Central Japan Railway Company recently offered select members of the public and press a ride on the driverless Lo series maglev train it is developing—riders got to experience land-speed travel at 500kph (312 mph) for a few moments on a 42.8-kilometer Yamanashi maglev test track, between the cities of Uenohara and Fuefuki. The train is to be part of a massive project undertaken by the railroad to carry passengers between Tokyo and Nagoya in just forty minutes—currently it takes a little under two hours.
Maglev trains ride on air of course, held above the track by magnets. Doing so reduces friction making the trains more efficient, and presumably, faster. Such trains need a boost to get moving that fast, and the new train in Japan is no different, it relies on what its makers call L-Zero—a propulsion system that boosts the train from zero to 160kph in a little under a minute. The magnets then take over, pushing the train ever faster until reaching 500kph. Members of the media on the train reported a smooth ride—just a little jostling of the water in a cup during the highest speeds—though there was a noticeable bump when the train slowed, dropping down onto the tracks. They also reported that the noise inside the train when traveling at high speed was similar to riding in a jet airplane—other members of the press watched the demonstration of the train from an on-looker perspective at several points along the track, mostly to gauge how loud it would be. They report that the train is quieter than conventional trains and less obtrusive, presumably because it approaches and passes much more quickly than other trains. Via Japanese railway offers taste of 500kph maglev ride to selected audience.