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Underground Freight Networks

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the yesterday's-tomorrow-today dept.

Transportation 284

morphovar writes "The German Ruhr University of Bochum is conducting experiments with a large-scale model for an automated subterranean transport system. It would use unmanned electric vehicles on rails that travel in a network through pipelines with a diameter of 1.6 meters, up to distances of 150 kilometers. Sending cargo goods through underground pipelines is anything but new — see this scan of a 1929 magazine article about Chicago's underground freight tunnel network (more details). Translating this concept to the 21st century would be something like introducing email for things: you could order something on the Internet and pick it up through a trapdoor in your cellar the next morning."

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I don't have a cellar (4, Funny)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 6 years ago | (#22663936)

you insensitive clod!

Re:I don't have a cellar (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22664132)

But I bet you have a trapdoor for your Frosty Poophole! Oh yeah, the Frosty Poophole... extruding cylinders of juicy goodness for billions of years!
 

Re:I don't have a cellar (4, Funny)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664138)

Don't worry. A basement will substitute perfectly.

Re:I don't have a cellar (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664220)

I think in all my life I've only lived in one home that had a basement. That was well over 30 years ago.

Re:I don't have a cellar (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664312)

I find that very odd. I thought almost all houses had basements.

Re:I don't have a cellar (0)

Pyrion (525584) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664352)

Basements make very little sense in places that practically never get tornadoes.

Re:I don't have a cellar (3, Informative)

Nos. (179609) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664422)

Except that they give you extra living space. If nothing else its a good place for the furnace, water heater, water softner, etc.

Re:I don't have a cellar (3, Informative)

tmosley (996283) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664636)

Basements don't work in places with high water tables (like the Gulf Coast), and don't really serve much purpose in places with shallow freeze lines (the South and Pacific coast). The foundation of the house has to extend beneath that line anyways, so if it is more than 4-5 feet deep, it doesn't cost much to go a few feet deeper and provide a basement. There is no great economic incentive to have a basement in warmer climates, so prevalence is hit or miss.

Re:I don't have a cellar (4, Informative)

Everyone Is Seth (1202862) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664438)

Basements make very little sense in places that practically never get tornadoes...to people who think basements only serve as protection from tornadoes. The temperature and moisture levels in a basement are pretty constant, and we used ours to store certain foods. It is also one of the cheapest ways to expand living space in your home.

Re:I don't have a cellar (1)

nospam007 (722110) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664646)

Basements make very little sense in places that practically never get tornadoes.

Methinks the land is too cheap where you live.

Re:I don't have a cellar (1)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664314)

Do you live in a southern state?

I, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22664200)

for one, welcome our new freight-hauling underlords.

/ducks

Whaaaaaa? (2, Funny)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 6 years ago | (#22663940)

Did someone get ahold of an old Popular Mechanics or something?

Fabbing (4, Insightful)

Smackheid (1217632) | more than 6 years ago | (#22663974)

Meh. By the time they get something like this up and running, home fabbing will probably be very viable anyway.

Re:Fabbing (2, Interesting)

OldeTimeGeek (725417) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664096)

And the materials will get to you how?

Re:Fabbing (2, Insightful)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664214)

The fabber should be able to recycle things made via a similar fabber.

They should have an integrated wireless connection and be designed to set up a peer to peer mesh network, then automatically share any new design that is loaded into them with any other similar devices within range.

That should pretty much destroy the justification for intellectual property laws... everyone will be scratching their own itches, automatically sharing what they create and automatically being able to leverage other peoples creations.

Then we just need an extraterrestrial based power generation infrastructure to feed the things, a democratic-communistic society based around the maintenance of the critical infrastructure that drives everyones newfound empowerment.

Re:Fabbing (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664402)

The fabber should be able to recycle things made via a similar fabber

So your fabber is going to make steel in the basement?

Fabbing and Patents (4, Interesting)

camperdave (969942) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664548)

Recycled from trash, etc.

Actually, I think that fabbing is going to run into the same "intellectual property" felgercarb that music and video is running into. As far as I know, the only physical objects with copyright hinderances on them are buildings (not sure about china patterns, and silverware).

Right now, there are patents. Are there fair use clauses for patents? If I download a fabbing pattern from a foreign source, am I breaking patent law, or breaking import law? If I scan an object and distribute a fabbing pattern, have I broken patent law? What if I fab something I saw in a TV show, is that a copyright violation, a trademark infringement, or a patent violation? If a beautiful young female made off with one of my silverware fabbing patterns can I say that the dish ran away with the spoon?

