The humble elevator looks set to get its first major makeover since their invention some 160 years ago with a new design that means we can pretty much leave our legs at the door.

German engineering giant ThyssenKrupp has come up with a system that does away with ropes and cables and instead utilizes magnetic levitation technology. Now, while this is indeed the same ‘maglev’ technology associated with some of the world’s fastest trains, ThyssenKrupp’s elevators will obviously travel at a more leisurely speed, ensuring your stomach doesn’t exit through your mouth.

Sideways travel

So what exactly makes the design so special? First, it can travel sideways as well as up and down, making it ideal for building designs such as Google’s under-construction “groundscraper” in London, which, as it’s nickname sort of suggests, is longer than it is tall.

Secondly, multiple capsules can run throughout the building at the same time, offering a subway-like service that should mean vastly reduced waiting times and therefore fewer manic presses of the ‘call’ button.

It’s also designed to do away with that uncomfortable sensation associated with high-speed elevator rides where it feels like your head’s about to cave in on itself, a boon for anyone whose office or apartment is located toward the top of a building.

Under construction

The good news is that this groundbreaking design isn’t just sitting on some dusty drawing board surrounded by excited engineers pointing at it in awe. ThyssenKrupp has been making solid progress with its idea and is set to have a prototype installed inside a 787-feet-high building being constructed right now in the city of Rottweil in south-west Germany.

Related: Japanese firm determined to build an elevator into space

Once initial tests are complete, it plans to open the building and its maglev elevators to the public, probably in 2016.

The company says that with more and more people living and working in ever-expanding cities, it’s important to reevaluate building design and to examine ways of making the most of available space.

Patrick Bass, who leads R&D at ThyssenKrupp’s elevator unit, told the Financial Times its technology could revolutionize high-rise structures resulting in “futuristic buildings that previously could only be dreamed of.”

[Quartz vis Discovery]