1I10.20 - Physics of Automobiles

Code Number:
1I10.20
Demo Title:
Physics of Automobiles
Condition:
Good
Principle:
The Physics of Automobiles
Area of Study:
Mechanics
Equipment:
Accelerometers, Videodisk of Automobile Crashes, Stop Watches.
Procedure:

Timing of automobiles to arrive at velocities and accelerations.

References:
  • Paul Hewitt, "Figuring Physics", TPT, Vol. 58, #6, Sept. 2020, p. 437.
  • Rod Cross, "Basic Physics of Vehicle Acceleration", TPT, Vol. 56, #6, Sept. 2018, p. 358.
  • Christoph Fahsl and Patrik Vogt, "Determination of the Drag Resistance Coefficients of Different Vehicles", TPT, Vol. 56, #5, May 2018, p. 324.
  • Rod Cross, "The Chappaquiddick Incident", TPT, Vol. 54, #9, Dec. 2016, p. 520.
  • Yasua Ogawara, "How to Drive a Car on a Snowy Slope", TPT, Vol. 54, #8, Nov. 2016, p. 498.
  • Bernard J. Feldman, "American Automobile and Light Truck Statistics Update", TPT, Vol. 52, #3, Mar. 2014, p. 174.
  • Ole Anton Haugland, "Car Stopping Distance on a Tabletop", TPT, Vol. 51, #5, May 2013, p. 268.
  • Alan D. Gleue, Chris Depcik, and Ted Peltier, "Dashboard Videos", TPT, Vol. 50, #8, Nov. 2012, p. 477.
  • Raghuveer Parthasarathy, "Cars and Kinetic Energy - Some Simple Physics with Real - World Relevance", TPT, Vol. 50, #7, Oct. 2012, p. 395.
  • Rod Cross, "Launch of a Vehicle From a Ramp", TPT, Vol. 49, #7, Oct. 2011, p. 410.
  • Clifton Murray, "Wheel Diameter and Speedometer Reading", TPT, Vol. 48, #6, Sept. 2010, p. 416.
  • Frank Lee and Herman Batelaan, "Author's Response", TPT, Vol. 48, #6, Sept. 2010, p. 359.
  • Lester Evans, "More on Nitrogen in Tires", TPT, Vol. 48, #6, Sept. 2010, p. 359.
  • Peter D. Noerdlinger, "Not Worth the Cost", TPT, Vol. 48, #6, Sept. 2010, p. 359.
  • Bryan Leonard, "Nitrogen in Racing Tires", TPT, Vol. 48, #6, Sept. 2010, p. 359.
  • Michele D'Anna and Paolo Lubini, "Chemical Potential", TPT, Vol. 48, #6, Sept. 2010, p. 358.
  • Frank Lee and Herman Batelaan, "The Answer to Rising Gas Prices... Nitrogen?", TPT, Vol. 48, #3, Mar. 2010, p. 160.
  • Solomon Fischer and Paul Gluck, "An Exercise in Vehicle Kinematics and Energetics", TPT, Vol. 47, #3, Mar. 2009, p. 137.
  • Mark A. Ilyes and Whitney Ortman-Link, "A Physics Road Rally", TPT, Vol. 47, #2, Feb. 2009, p. 98.
  • Bernard J. Feldman, "The Hybrid Automobile and the Atkinson Cycle", TPT, Vol. 46, #7, Oct. 2008, p. 420.
  • Paul Hewitt, "Figuring Physics", TPT, Vol. 46, #1, Jan. 2008, p. 50.
  • Klaus Fritsch, "Fun with Automobile Springs", TPT, Vol. 44, #7, Oct. 2006, p. 451.
  • Arthur Eisenkraft, "Raccoons and Bowling Balls", TPT, Vol. 44, #5, May 2006, p. 262.
  • Susan Ramlo, "Jeff and the Raccoon", TPT. Vol. 44, #3, Mar. 2006, p. 160.