I think we may look back on the halcyon days of yore when we only had the RIAA to deal with.

Re:Fabbing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22664208)


Meh. By the time they get something like this up and running, home fabbing will probably be very viable anyway.


Meh. It costs a fortune just to keep my color printer running. It seems that EVERY TIME I want to print something, at least one of the colors is clogged/empty and needs replacement. I need to run multiple cleaning cycles (which runs through ink like there is no tomorrow) etc. etc.

I shudder to think what the consumable cost would be for home fabbing.

I'd love a cost effective way to send a single page print request to the neighborhood kinkos and have it delivered to my house in a timely manner. (overnight at the very latest, same day would be much better) If they could get copying + delivery cheaper than my current per page cost (which is insanely high now) I'd throw away my printer and never look back.

Pneumatic Telegraph (5, Interesting)

StCredZero (169093) | more than 6 years ago | (#22663982)

Many large cities in the US had a Pneumatic Telegraph [google.com] at one time. Basically one of those pneumatic tube package delivery systems, but spanning the whole city. This was back in the 1800's. The more things change, the more things stay the same.

Re:Pneumatic Telegraph (3, Interesting)

Sirch (82595) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664058)

Damn Interesting [damninteresting.com] has a very, ahem, interesting article on the building of the atmospheric railway [damninteresting.com] under Broadway in New York - imagine a subway car propelled in the same way as the pneumatic telegraph...

A scene from Brazil [imdb.com] springs to mind...

Re:Pneumatic Telegraph (1)

suso (153703) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664356)

A scene from Brazil springs to mind...

I was thinking the same thing. Fifth Element has the same thing. Reminds me of going to the bank when I was kid.

Re:Pneumatic Telegraph (5, Funny)

csnydermvpsoft (596111) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664396)

From the Damn Interesting article: ...and some of these lines remained in operation until 1953. Ultimately, however, trucks proved more efficient at information-moving than the series of tubes.

Ha! How wrong they were! Everyone knows that series of tubes are much more efficient than big trucks.

Re:Pneumatic Telegraph (1)

Crazy Man on Fire (153457) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664146)

So, maybe the internet really is a series of tubes? Are the dump trucks going to be replaced by tiny underground trains? I'm so confused...

Re:Pneumatic Telegraph (1)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664162)

Haha, I was gonna say. 1929 is the oldest they could find? Pneumatics (this same concept, minus the electric motor) go back to the mid 19th century; I think London had one in place for mail delivery by 1870, IIRC.

Re:Pneumatic Telegraph (4, Informative)

auric_dude (610172) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664540)

The Post Office Underground Railway, London First pneumatic then electrically powered. In 1853, a small vacuum tube about 225 yards (200 metres) long was built to deliver letters inside a Post Office building. The system, now known as a Lamson Tube, became very popular, and in 1859 the Pneumatic Despatch Company was formed to build a larger subterranean line between the Post Office buildings. A test-line 450 yards (411 metres) long was built near Battersea, and the Post Office approved it. Read all about it at http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A3826019 [bbc.co.uk]

Couldn't resist. (1)

PygmyShrew (618310) | more than 6 years ago | (#22663988)

Does that mean I could get a U-boat through the U-bend?

Re:Couldn't resist. (1)

rmav (1149097) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664454)

Does that mean I could get a U-boat through the U-bend?
U-bet

If they need a consultant, (4, Funny)

JesseL (107722) | more than 6 years ago | (#22663990)

I hear that Harriet Tubman has experience with this sort of thing.

Re:If they need a consultant, (1)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664424)

She had experience with the underground railroad. And it's true, she still has underground experience http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Hill_Cemetery [wikipedia.org] . But I'd suggest she's earned her peace and we don't bother her.

Re:If they need a consultant, (1)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664444)

That was funny! Alas, I have no mod points.

Everyone else has already pointed out the obvious flaws in such a system, but if done correctly, it could actually reduce street level traffic, reduce smog problems, and a bunch of other things, but the mail your ex-boss a bomb problem is pretty scary.

Email for things? (3, Insightful)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664014)

I'm sorry, but that's just a dumb analogy. Email isn't overnight or even fast, it's nigh instantaneous. How about "overnight shipping for free" or something else that doesn't involve breaking it down into bits?

