids from accessing a suspended track than a tunnel, and it's easier to maintain).

So, the tunnel idea just seems kinda like "Hey, let's do it in a harder way that has less utility".

Re:Logistic issues I see: (2)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432648)

8. Cities like New Orleans, Houston, most of Florida, and keeping the underground tubes free of water.

Re:Logistic issues I see: (1)

Ceriel Nosforit (682174) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432662)

3: Unsticking the cargo if it gets jammed somewhere.

A man with a van and a turbo-pump shows up.

There are a number of basic logistical concerns.

The bet is $15 million that they can solve what a slashdotter can't in one post.

Re:Logistic issues I see: (1)

Bytesahoy (1951076) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432700)

#4 - Depends on how much sandwidth it would have.

Expect resistance (3, Insightful)

boristdog (133725) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432156)

Short haul truckers will resist this, but I doubt they have a good lobby...yet.

USPS, UPS and FedEx will like this IF they are involved. Otherwise they will fight it tooth and nail.

Re:Expect resistance (4, Insightful)

robot256 (1635039) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432220)

Short haul truckers will resist this, but I doubt they have a good lobby...yet.

USPS, UPS and FedEx will like this IF they are involved. Otherwise they will fight it tooth and nail.

Very good point. If you can throw in a bone to get them behind it, then you have billions of dollars in capital backing you up. Otherwise, those billions will fight you to the bitter end.

Re:Expect resistance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34432228)

In the UK if the truckers don't get what they want they just blockade fuel depots until the government backs down.

Re:Expect resistance (1)

mlts (1038732) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432296)

In the US, this might be useful, but if the tubes get saturated, I'm sure short haul trucking may not be dented. Especially of the cost of getting tube access from a warehouse to a store is high.

USPS, et. al. won't be affected, unless we can get Heinlein-style intercontinental ballistic tubes going. They likely wouldn't be affected much due to their business being regional, or national for the most part.

Re:Expect resistance (1)

AndrewNeo (979708) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432526)

This will only effect smaller items, though. Shipping services would still be needed for the big stuff, and plenty of that gets sent around. I would assume that heavier stuff doesn't have quite the profit margin smaller items do, though.

That's a really great idea but... (2, Insightful)

netsavior (627338) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432168)

It's too bad we already built cities and housing for 6.7 billion people. Maybe next time we could re-start with this in mind.

Re:That's a really great idea but... (4, Insightful)

epiphani (254981) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432340)

I agree. Let's never do anything that's a good idea if it somehow impacts existing infrastructure.

Re:That's a really great idea but... (0)

aekafan (1690920) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432586)

In this case then, we will have to wait for good idea. This idea is about the stupidest thing I have ever heard, thus proving that not all "scientists" are worth their paycheck.

Re:That's a really great idea but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34432656)

I agree. Let's never do anything that's a good idea if it requires rebuilding all existing infrastructure.

FTFY

Re:That's a really great idea but... (3, Informative)

RobVB (1566105) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432558)

Tunneling really isn't that hard in most places. All you need is a deep hole on each side to assemble tunnel boring machines. You might run into problems with pipelines, wires and other tunnels, but you can always go deeper.

Re:That's a really great idea but... (1)

NFN_NLN (633283) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432614)

It's too bad we already built cities and housing for 6.7 billion people. Maybe next time we could re-start with this in mind.

The concept was quite popular in Chicago: "A UNIVERSAL FREIGHT STATION on the Chicago freight tunnel system. Four of these freight stations give the general public access to the tunnel services. The tunnels link up with all the city's railway goods termini, and many private warehouses and stores also have direct links with the freight tunnels. These connexions consist of shafts and elevators that bring the tunnel cars up to ground level."
http://mikes.railhistory.railfan.net/r047.html [railfan.net]

I believe Capone used a similar system during the prohibition. Although his motive was more stealth over efficiency,

Even today transporting "goods" via underground tunnels remains popular :)
  http://articles.cnn.com/2006-01-26/us/mexico.tunnel_1_tunnel-task-force-cross-border-tunnels-lauren-mack?_s=PM:US [cnn.com]

60% of world's food routed through China. (1)

BlueKitties (1541613) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432192)

Global water shortage ensues as people rush to the bathroom after eating so much Chinese food.

A non-logistical problem (1)

Sonny Yatsen (603655) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432198)

I like the idea, but I think that the biggest problems they might encounter on a larger scale is the need to obtain easements as the pipes will inevitably run onto private property at some point.