  • Carl E. Mungan, "Accelerating Around an Unbanked Curve", TPT, Vol. 44, #2, Feb. 2006, p. 99.
  • Christopher M. Graney, "A Treasure Trove of Physics from a Common Source - Automobile Acceleration Data", TPT, Vol. 43, #8, Nov. 2005, p. 506.
  • Bernard J. Feldman, "Hydrogen Fuel Cell Automobiles", TPT, Vol. 43, #8, Nov. 2005, p. 492.
  • Jonathan Hall and Jerry Magraw, "Modeling Vehicle Rollover", TPT, Vol. 43, #7, Oct. 2005, p. 445.
  • Mark A. Ilyes and James M. Filizzi, "Pizza Boy vs. the Highway Department", TPT, Vol. 43, #7, Oct. 2005, p. 434.
  • Robert Ehrlich, "When Is Momentum Conserved, and What About Car Crashes in Virginia?", TPT, Vol. 43, #7, Oct. 2005, p. 422.
  • Chris M. Graney, "An Alternative Approach to 'Measuring Horsepower and Torque Curves of a Car'", TPT, Vol. 43, #6, Sept. 2005, p. 363.
  • Bernard J. Feldman, "A Physicist's View of the Automobile Engine", TPT, Vol. 42, #9, Dec. 2004, p. 543.
  • Desmond N. Penny, "Rollover of Sport Utility Vehicles", TPT, Vol. 42, #2, Feb. 2004, p. 86.
  • Albert A. Bartlett, "Statistics of Measurements of Automobile Fuel Efficiency", TPT, Vol. 41, #8, Nov. 2003, p. 472.
  • John Ross Buschert, "Measuring Horsepower and Torque Curves of a Car", TPT, Vol. 41, #6, Sept. 2003, p. 355.
  • James H. Andrews, "More Mirror Calculations", TPT, Vol. 41, #4, Apr. 2003, p. 196.
  • Sam Lightner, "Which Mirror?", TPT, Vol. 41, #4, Apr. 2003, p. 196.
  • "Editor's Note:", TPT, Vol. 41, #4, Apr. 2003, p. 196.
  • Richard Summers, "How Is Your Gas Mileage?", TPT, Vol. 41, #3, Mar. 2003, p. 138.
  • Ariel R. Libertun, "Warning! Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear", TPT, Vol. 41, #1, Jan. 2003, p. 20.
  • "Work, Energy, and Kinematic Car Data", TPT, Vol. 40, #9, Dec. 2002, p. 516.
  • Angel Luis Velazquez-Aviles, "Using the Work-Energy Theorem With Car and Driver Website Data", TPT, Vol. 40, #4, Apr. 2002, p. 235.
  • David Wheller, "Website Data", TPT, Vol. 40, #4, Apr. 2002, p. 324.
  • David Larabee, "Car Collisions, Physics, and the State Highway", TPT, Vol. 38, #6, Sept. 2000, p. 334.
  • Ronald Newburg and Alexander Newburg, "Finding the Equation for a Vibrating Car Antenna", TPT, Vol. 38, #1, Jan. 2000, p. 31.
  • Richard L. Hall, "Just-in-Time Braking", TPT, Vol. 37, #9, Dec. 1999, p. 518.
  • C. H. Worner, S. Romero, and A. Romero, "Simple Kinematics and Traffic Flow", TPT, Vol. 37, #6, Sept. 1999, p. 324.
  • Paul Hewitt, "Figuring Physics", TPT, Vol. 37, #5, May 1999, p. 319.
  • Jim Schreve, "Safe Following Distances", TPT, Vol. 36, #6, Sept. 1998, p. 325.
  • Mark P. Silverman, "Flying High, Thinking Low? What Every Aeronaut Needs To Know", TPT, Vol. 36, #5, May 1998, p. 288.
  • John G. King and A. P. French, "Truth in Advertising? - A Automobile Kinematics Problem", TPT, Vol. 36, #5, May 1998, p. 266.
  • Robert W. Lawrence, "Braking in Time", TPT, Vol. 36, #5, May 1998, p. 260.