Re:Email for things? (1)

Woundweavr (37873) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664104)

Who said anything about free?

Re:Email for things? (4, Funny)

theMerovingian (722983) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664148)


email for things

I already get about 40 emails a day pertaining to my thing. How is this new?

Re:Email for things? (1)

morphovar (1205804) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664340)

"something like" email for things
the unmanned vehicles will follow a programmed route: i don't know of any existing transport system that does that

Higher bandwidth than e-mail, longer latency (1)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664460)

Those tunnels could carry far more bits per second in blue ray dvds than e-mail. And with just an few hours latency.

Re:Higher bandwidth than e-mail, longer latency (1)

Imsdal (930595) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664568)

Blue ray DVDs are useless for me. I only have an HD DVD player. Oh, yes, and a Betamax player. Did you know that the picture quality is much better than on VHS?

Re:Email for things? (1)

ohmpossum (1008965) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664470)

If you loaded one of those vehicles with multi-terabyte hard drives what kind of data rate would you have? It would be like turning the internet in to a giant truck run through a series of tubes.

I have a better question. The internet is used to access things legal in one jurisdiction in another where it is illegal. Could it be used to transport prostitutes from Nevada?

Heh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22664018)

This gives a new meaning to "old news" here at /.

Security concerns? (3, Insightful)

harrkev (623093) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664020)

How about the security implications? Hack the system, free stuff. Or, mail a bomb to your ex.

The postal system is more secure because people are constantly in the loop.

Re:Security concerns? (4, Funny)

explosivejared (1186049) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664128)

Not to mention that it's underground, and therefore it is subject to raiding by the devil, cave trolls, gremlins, etc.

Re:Security concerns? (2, Funny)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664272)

Troglodyte infestations will probably be their biggest problem. Luckily, this is Germany we're talking; they're the birthplace of the plucky hero.

Re:Security concerns? (1)

animusCollards (1173083) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664602)

Not to mention that it's underground, and therefore it is subject to raiding by the devil, cave trolls, gremlins, etc.
You have no idea how true [wikipedia.org] that statement is.

O rly? (4, Funny)

psychodelicacy (1170611) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664024)

From the article: "Note that pneumatic systems could deliver physical objects, which is hard to do with email..."

Re:O rly? (1)

theotherbastard (939373) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664522)

which is hard to do with email...

Hard, yet not impossible... I wonder what e-mail service they are using?

Why (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22664026)

Besides the coolness factor, why is it worth the money to have it underground?

Re:Why (1)

megaditto (982598) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664140)

Because it's less expensive to lay pipes in the ground then high up it up in the air.

Re:Why (1)

value_added (719364) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664720)

Because it's less expensive to lay pipes in the ground then high up it up in the air.

Ya know, that should seem obvious enough, but I wonder if you take into account all of the costs associated with a physical line being downed by weather, squirrels[1], etc., or the maintenance for anything directly exposed to the weather, you'd break even. Here in California, if it rains, even moderately, you can expect your power or DSL to go out for seconds, minutes or hours. In other states where it gets cold, things go out more frequently and for longer periods at a time for an entire season.

If the costs do break even, then we're back to the usual "infrastracture costs money and taxpayers don't want to pay" scenario that glosses over any and all of the (mostly obvious) efficiencies. I have read about cities in European countries that are taking different approaches (to avoid repeatedly digging up roads), so my guess is that there's evidence in favour of the infrastructure argument.

_________
1. Squirrels are really just ordinary rats dressed up in squirrel costumes.

Re:Why (1)

psychodelicacy (1170611) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664176)

Doesn't clog up the roads either while travelling or parked for delivery (big problem in smaller countries like the UK). Doesn't create much pollution, since it's electric (which surface transport mainly can't be at the moment). Can run faster because it's not competing with other road traffic whose speed is limited by the needs of human drivers.

There are probably more reasons, but those spring immediately to mind.

Re:Why (3, Insightful)

Woundweavr (37873) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664322)

Because its the only thing that makes sense?

You going to put a large tube above ground in the way of everything? This is the well established technique - subways, sewers, utility tunnels, even catacombs. If this were to be implemented it could even follow the existing networks. The tubes could follow the subways to neighborhood distribution centers or the sewers to individual buildings.

If you put it above ground, you get increased traffic congestion (given that it will reduce available space), lesser security (items could "fall off the truck" any place the system was accessible) and a lesser adaptability. If a river is in the way of a surface road, you have to build a bridge. If a river is in the way of a tunnel, you build more tunnel.