Or... (5, Insightful)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432202)

You could have an above ground solution which would be much easier to maintain. You could call them "TRAINS".

Re:Or... (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432258)

Great minds!

Re:Or... (0)

Znork (31774) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432468)

Well, the underground version is already available, built by the Chicago Tunnel Company between 1899 and 1906, and operated until the 1960's.

Seems like one of those things that's nice in theory but extremely difficult to make profitable in competition with trains and other above-ground transport.

Re:Or... (1)

SwordsmanLuke (1083699) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432492)

I used to work for a robotics company. Some of the engineers felt that trains would make an excellent target for automation. Obstacle detection and avoidance is simple (only need to worry about things near the tracks and our only response is to slow down/stop). Smarter trains enable smarter trainyards and thence, more efficient shipping.

Re:Or... (1)

kvezach (1199717) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432616)

Automatically routed trains in partially evacuated tubes, run by linear induction motors? Sounds nice. It could go really fast on the straights, and unlike the underground proposal, they wouldn't first have to build a subterrene [wikimedia.org] or spend ages making tunnels with a TBM.

Chinese Take out (2)

snookerhog (1835110) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432212)

Mad magazine already showed how all Chinese take out restaurants in North America are already supplied in this manner.

This was in an issue from about 20 years ago. Kudos to anyone who can find a copy of this spread.

Polyethylene Pam (3, Funny)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432214)

So what happens when the canned Spam going 60mph gets accidentally jammed between the ham and lamb? Would we have something to ram the spam through this ham & lamb dam?

I think we already had an energy-saving networked system like this that produced way less carbon than Diesel trucks, they were called TRAINS.

Re:Polyethylene Pam (4, Funny)

Hogwash McFly (678207) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432294)

Yeah, all it will take is a packet collision between my order from an air conditioning company and some other guy's stool sample on its way to the lab and the shit will really hit the fan.

Re:Polyethylene Pam (1)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432598)

Or what if one package of chocolate crashing into another package of peanut butter? You've got chocolate in my peanut butter! You've got peanut butter in my chocolate!

SPAM! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34432224)

Finally, it will be the Hormel kind.

Marde (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34432246)

a change to iirecoverable [slashdot.org], other members in

BAH! I say use a "series of tracks" on the surface (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432260)

It can run even faster and we can see the the spectacular foul ups.

Oh the huge mess! (1)

pecosdave (536896) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432266)

I'm not saying this new system will be bad, but ask anyone who worked maintenance at the Johnson Space Center building 30 what happened when people sent Cokes through the P-Tube system. You piss off a bunch of techs! (seriously though, I love the idea of a freight tunnel system, it's something I've been designing in my head for a long time - on multiple scales)

A different scale? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34432274)

What if we had a similar system, but that went to general areas instead of individual houses? Could reduce the costs of freight massively I'm thinking. Just have humans do the last mile or two the ol' fashion way, but the core of the journey could be done through the tubes. Of course it wouldn't be suitable for fresh food produce but it would be suitable for anything that is currently sent via the current Postal system.

Hmm.. This idea sounds familiar (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432290)

I know I've proposed something similiar, though I certainly didn't get as specific. 2 meters sounds a bit long for 'tubes', but I suppose if the tunnels are a meter in diameter they'd be about proportional to the old pneumatic systems.

Of course, I also proposed to dual-purpose PRT systems for this - the idea being that package delivery companies could design vehicles to make deliveries, saving the expense of a driver, oversized vehicles, even the need for as many transfer stations. Instead you have smaller local stations that you release cars from as soon as they're full or a certain delay is reached. Eliminate a couple unpack/sort/pack cycles and you can get ground to be nearly as fast as air.

And before anybody screams about how air is more profitable - well, it's also more expensive. Saving them a sorting cycle could save them a couple thousand a day, per team per facility. Not needing drivers? There's mid hundreds to low thousands per day.

Who's going to pay for it? (1)

jandrese (485) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432314)

Sounds like it's going to have absurdly high up-front costs. Digging tunnels is expensive, and these guys want to run hundreds of miles of them? Who's going to put up the trillion or so dollars you would need to get the system up to a useful size? How long will it take for the energy savings to overcome the startup costs? Especially if you compare it to simple trains or trucks?

Re:Who's going to pay for it? (2)

thrillseeker (518224) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432576)

Digging tunnels is expensive

Digging tunnels large enough for cars and trucks and safe enough to carry people is expensive.

So what they're saying... (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432326)

This system isn't like a truck [schwans.com] you can dump food on. It's more like a series of tubes.