  • Jim Malone and Dave Holzwarth, "A Real Look at Speeds and Stopping Distance", TPT, Vol. 36, #2, Feb. 1998, p. 95.
  • Jim Malone an Dave Holawarth, "Author's Response", TPT, Vol. 36, #1, Jan. 1998, p. 6.
  • Bernard J. Feldman, "Elementary Physics in a Real Automobile Accident", TPT, Vol. 35, #6, Sept. 1997, p. 335.
  • John E. Carlson, "Fermi Problems on Gasoline Consumption", TPT, Vol. 35, #5, May 1997, p. 308.
  • "Erratum", TPT, Vol. 35, #5, May 1997, p. 261.
  • R.C. Nicklin, "Kinematics of Tailgating", TPT, Vol. 35, #1, Feb. 1997, p. 78.
  • John Mottmann, "The Physics of Air-Bag Sensors", TPT, Vol. 34, #8, Nov. 1996, p. 524.
  • R.B. Knollenberg, "Newton's Second on the Highway", TPT, Vol. 34, #3, Mar. 1996, p. 135.
  • Howard C. Hayden, "The Automotive Ignition System", TPT, Vol. 34, #2, Feb. 1996, p. 90.
  • Derek B. Swinson, "Vehicle Rollover", TPT, Vol. 33, #6, Sept. 1995, p. 360.
  • Paul Chagnon, "Optics for People Stuck in Traffic: License Plates", TPT, Vol. 33, #2, Feb. 1995, p. 112.
  • Edwin F. Meyer III, "Multi-Car Pileups and the Two-Second Rule", TPT, Vol. 32, #8, Nov. 1994, p. 496.
  • Albert A. Bartlett, "Physics from the News: Curve Fitting", TPT, Vol. 32, #5, May 1994, p. 278.
  • H. Richard Crane, "How Antilick Brakes May Save You from a Spin", TPT, Vol. 32, #4, April 1994, p. 246.
  • John Sperry and Even Jones, "How Do Tubeless Tires Support an Auto?", TPT, Vol. 32, #3, Mar. 1994, p. 174.
  • Paul Chagnon, "Optics for People Stuck in Traffic: Stress Patterns", TPT, Vol. 32, #3, Mar. 1994, p. 166.
  • William A. Shurcliff, "What Holds Up the Steel Wheels of an Automobile?", TPT, Vol. 32, #5, May 1994, p. 296.
  • Robert Salow, Jim Thornton, Jr., and Peter Siegel, "Is the Yellow Light Long Enough?", TPT, Vol. 31, #2, Feb. 1993, p. 80.
  • John D. McGervey, "Traffic Light Chaos", TPT, Vol. 31, #5, May. 1993, p. 262.
  • John W. Jewett, Jr., "DMU Physics- The Case of the Disappearing Time Intervals", TPT, Vol. 29, #9, Dec. 1991, p. 563.
  • Ronald G. Newburgh, "Jerk and The Rotating Observer", TPT, Vol. 29, #8, Nov. 1991, p. 484.
  • R. H. Garstand, "How Hot Does Your Car Become?", TPT, Vol. 29, #1, Jan. 1991, p. 58.
  • Jack Irwin and Derek Swinson, "A Demonstration of Car Braking Instabilities", TPT, Vol. 28, #8, Nov. 1990, p. 522. 
  • H. T. Hudson, "Style vs. Optics", TPT, Vol. 28, #5, May 1990, p. 320.
  • T. R. Sandin, "The Jerk", TPT, Vol. 28, #1, Jan. 1990, p. 36.
  • Richard E. Berg, "More On The Third Derivative", TPT, Vol. 28, #3, Mar. 1990, p. 199.
  • Ernie McFarland, "Newton's Third Law at a Traffic Intersection", TPT, Vol. 28, #5, May 1990, p. 315.
  • George B. Franklin, "The Late Apex Turn", TPT, Vol. 28, #2, Feb. 1990, p. 68.