Series of tubes (2, Insightful)

Depili (749436) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664028)

Just hope that a shipment of spam doesn't clog your tubes :)

There's a great article (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22664038)

I was reading about underground freighting [nimp.org] just earlier.

good luck w/ bombs (2, Insightful)

GringoGoiano (176551) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664046)

this would be great target for terrorists, especially if it's your society's major delivery network. a few well-placed ticking bombs would bring you down. it ain't 1929 no more.

Re:good luck w/ bombs (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664222)

I was thinking this too. How hard would it be to set up a website advertizing amazing deals on pornography, alchohol, wiccan artifacts or any number of things that people get into a religious huff about. Then, instead of delivering the goods each heathen gets a handy bomb delivered to their basement.

Re:good luck w/ bombs (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22664368)

Never mind the tubes. In some cities they are providing strips of firm smooth surfaces that could be used to quickly deliver bombs using wheeled transportation systems. And these strips go EVERYWHERE!!!

My god. Think of the terrorists! Think of the CHILDREN!

Re:good luck w/ bombs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22664372)

And how, exactly, is that different than sending bombs by mail or parcel service?

Re:good luck w/ bombs (1)

jfengel (409917) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664534)

A bomb takes out a post office or a truck. A bomb that takes out a tunnel destroys something harder to fix, more expensive, and with national rather than local effects.

Re:good luck w/ bombs (2, Insightful)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664378)

This may come as a shock to you, but in 1929 we already had bombs and such. How is this not any different than 1929?

Re:good luck w/ bombs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22664452)

Why is it, when any new idea comes along, people always respond with "Its a Tool for Terrorists!!!" Doesn't mater what, from GPS to pooper scoopers. Everything can be turned into a weapon, stop hiding in your basements...

Re:good luck w/ bombs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22664670)

The answer to that would be "because they've won", with a little help from our spineless governments.

Re:good luck w/ bombs (4, Interesting)

eck011219 (851729) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664458)

Let's not get panicky. Many cities already have labyrinths of sub-basements under their downtown areas (the aforementioned one in Chicago, where I live, and many others). Moreover, think about the maze of tunnels running under Washington, D.C.?

The point is to be sensible about securing it, not to not have it. We still fly planes, don't we? We still allow rental of U-Haul trucks, right? Just because it CAN be used for bad behavior doesn't mean a) it will be, or b) it can't be secured with a reasonable amount of caution. Hell, if we felt THAT way about things, guns would have been outlawed a long time ago. (AND they would still exist anyway, AND people would still use them for bad stuff.)

All that said, though, of course subterranean tunnels make a tasty target for destructive behavior. The point is that a tunnel system under a metropolitan area should be carefully monitored. And if it can be quickly flooded (or all oxygen can be quickly removed) in the event of fire or "evildoers," all the better.

In effect, the tunnels under Chicago DID cause widespread damage a few years ago. A construction crew drove a piling down into the Chicago river and punched through the tunnel wall underneath, flooding the entire downtown area's basements with river water. So it can be dangerous to have the tunnels, but better provisions for evildoers and morons (probably more the latter) would have minimized the problem. That's an old tunnel system, but a new one could be built with the ability to quickly isolate one problem section.

I guess I'm reacting to the terror terror, you know? We must be wise and sensible, but if a tunnel system under the city is the only appropriate and complete solution to a given problem, we can't let fear of something rare (in fact, so rare as to be historically significant when it happens) take it off the table.

Re:good luck w/ bombs (2, Insightful)

tthomas48 (180798) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664738)

If by it's not 1929 anymore you mean there's less bombing and more security on our critical infrastructure. If you mean by not 1929 anymore that we have a media that hypes up how dangerous our ridiculously safe lives are then yes, I'd agree with you.
However, if you're somehow insinuating that terrorist acts are up you have a disgraceful knowledge of history. I mean, it's been almost thirty years since someone tried to assasinate a US president. Things are pretty mellow all things considered. While Al Qaida may have pulled off one stupendous crime in America they're pretty pathetic when you compare them to groups like the Weathermen or the SLA. Heck they're even pretty pathetic when you compare them to the DC snipers.

To Your Cellar? (4, Insightful)

Pinkybum (960069) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664054)

Nice fantasy - we can't even get fiber to the home let alone deliver things to your cellar.

