In 1857, the first commercial passenger elevator reached speeds of 40 feet a minute. More than a century and a half later, an elevator built by Hitachi is expected to reach a maximum speed of 3937 feet per minute, or more than 44 miles per hour.
If completed today, it would be the world's fastest elevator with the ability to travel the 1443 foot elevator shaft, from the 1st to the 95th floor, in just 43 seconds. As it is, Hitachi will have to wait until at least 2016 to show off its innovative lift. The Guangzhou CTF Finance Centre, in China's third-largest city, is under construction and will house the ultra-fast elevator in about two years. Compared to today's completed skyscrapers, the new skyscraper would be the third tallest in the world.
As skyscrapers race to get higher, there's a similar race going on to increase the speed of the elevators that are boosting people to dizzying heights. The current fastest elevator, built by Toshiba, travels more than 37 miles per hour in Taipei 101, Taiwan's tallest building. That speed is expected to be eclipsed by Mitsubishi's 40 mile per hour elevators later this year. Both are expected to be exceeded by Hitachi in 2016.
With a facility specifically designed to test the super-fast elevators, Hitachi was able to develop the technologies that could ultimately break the speed record while keeping the ride comfortable, including innovations that reduce the feeling of ear blockage when air pressure changes as passengers go higher, faster.
But it's not just speed that's increasing, elevators are also getting smarter.