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Horizontal, cableless elevators to enter testing in 2016

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German tech company ThyssenKrupp envisions a future where self-propelled elevators can travel both horizontally and vertically along skyscrapers. Using linear motor technology similar to that seen in maglev — magnetic levitation — trains, the MULTI elevator system is billed as the first of its kind to operate without cables.

the first of its kind to operate without cables "As the nature of building constructions evolve, it is also necessary to adapt elevator systems to better suit the requirements of buildings and high volumes of passengers," ThyssenKrupp executive Andreas Schierenbeck said in a statement. MULTI uses one motor to drive horizontal movement and another to allow for vertical motion. The system is made up of multiple cabins traveling in a loop at about 5 meter per second (about 11 mph), allowing passengers access to an elevator cabin every 15 to 30 seconds.

Schierenbeck says that New York City office workers spend a cumulative 16.6 years waiting for elevators and about six years in the elevators themselves. On top of reducing time wastage, the company believes that MULTI can reduce elevator footprint by 50 percent and increase a building's available space by 25 percent. The first MULTI unit is slated for testing in 2016. Although described as a seminal innovation, ThyssenKrupp is not the first to experiment with such ideas. Cable-less lifts have already been patented by American company MagneMotion, while Hitachi is also developing a multi-cabin elevator system.