Zombie Attacks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22664062)

This would be the ideal setting for a zombie attack don't you think?

hmmmm (2, Interesting)

Quato (132194) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664066)

Something about the $200 bucks I spent for a plumber to roto-rooter the tree roots out of my drain this week makes me think this is a very bad idea!

As a side note, roots that are growing in your sewer are not the best smelling things in the world.

Amazing! (4, Funny)

ObjetDart (700355) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664068)

...you could order something on the Internet and pick it up through a trapdoor in your cellar the next morning

This would be such an amazing improvement over the current state of affairs, where I can order something on the Internet and pick it up through a front door in my living room the next morning.

Re:Amazing! (5, Funny)

Unique2 (325687) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664504)

Yes, but with the new system you don't even need to leave your parents basement!

One less awkward social interaction to deal with!

Wouldn't work in Florida (1, Insightful)

Cousarr (1117563) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664074)

This system wouldn't work in Florida or any other place where the water table is actually above ground. That is of course unless they feel like spending tons of extra money making this tunnel system able to survive in local conditions. It's okay though at some point here we'll get started on that high speed rail we voted into our constitution 12 years ago. After that we can vote this in as well...

Re:Wouldn't work in Florida (1)

snl2587 (1177409) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664130)

It's okay though at some point here we'll get started on that high speed rail we voted into our constitution 12 years ago

We won't get that until out government raises the money for it i.e. raises taxes. For nothing you get nothing.

Personally, I'm more concerned about Florida's education system than under/over-ground transport.

Re:Wouldn't work in Florida (3, Funny)

Turing Machine (144300) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664406)

Yep, it would cost a fortune to develop the new technology to make waterproof pipes. :-)

Minor error (4, Funny)

inio (26835) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664084)

... pick it up through a trapdoor in your cellar the next morning


I believe you mean Aperture Science Vital Apparatus Vent.

Re:Minor error (2, Funny)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664188)

But first you have to assume the approved package-delivery submission position!

Not for the home (4, Insightful)

jandrese (485) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664112)

Even if this were practical for large businesses like the old pneumatic tube system in NYC, there is no way it would be practical for someone to dig it out to every home in the area for a handful of deliveries per month at the most. Digging tunnels is expensive and time consuming.

The best you could hope for is to have it dug to the basement of a large apartment complex.

Re:Not for the home (1)

realthing02 (1084767) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664310)

Or from the airport/shipyard to several distribution centers. I don't think this will be coming to my home any time soon, but it would definitely be useful for constant, large freight trips. Much like mail via air being sent to the local post office, before routed to your mailbox.

Re:Not for the home (1)

Turing Machine (144300) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664468)

Some kind of joint venture might be practical, though. If you could get all the various utilities to cooperate (yeah, I know, good luck with that) you could dig one tunnel for water, sewer, electricity, gas, cable, phone, and package delivery. It'd save a fortune over all those entities having to dig their own trenches (or set up their own poles for above-ground service), and repairs and upgrades could be accomplished without having to dig anything up.

Probably never happen, though.

You could maybe make an argument that this would be a public good like roads and bridges, and fund it with tax money (yeah, good luck with that, too :-)

You do see this shared-tunnel setup in some cities for major distribution lines, but I don't know of anywhere that it's done down to the level of individual house (except in the high Arctic in Alaska, where you have to run water lines through heated tunnels).

Re:Not for the home (1)

rhartness (993048) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664526)

I had the same thought and I was planning on posting a response with such a sentiment. Here is another way of looking at it. If ISPs and government organizations find to expensive to run a tiny, glass thread to every home (a fiber-optic cable for the slower ones) for the sake of advancing our current information infrastucture, what in the world makes you think any organization or government would attempt to embark on a system like this? Tunneling is expensive, especially when you consider the "last mile" concept that has stalled the advancement of fiber-optics for homes to this scenario. Such a project would be far more expensive that running fiber optic cable to every home.

Nice thought, but at best it's not practical for anything other than huge governmental or corporate compounds with massive funding.

Vacuum Tube (1)

dj245 (732906) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664124)

This sounds a lot like a retooled vacuum tube system. While these were very popular years ago, they have gone out of style aside from banks and other niche markets because the number of tubes can easilly get out of control, and the infrastructure is costly compared to other solutions.

I know what this is (1, Redundant)

martinw89 (1229324) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664166)

It's not a big truck, it's a series of tubes!