  • Albert A. Bartlett, "Thinking in the Rain", TPT, Vol. 27, #5, May 1989, p. 364.
  • Jack M. Wilson, "More Jerks", TPT, Vol. 27, #1, Jan. 1989, p. 7.
  • Dennis P. Zicko, "Spin-Out Velocity of a Slot Car", TPT, Vol. 26, #7, Oct. 1988, p. 452.
  • David L. D. Green and David T. Hartney, "Newton's Truck: Determining Mass and Finding 'G' by Pushing a Truck Across a Parking Lot", TPT, Vol. 26, #7, Oct. 1988, p. 448.
  • Ronald A. Bryan, Robert Beck Clark, and Pat Sadberry, "Illustrating Newton's Second Law with the Automobile Coast-Down Test", TPT, Vol. 26, #7, Oct. 1988, p. 442.
  • Richard A.D. Hewko, "The Racing Car Turn", TPT, Vol. 26, #7, Oct. 1988, p. 436.
  • Albert A. Bartlett, "Physics and the Measurement of Automobile Performance", TPT, Vol. 26, #7, Oct. 1988, p. 433.
  • Leonard Evans, "The Science of Traffic Safety", TPT, Vol. 26, #7, Oct. 1988, p. 426.
  • Thomas D. Rossing, "The Doppler Effect and Racing Cars", TPT, Vol. 26, #7, Oct. 1988, p. 423.
  • "Editor's Note", TPT, Vol. 26, #7, Oct. 1988, p. 423.
  • Stephen Luzader, "What a Jerk!", TPT, Vol. 26, #7, Oct. 1988, p. 423.
  • Eugene E. Nalence, "Using Automobile Road Test Data", TPT, Vol. 26, #5, May 1988, p. 278.
  • Chris Buethe, "Physics at the Indy 500", TPT, Vol. 26, #5, May 1988, p. 274.
  • Robert A. Morse, "Determining the Effect of Tire Pressure on Rolling Resistance", TPT, Vol. 26, #4, Apr. 1988, p. 225.
  • D. Easton, "The Stoplight Dilemma Revisited", TPT, Vol. 25, #1, Jan. 1987, p. 36.
  • Van E. Nele, "Overturning Extended", TPT, Vol. 24, #9, Dec. 1986, p. 527.
  • H. Richard Crane, "Smart Ignition Systems on Modern Cars", TPT, Vol. 24, #7, Oct. 1986, p. 438.
  • Frank Butcher, "A Case Study of Bad Driving and Good Physics", TPT, Vol. 24, #2, Feb. 1986, p. 95.
  • H. Richard Crane, "The Air Bag: An Exercise in Newton's Laws", TPT, Vol. 23, #9, Dec. 1985, p. 576.
  • H. Richard Crane, "From a Reader: A Puzzle About Rear-View Mirrors", TPT, Vol. 23, #4, Apr. 1985, p. 238.
  • Eric T. Lane, "Excess Speed Estimation", TPT, Vol. 22, #8, Nov. 1984, p. 520.
  • H. Richard Crane, "Your (Not Always) Friendly Traffic Signals", TPT, Vol. 22, #6, Sept. 1984, p. 399.
  • Hannele Merivuori and Jeffrey A. Sands, "Standing Wave Pattern On Automobile Radio Antenna", TPT, Vol. 22, #1, Jan. 1984, p. 33.
  • Thomas T. Liao, "Design and Performance of Electric Vehicles", TPT, Vol. 21, #8, Nov. 1983, p. 500.
  • Robert G. Carson, "Everyday Physics: Auto Test Report", TPT, Vol. 21, #6, Sept. 1983, p. 369.
  • John E. Farr, "Determining The Air Drag on a Car", TPT, Vol. 21, #5, May 1983, p. 320.
  • Roger E. Mills, "Miracle Mileage Versus the Conservation of Energy", TPT, Vol. 21, #1, Jan. 1983, p. 45.