Beta tester (1)

NetServices (1479949) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432354)

Sign me up as a beta tester. I can vision a delivery tube in the basement.

"The Internet ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34432384)

"... is a series of tubes"

Attention-seeking behaviour (0)

kheldan (1460303) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432404)

This "group of academics" sounds to me more like they're just trying to get some play in the press, or maybe get some government grant money. It's an absurb idea if you ask me. We already have a huge amount of infrastructure built in the form of highways and a rail system, and they want to build a completely different infrastructure to do the same thing? Maybe these big-brained "academics" should employ their considerable imaginations towards improving on the infrastructure we already have.

Has anybody seen... (1)

jte (707188) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432434)

...Sam Lowry

What could possibly go wrong... (-1, Redundant)

sosume (680416) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432436)

The first few thoughts..
- People intercepting other people's canisters
- Illegal trafficking
- Distributed illegal activities
- And, last but not least: Terrorists!!

This will definitely lead to the police checking on our groceries..

Chicago had a small train system (2)

WillAdams (45638) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432438)

built underground and intended to be used similarly to this

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicago_Tunnel_Company [wikipedia.org]

and London had a narrow gauge railway for a moving mail between sorting stations:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Post_Office_Railway [wikipedia.org]

William

Why stop at shipping? (2)

Lilith's Heart-shape (1224784) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432462)

If this new transport system works for goods, why not use it for people as well as long as you can provide adequate ventilation and reasonable comfort?

Pneumatic tubes? (2)

ZipprHead (106133) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432484)

Why are the calling them food tubes? We already have Pneumatic tubes [wikipedia.org] . This just a scaled up version. I had a similar idea once for big cities. It might make a lot of sense, especially if it's general purpose, like for the post office.

But "food tubes"... really?!!? That just sounds gross. You brits are weird. How about the "megmatic tube system" that happens to also ship food?

Internet memes becomming reality (2)

Dancindan84 (1056246) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432488)

So we can push button, receive bacon?

Not the first with this idea (3, Insightful)

RobVB (1566105) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432490)

In the '90s, a feasibility study was done in the Netherlands for an Underground Logistics System. It involved little carts that could drive themselves, and carry a variety of cargo pallets. The idea was to connect Amsterdam's Schiphol airport to a nearby train station and a flower market. They never built it because the financial risks were too big.

More recently, a Belgian engineering firm proposed an Underground Container Mover for the port of Antwerp, which is basically a large underground conveyor belt for containers. It would run in a circle connecting container terminals with other terminals and highways on the other side of the river. This could remove a lot of trucks from the busy highways, especially the tunnels.

The basic idea is that as ground is becoming more and more rare, we shouldn't waste it on cargo transport. Moving most of it underground makes a lot of sense. And we've actually managed to move a lot of it (up to 90% in some areas) underground already, in terms of tonne-miles of goods transported. Just think of drinkable water, gas and sewage, but also oil and a lot of chemicals in industrial zones. Pipelines are transporting more than most people can imagine, and they're great. Trying to move boxed goods in a similar fashion is the logical next step, there are just a few problems we haven't figured out yet.

Won't ever happen for one reason... (1)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432502)

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that if this were really implemented in a major way, it would create the ideal system for a terrorist group to discretely deliver several hundred bombs simultaneously all cross a major city.

Re:Won't ever happen for one reason... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34432668)

yeah, because they couldn't possibly do it with trucks.

Re:Won't ever happen for one reason... (1)

orphiuchus (1146483) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432692)

That's why I've said for years that we shouldn't have airplanes, cars, or the post office. We're just asking for it!

Idiocy. (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432508)

Seriously, this idea is so dumb it belongs in idle. You know you're in trouble when the article starts with, "a group of academics". Sure, we all have creative brainstorms like this, but we have the courtesy of keeping them to ourselves until we have considered a few of the obvious issues. Like the existence of highly efficient freight trains, the difficulty of adding physical tubes alongside an existing infrastructure (including securing easements), and the high initial cost once again placed on the backs of taxpayers as no profit could be made from such a system. Sure, we all love socialism, but the fact of the universe is that we all need to eat so capitalism once again rears its ugly head when there's no food to shoot down our awesome PVC tubes. I can only assume either willful ignorance or flat out evil intentions when I read how such a system's efficiency is compared to a lorry when freight trains are the analogue to this type of system.

Goldblum has this covered... (1)

GPLDAN (732269) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432534)

Slashdot, look - Jeff Goldblum just about has the matter transporter worked out, then we won't need tubes.

