We live in a time with an incredible number of options when it comes to transportation. Traveling today isn’t just about where you want to go but how you feel like getting there. Most likely, part of your decision making is going to involve looking at how fast each of these different modes of transportation is so you can plan your schedule accordingly.
Aside from when it comes up in your itinerary-making, you may just be curious about how fast certain transportation methods are, from cars to trains to planes. Here are the average speeds of certain transportation options, how to calculate average speed on your own, as well as some fun facts about speed for good measure.
Speed & Distance
Before going through some average speeds, let’s clear up the basics first: When talking about speed, the two main factors are distance and time. This is because speed is how fast an object goes from one point to another. In other words, it’s the amount of distance traveled divided by the time spent traveling.
Famed physicist Galileo Galilei often gets the credit for measuring speed as distance covered over time. It’s just one of many things we can thank the so-called “father of modern physics” for!
What is the Average Speed of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (and Other Vehicles)?
The average speed between vehicles is no small difference. Travel time can vary by hours – even days and weeks – depending on what type of vehicle is getting you from point A to point B. These are the average speeds of some common modes of transportation:
- Commercial passenger aircraft: 547 to 575 miles per hour
- Private jet: 400 to 711 miles per hour
- Europe high-speed rail: 155 to 217 miles per hour
- Shinkansen (Japanese bullet trains): 150 to 200 miles per hour
- Modern cruise ship: 23 to 27 miles per hour
- Bicycle: 10 to 24 miles per hour
- Sailboat: 4.5 to 7 miles per hour
- Walking: 3 miles per hour
Note that when reviewing these numbers, there can still be a good bit of variation depending on weather conditions and vehicle model among other factors.
You’ll also probably notice immediately that cars aren’t listed above. That’s because the average car ranges widely depending on what type of car it is (for example a sports car vs. a big van) as well as whether it’s being driven in a free, open area or somewhere busier like a city with speed limits and traffic.
How Fast is Too Fast?
It depends on your need for speed! But, all joking aside as well as personal preferences for speed, there isn’t an actual maximum speed that the human body can theoretically take. Just imagine how fast pilots of fighter jets travel (it can be over 1,000 miles per hour) and how fast astronauts are going on the International Space Station (about 17,150 miles per hour)! And, of course, if there’s no source of impact at the end.
What actually matters is acceleration, or the rate in which something’s speed changes. This is because our bodies can only handle so much gravitational acceleration, which you may have heard of as “g-force.” The average person can take up to about 5 g or even 6 g before it starts getting deadly.
Interesting Facts About Speed
The fact that it’s acceleration not speed that can actually be really dangerous isn’t the only interesting fact out there. Here are some more trivia tidbits to get you thinking more about speed:
- Earth travels around the sun at about 67,000 miles per hour, and our solar system moves around our galaxy’s center at around 490,000 miles per hour. We don’t feel any of this because it’s a constant motion.
- The fastest animal on land is the cheetah, which can run between 68 and 75 miles per hour. Enough to give a car on the highway a run for it’s money!
- “Mach” is the ratio between the speed of an object and the speed of sound. If you’ve ever heard that a plane is flying at Mach 2, then that means it’s flying at twice the speed of sound in that same medium.
- The speed of light is faster than the speed of sound. Light doesn’t actually need a medium like air or water to travel through like sound does!
- You may hear someone use velocity and speed interchangeably, but they’re not the same. Velocity is speed traveling in a certain direction while speed is just how fast something is moving in general.
How to Calculate the Speed of Something
Want to calculate the average speed of something for yourself? An average speed calculator can help you do exactly that. Using the free average speed calculator on GIGA Calculator, just put in the distance and travel time to get a speed measurement related to the units you gave. Remember that when you’re putting in your travel time to subtract any stops made along the way so you can get an accurate calculation!
You can input distance in miles, kilometers, yards, feet, and meters, and you can put in the time as hours, minutes, and seconds, if applicable. With this flexibility in units, you’re able to easily calculate the speed of a wide range of vehicles.
Whether you’re a frequent traveler or you’re someone who loves learning about the science behind the world around you, it’s interesting to know how much speed can vary depending on your chosen transportation. If you ever want to calculate average speed yourself, all you have to do is use a helpful online average speed calculator.
Cindy is a freelance writer and editor with previous experience in marketing as well as book publishing. Along with her content writing for a diverse portfolio of clients, Cindy’s work has been featured in Time Out, CultureMap, Livability, and more.