Series of tubes? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22664186)

This proposed network of tubes is tentatively being called the "Internet". Senator Ted Stevens argued against the proposal, claiming that the current system of trucks is ideal.

"They want to deliver vast amounts of cargo over the Internet. And again, the Internet is not something that you just dump something on. It's not a big truck. It's a series of tubes. And if you don't understand, those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your cargo in, it gets in line and it's going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material."

Scott Addams wrote about that a few days ago (1)

evalf (931500) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664262)

A few days ago, Scott Addams was exporing this same idea in a post on the Dilbert Blog [typepad.com] . I suppose he must have been reading TFA.

Like DIA, DOA (4, Interesting)

DieByWire (744043) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664302)

Denver International Airport tried something along that line [wikipedia.org] .

Things went so badly that when they sent camera equipped luggage to trouble shoot the system, they lost their camera equipped baggage. Forever.

United finally abandoned the system a few years ago, though they're still paying for it.

Prohibition (1)

RandoX (828285) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664308)

I wonder how much alcohol was smuggled through those underground tunnels in Chicago during prohibition.

An Idea Whose Time Has, or has almost, Come (1)

TheLazySci-FiAuthor (1089561) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664344)

With all the autonomous abilities of today's robots, and the steady increase thereof, I think it is finally time that something like this is viable.

I was thinking about this same problem recently - that of small-scale, or personal delivery of goods - however I completely overlooked the notion of underground transport. My manner of thinking centered around car-sized blimps hopping from rooftop to rooftop in a large metropolitan area, but this idea quickly became problematic as I realized that weather was a big problem for these floating robots.

um... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22664384)

New meaning for backdoor?

A section of the old Chicago transport tunnels,,, (1)

majorgoodvibes (1228026) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664386)

...running under the Chicago river were weakened by construction crews back in '92. It collapsed and flooded most of the basements in the Loop, the city evacuated most of downtown.

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

I was working across the street from the Art Institute at the time and it was a surreal thing to go down into the street and seeing all of the buildings empty out.

Upgrade Chicago (1)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664392)

Too bad the Chicago tunnel system is long abandoned. I always thought it was cool. It seems like a lot of infrastructure to have in place but never use. I wonder if it can be upgraded to handle this new automated system.

The dream of Alaska Senator Stevens! (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664394)

A huge network of tubes! He probably even has a name for it. internet?

Chicago's system flooded (2, Interesting)

sgauss (639539) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664414)

Apparently a contractor was doing work driving pilings into the river bed near one of the bridges, and in the process they damaged the roof of one of the tunnels where it went under the river. Chicago's system had been largely abandoned, but it still connected into subbasements of buildings all over downtown. It shut down downtown for days. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicago_Flood [wikipedia.org]

Like Flying Cars, it won't happen (1)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664436)

flying Cars won't happen because people are idiots and can barely pilot automobiles. Add another dimension to their travels, and it blows their mental buffer in a big way. It's why we pay pilots large sums of money to get us home in one piece.

The post says:

Translating this concept to the 21st century would be something like introducing email for things: you could order something on the Internet and pick it up through a trapdoor in your cellar the next morning."

Suuuure... Let's dig up the ENTIRE NATIONS SIDEWALKS and install delivery tubes to all the houses. I want to live in a city / suburb / town / village where thousands of people are digging vast pits and ditches that will deliver Consumer Goods from China (tm) to my door. Brilliant. Imagine the noise. As if it's not going to simply fill up with water and become just another sewer. As if the planet has enough energy to build such a pointless network much less constantly propel all these Consumer Goods 24/7.

Fuck, when will people get a clue that the world is better off with fewer but BETTER technologies, than more crappier technologies? and how will we tell you might ask... energy costs will certainly be a defining currency.

RS

Key: standardize on existing container dimensions! (1)

G4from128k (686170) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664448)

Although I can understand picking a modest diameter, this network will only be valuable if it minimizes the handling costs at each end. That implies picking a size that permits efficient multi-modal shipments without repacking the containers. Otherwise the labor for handling the freight would far far exceed any energy cost savings.

The "best" solution might be a 20' or 40' TEU-compatible form factor (e.g. the trailer boxes seen on ocean-going ships). This would require a tunnel with an inside diameter of at least 3.6 m, but would let goods be quickly moved from ship to tube to truck.

Military usage (1)

Chairboy (88841) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664478)

Most large scale transportation technologies/systems have been developed with the military in mind, so an equivalent here would be appropriate.