He just has a few... bugs... to work out.

Hasn't this already been done? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34432540)

Many UK supermarkets have tubes that transport pods full of money from the tills up into the offices above without the cashier having to leave their checkout. Though I think they work by operating a vacuum cleaner like device at the other end, so I guess the routing side of things is manual!

Wouldn't it make more sense. . . (1)

evildarkdeathclicheo (978593) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432590)

To just use the domestic pipelines we have to deliver gasoline instead? The infrastructure is already there. I see two ways this could work: We could use slugs (like the kind used to clean the pipelines, but hallow) as canisters, or, even better (since this is the US), just replace the gasoline with high-fructose corn syrup and then it could just be processed into whatever fab crap the plebes are eating at the time when it comes out the other end?

Then stick people in them (2)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432610)

Step 1) Why only 60mph? Once you have evacuated the air in the tubes I don't see why there would be a speed limit, how about 600mph? Or 6000 mph?

Step 2) Now use it for general cargo.

Step 3) Now put humans in it. I can't help but think they are already thinking of this because a 2m (6 ft 6 inches) capsule is enough to fit most people. Unfortunately, squishy humans are limited to a around 1G of acceleration, but I love the idea of a 15 minute trip from New York to Washington DC.

STOP! (1)

GungaDan (195739) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432622)

Do not feed the C.H.U.D.s!

Moving Trash (1)

denshao2 (1515775) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432638)

A system like this already exists on Roosevelt Island, but it's for moving trash instead of food.

A great way to move drugs and booze (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34432642)

without risk.

One step closer to the Diamond Age (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432666)

Yay! This brings us one step closer to "The Feed" in The Diamond Age [wikimedia.org] - just make it send a string of organic molecules (no arsenic though) and your 3D printer will make whatever food you need on your end.

Previous tube systems. (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432702)

Several cities once had sizable pneumatic tube systems. London, Paris, Berlin, Prague, and New York City all had extensive systems. Tube diameters were small, though, in the 2" to 3" range. The Prague system was the last to shut down, in 2002. Prague is repairing their system, and it may come back up.

The London system had the ability to automatically transfer carriers to and from from public tubes to "house systems" within a building. So it could provide end to end service. Most of the other systems were post office to post office only.

The Chicago tunnel system [nycsubway.org] had almost full coverage of downtown Chicago a century ago, with small electric trains in freight tunnels under most of the downtown streets. Goods were transferred from full-sized rail cars to tunnel cars, which were then delivered to buildings in the city and carried upward in special elevators. That system ran until 1959.

Maintaining the infrastructure for such systems is expensive for the amount of traffic, though.

Costs (1)

fridaynightsmoke (1589903) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432710)

I did start typing a long and detailed comment, but FF crashed and lost it. Fantastic.

Anyway, as others here have pointed out, the setup and construction costs would be immense, and the system would need to carry very large amounts of freight to be economically sensible. The only way for this to be achieved would be for it to have a monopoly over a certain area, either by mandate or practical necessity.

Various cities worldwide have had underground freight railways (Chicago and london, to name two) but they both ran up against the fact that it is much cheaper to put freight on trucks/vans running on the existing road network. I think that will always be the case, with road transport continuing to provide the most economical transport of relatively small amounts of stuff (up to 30 tonnes) over short distances (less than say 200 miles). Quite probably the 'trucks' in the future may be driverless, and will almost certainly not be fuelled by petrodiesel, but they will still be trucks and will run on a relatively cheap to build and maintain multipurpose road network (which is essentially just a web of hard flat surfaces).

Railways are fantastic for moving large quantities (tens to hundreds of tonnes) of freight from the same 'A' to the same 'B' a long distance away (say over 200 miles); but having to stop the entire train to load/unload along the way kills effeciency for multidrop or smaller loads. Having small rail vehicles achieves similar effeciencies to road, but you still have the problem of the running surface (the rails) needing to direct traffic and be controlled somehow. Road vehicles (whether human driven or not) direct themselves on an unchanging surface. It's true that roads with anything above a low level of traffic often need traffic control of some kind (eg lights) but railways do too.

In conclusion; very cool, but pointless IMO

Deja Vu (1)

OverlordQ (264228) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432722)

Sounds like this was tried before [wikipedia.org]

Meh. (2)

zmollusc (763634) | more than 3 years ago | (#34432724)

Why build all that infrastructure? Surely there have been enough developments in accuracy to deliver things ballistically? Caveat: It might suit some goods more than others.

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