  • Gene Waring, "Winter Mileage", TPT, Vol. 20, #8, Nov. 1982, p. 540.
  • John H. Myers, Jr., "Physics and the 55-mph Controversy", TPT, Vol. 20, #1, Jan. 1982, p. 35.
  • Mario Iona, "Is 'Height' Positive or Negative?", TPT, Vol. 19, #9, Dec. 1981, p. 581.
  • Albert A. Bartlett, "How Energy - Costly is Car Air Conditioning?", TPT, Vol. 19, #5, May 1981, p. 353.
  • Gene Waring, "The Author Replies", TPT, Vol. 19, #5, May 1981, p. 353.
  • Robert Lehrman, David Rothenberg, and Everett Hafner, "Why Do You Feel a Corner More In One Car Than Another?", TPT, Vol. 19, #4, Apr. 1981, p. 258.
  • Herbert E. Steingass, "Keep It Simple", TPT, Vol. 19, #3, Mar. 1981, p. 154.
  • Albert A. Bartlett, "An Author Replies", TPT, Vol. 19, #3, Mar. 1981, p. 154.
  • Albert A. Bartlett, "Automobile Springs and Tire Damage", TPT, Vol. 19, # 2, Feb. 1981, p. 118.
  • J. Fred Watts, "To Stop or Not to Stop - Kinematics and the Yellow Light", TPT, Vol. 19, #2, Feb. 1981, p. 114.
  • Mary L. Brake, "Physics in Accident Investigations", TPT, Vol. 19, #1, Jan. 1981, p. 26.
  • Albert A. Bartlett, "External Manifestations of the Variation of the Free-Fall Acceleration Inside Moving Cars", TPT, Vol. 18, #8, Nov. 1980, p. 596.
  • Gene Waring, "Energy and the Automobile",TPT, Vol. 18, #7, Oct. 1980, p. 494.
  • L J. Logue, "Automobile Stopping Distances", TPT, Vol. 17, #5, May 1979, p. 318.
  • Robert D. Grimm, "A Classroom Demonstration of Automobile Stopping Distances", TPT, Vol. 16, #8, Nov. 1978, p. 559.
  • Glenn Zimmerman, Everett Hafner, "Why Does an Accelerating Car Tilt Upward?", TPT, Vol. 16, #2, Feb. 1978, p. 122.
  • Van E. Neie, "Driving Safety and Straight-Line Kinematics", TPT, Vol. 13, #4, Apr. 1975, p. 236.
  • Fred M. Goldberg, "Friction in a Moving Car", TPT, Vol. 13, #4, Apr. 1975, p. 234.
  • Barton Palatnick, "Kinematics and the Driver", TPT, Vol. 12, #4, Apr. 1974, p. 229.
  • Elizabeth A. Wood, "Physics for Automobile Passengers", TPT, Vol. 11, #4, Apr. 1973, p. 239, also A Potpurri of Physics Teaching Ideas - Optics and Waves, p. 214.
  • D. P. Wick and M. W. Ramsdell, "Modeling the Motion of a Toy Car Traveling on an Arbitrarily Shaped Track", AJP, Vol. 70, #7, July 2002, p. 670.
  • Antonio Alcaraz and Patricio Ramı́rez, "Comment on “Role of the Centrifugal Force in Vehicle Roll,” by Rod Cross [Am. J. Phys. 67 (5), 447–448 (1998)]", AJP, Vol. 70, #5, May 2002, p. 556.
  • Rod Cross, "Role of the Centrifugal Force in Vehicle Roll", AJP, Vol. 67, #5, May 1999, p. 447.
  • Carsten M. Haaland, "Minimum Engine Size for Optimum Automobile Acceleration", AJP, Vol. 60, #5, May 1992, p. 415.
  • George C. Goldenbaum, "Equilibrium Sailing Velocities",  AJP, Vol. 56, #3, Mar. 1988, p. 209.
  • W. D. King, "Fluid Flow and Particle Trajectories Around Simple Bodies: Impaction of Snowflakes on Car Windshields", AJP, Vol. 55, #2, Feb. 1987, p. 149.
