A Japanese train just smashed the bullet train speed record, hurtling down the tracks at 603 kilometers per hour. That's roughly 374 miles per hour, or about 6 miles per minute.
Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai)'s maglev train — short for magnetic levitation, meaning a train that moves along by magnets and "hovers" four inches above the train's rail-less path — reached a top speed of 374 mph for 10.8 seconds, beating its own 366 mph record set the week before (which in turn beat the last speed record it set in 2003).
Look at that baby go:
It's still just a prototype for now. Central Japan Railway Co.'s run was conducted on a test course and isn't yet being implemented as commercial transportation. But according to Railway Gazette, the maglev train is being tested as part of plans to run at more than 310 mph between Tokyo and Nagoya, cutting a normally a five-hour trip down to 40 minutes.
The current record-holder for a speedy commercial train connects China's Shanghai International Airport with its financial district at 268 mph. Japan's new railway would outpace the Shanghai maglev by 40 mph. It makes a mockery of American Amtrak's Acela Express, which, according to CNN, tops out at 150 mph, but often goes much slower.
Japan is leading the way in transportation innovation. The same day JR Tokai hit the 366 mph record, All Nippon Airways unveiled its R2-D2-painted Dreamliner, an enormous Star Wars–inspired airplane. (Let's hope the two companies meet and Japan starts seeing giant C-3POs screaming along the Japanese coast.)
China has also entered the race. According to Engadget, a laboratory in Southwest Jiaotong University is planning a small high-speed rail that could reach 1,000 kilometers per hour, or a whopping 621 mph. It could be ready in just three years.
It's clear America needs to catch up. A high-speed rail that reached JR Tokai's top speed could connect New York and Washington, D.C. — a four-hour bus trip — in less than 60 minutes.