1. Roads - Built to make cross-country marching faster (The Romans could project force rapidly with their road systems, keeping rebellion in check for centuries)
2. Freeways - Built to be an even FASTER way to get things across country for the military (see the Autobahn, for example, it was one of the most effective force multipliers the germans had)
3. Airplane - The military has funded development of technologies like turbines, rockets, supersonic flight, GPS, and more.
and so on. Same w/ computers, for that matter.

So what's the military usage of this technology? On the surface, moving supplies and ammunition between cities to bolster defense would be an obvious one. Could cargo pods be fitted to move soldiers too? If the air is pumped out of the tubes to reduce friction, tremendous speeds would be possible.

Someone's gonna be in trouble (2, Funny)

Hanners1979 (959741) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664490)

I thought the first rule of Freight Club is that you aren't supposed to talk about it?

*Think* (1)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664496)

Pipelines are just swell for moving liquids.

Tunnels are not so good for moving solid items. There are just too many logistical and physical problems. Every foot of tunnel is a potential point for derailments and jams. Not too bad for a short tunnel, but if you have hundreds of miles, the chances of a jam get quite high. And jams take a lot of time and effort to clear. And think of the logistical problems of shuttling off loads at intermediate places.

The system under Chicago was abandoned, which gives you some idea how impractical it was.

As a sidenote, a few years ago the old Chicago tunnels flooded, flooding many business places that had long ago forgotten their basements had openings to these tunnels.

Would have happened already... (1)

istartedi (132515) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664508)

This would have happened already if it made economic sense. We already have freight networks above ground. For long-haul freight, this system would have to acquire rights-of-way and then build. Since traditional rail freight is actually a money-making system for the rail roads, why would they want to disturb their existing operations? Maybe if they could add carrying capacity without disturbing track, they would do it, but it's a heck of a lot easier to add another car, and if there are too many cars add another locomotive, and if the train is too long add another run, and if your trackage can't support that many runs, add more track; but I haven't heard any stories about freight lines running out of track. If they did, trucks would just pick up the slack.

OK, enough about the long-haul freight. Most people in the US already own passenger vehicles and/or small trucks which they use for short-haul freight of smaller items. If you need something that won't fit in your car or SUV, then a bigger truck can bring it right to your door. The infrastructure, once again, is all in place.

Better yet, you can usually be sure that a truck is not just going to show up unless you ordered something. If some random package gets mis-routed to your basement, then what? What if somebody spams bombs?

Oh. And we're all going to dig up our yards and streets, in a massive undertaking to duplicate an existing system?

No. It's just not going to happen.

Chicago Flood of 1992 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22664514)

If you remember, a puncture from the Chicago river into one of these tunnels caused the "Great Chicago Flood" of 1992...

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

Why did this fail in the past? (2, Interesting)

Simonetta (207550) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664706)

The first thing that one must ask, after ohh-ing and ahh-ing over the fantastic concept, is 'Why did this fail in the past?' Because really great ideas in city planning are never new, and have always been tried before. If it is still around, then it worked. If not, then it was abandoned because it didn't work. Why?

    This mini-tunnel concept was done in Paris about 100 years ago. Small packages were delivered around the city using compressed air in a long series of tubes. It was abandoned by the late 1960s.

    Tunnels have problems. Especially in the middle of cities. The buildings are high and the foundations are deep. The tunnels have to be deeper. And their sides re-enforced.

      How are you going to keep the water out of them?

      What do you do when they become obstructed by cave-in or automated-container collisions?

      Who's going to pay for all this?

      Who's going to pay to fix it in twenty to fifty years when it becomes known that massive amounts of money were stolen during the initial construction phase? (like the 'big dig' in Boston).

      One of the great things about being a student of German history is to watch them meticiously design, craft, and build an elaborate 'solution' and then blow it all up in a fit of Wagnerian madness. Then pick up the pieces, go back into 'DeutscheKraftwerk' (not a real word but a real concept) mentality, and begin the whole process all over again with a new generation purified by fire and the triumph of the will. While the rest of the world just watches and feels sorry for their neighbors.

Booom (1)

Russell2566 (1205416) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664726)

Who would need car bombs when you could just ship one to underneith someone's house or building...

1.6 mt? (1)

VincenzoRomano (881055) | more than 6 years ago | (#22664746)

Whit the whole world using containers [wikipedia.org] that wouldn't be a nice choice.
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