  • William S. Wagner, "Automobile Deceleration Force by the Coast-Down Method", AJP, Vol. 54, #11, Nov. 1986, p. 1049.
  • W. G. Unruh, "Erratum: 'Instability in Automobile Breaking' [Am. J. Phys. 52, 903 (1984)]", AJP, Vol. 54, #6, June 1986, p. 571.
  • John Kwasnoski and Richard Murphy, "Determining the Aerodynamic Drag Coefficient of an Automobile", AJP, Vol. 53, #8, Aug. 1985, p. 776.
  • W. G. Unruh, "Instability in Automobile Braking", AJP, Vol. 52, #10, Oct. 1984, p. 903. 
  • James D. Edmonds Jr., "Speed amd Displacement Relations for Tire Skids", AJP, Vol. 48, #3, March 1980, p. 253.
  • Daniel P. Whitmire and Timothy J. Alleman, "Effect of Weight Transfer on a Vehicle's Stopping Distance", AJP, Vol. 47, #1, Jan. 1979, p. 89.
  • Richard C. Smith, "General Physics and the Automobile Tire", AJP, Vol. 46, #8, Aug. 1978, p. 858.
  • Herman Erlichon, "Work and Kinetic Energy for an Automobile Coming to a Stop", AJP, Vol. 45, #8, Aug. 1977, p. 769.
  • Richard A. Bartels, "Braking Distance versus Mass for Automobiles", AJP, Vol. 45, #4, Apr. 1977, p. 398. 
  • Penny L. Ball, Gary D. Doolen, Edward S. Fry, and Marion D. Wedin, "Car-Crash Experiment for the Undergraduate Laboratory", AJP, Vol. 42, #8, Aug. 1974, p. 645.
  • J. Richard Shanebrook, "Power to Overcome Air Resistance at Highway Speed", AJP, Vol. 42, #11, Nov. 1974, p. 1028.
  • Richard C. Smith, "Static vs. Spin Balancing of Automobile Wheels", AJP, Vol. 40, #1, Jan. 1972, p. 199.
  • Robert Otto Rasmussen, Paul R. Donavan, "What Causes Road Noise?", Physics Today, Vol. 62, #12, Dec. 2009, p. 66.
  • Marc Ross, Deena Patel, Tom Wenzel, "Vehicle Design and the Physics of Traffic Safety", Physics Today, Vol. 59, #1, Jan. 2006, p. 49.
  • John R. Pierce, "The Fuel Consumption of Automobiles", Scientific American, Jan. 1975, p. 34.
  • Matthew Jancer, "The Car That Runs on Air", Popular Science, March 2014, p. 68.
  • Pat Murphy, Ellen Macaulay, and the staff of the Exploratorium, "The Car Ride", Exploratopia, p. 160.
  • H. Richard Crane, "How Antilock Brakes May Save You From a Spin", How Thing Work (1983 - 1995), p. 133.
  • H. Richard Crane, "Help For Forgetful Car Owners and Lazy Yo-Yo Throwers", How Thing Work (1983 - 1995), p. 75.
  • H. Richard Crane, "Halogen Lamps", How Thing Work (1983 - 1995), p. 23.






Disclaimer: These demonstrations are provided only for illustrative use by persons affiliated with The University of Iowa and only under the direction of a trained instructor or physicist.  The University of Iowa is not responsible for demonstrations performed by those using their own equipment or who choose to use this reference material for their own purpose.  The demonstrations included here are within the public domain and can be found in materials contained in libraries, bookstores, and through electronic sources.  Performing all or any portion of any of these demonstrations, with or without revisions not depicted here entails inherent risks.  These risks include, without limitation, bodily injury (and possibly death), including risks to health that may be temporary or permanent and that may exacerbate a pre-existing medical condition; and property loss or damage.  Anyone performing any part of these demonstrations, even with revisions, knowingly and voluntarily assumes all risks associated with them.