The Physics of the Speeder Chase in ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’

I make it my job to hunt through all the best trailers and find some cool physics thing to explore. In this case, it’s the trailer for Solo: A Star Wars Story—the Han Solo-led movie, scheduled to come out in May, that takes place some time before Episode IV: A New Hope. Right at the beginning, we see Han driving some type of speeder in a chase scene, taking a super-sharp turn with another speeder in pursuit. Here’s the interesting physics stuff: Notice how it looks like it is sliding around the curve? Why does it do that? Is that how you would actually drive a make-believe speeder?

To answer these questions, we need to think about the nature of forces. Suppose I push on some object at rest such that my push is the only significant force on that object. This could happen with a boat sitting in still water, a hockey puck on ice, or a small spacecraft out in deep space (don’t worry about how that object got into space). What does the object do? A common answer will be to say that the object moves. That’s not wrong, but “move” is not the best answer. With a constant a force, an object increases in speed—that is to say, it accelerates. Acceleration is a measure of the change in velocity of an object, so we could also say that a force changes an object’s velocity. That’s key.

There’s one more really important idea to understand—velocity is a vector. A vector is a quantity in which the direction matters (other vectors are: force, gravitational field, position). If a quantity doesn’t depend on direction, we call that a scalar (like time or mass or electric charge). Since forces change velocity and velocity depends on direction, this means that it takes a force to change the direction of a velocity. Or you could say it takes a force to turn Han Solo’s speeder.

How about a demonstration to show you how this works? Suppose I take a bowling ball and roll it along the floor (everyone should have a bowling ball handy for physics demos). This ball will essentially act like an object moving with a constant velocity since the frictional force is small. I want to make this ball change directions by hitting it with a stick. Which way should I hit it? Watch this.

Just to be clear, let me include this diagram showing the velocity of the ball and the direction of the force.

This sideways tap makes the ball change direction of its motion, but it doesn’t really change how fast it rolls. So really, you can break forces into two components. Forces in the same direction (or opposite) direction as the velocity either make it speed up or slow down. Forces that are perpendicular to the motion (sideways forces) make the object change direction. But you already knew that: When you swing a ball around on a string, it mostly moves at a constant speed but the sideways force from the string causes it to change direction and move in a circle.

Now back to Han Solo’s speeder. I’m not sure exactly how this vehicle drives, but I can make some assumptions (and you can’t stop me). First, it seems likely that those thrusters in the back of the speeder exert some type of force on it. Second, there has to be some significant frictional force pushing in the opposite direction of the speeder’s motion. f not, the thrust from the engines would just make that thing keep speeding up until it got to ludicrous speeds. My last assumption is that the speeder has to use these same rear thrusters for changing direction—unlike an Earth-bound automobile, which uses friction between the tires and the road to make a turn.

How about a breakdown of this slide turn from the trailer? I can’t really do a proper video analysis because of the camera angle, so instead I will just talk about it conceptually. Let me break down the motion into three moments as seen in the diagram below.

At position 1, the speeder is still moving to the left—but Han has turned the speeder so that the thrust can start to push perpendicular to the motion of the vehicle. Next at position 2 the speeder is in the middle of the turn. You can see that the thrust is making it turn. But you can also see that the vehicle thrust is pushing in a way that only changes the direction of the vehicle and not its speed. Finally, at position 3, the turn is complete. Han just needs to turn the speeder so that the thrust is in the same direction as the motion (I assume to counteract the frictional force).

If you don’t like thinking about moving in circles, you have another option. How about this? In position 2 (above) notice that the speeder thrust is to the left and up. The left-pushing part of this thrust is in the opposite direction as the motion of the vehicle, so that it makes it reduce its right-moving speed. The up-pushing part speeds up the vehicle in the upward direction. In the end, this whole maneuver has to do two things: stop the vehicle moving to the right and speed up the vehicle moving upward (in the diagram). That’s why the thrust has to angle the way it does.

Homework: Yes, I do have one question for you to work on. Suppose this speeder is about the size and shape of a terrestrial car. In that case, you can estimate the thrust force needed to move it along at a constant velocity. Now that same force has to make make the car turn—but the turning force depends on the mass of the car (unlike driving forward which only depends on the shape). Use this to estimate the thrust to mass ratio for the speeder. Yes, I think this can be done. You might need to make some rough estimates of vehicle speed and turning radius.

GMC’s Carbon Fiber Sierra, Tesla Rivals, and much more Vehicle News

Me Personally? I’d be a catastrophe without bones. Floopy and floppy, not likely extremely fun to be around. You’dn’t do far better, I imagine. Yes, there’s grounds for skeletons.

Therefore please excuse the automobile industry since it builds its very own bony scaffolding, the infrastructure that will prop up the exciting money-making ventures for the future. We have General Motors and its own new carbon fibre Sierra pickup, which, as transport editor Alex Davies reports, shaves off 350 pounds within the pursuit of better gas economy and hauling energy. We’ve got Porsche and its particular intend to equip 189 dealerships with electric superchargers—Jack Stewart states this will be excellent help for the Mission E. we have a look at Ford’s plan to start testing self-driving vehicles in Miami, and its own quest to produce a whole ecosystem of upkeep and operations structures to guide it.

Plus, we have now know why everybody else and their mother is apparently starting ride-hailing services these days, why Volvo is starting a unique endeavor fund, and why California is letting human-free robocars on its roads. Let’s enable you to get trapped.

Headlines

Tales it’s likely you have missed from WIRED this week

  • Jaguar officially unveils its luxury electric I-Pace. You know, its Tesla killer. Jack gets the details: Zero to 60 in 4.5 moments, a 90-kWh battery pack delivering 240 miles of charge, and indeterminate rates. For the time being.

  • Ride-hailing happens to be far more than Uber and Lyft. Meet with the companies getting into business of shuttling people from A to B: General Motors, Waymo, automotive provider Bosch, also Japanese electronic devices giant Sony. Because there’s no better way to get ready for some sort of in which less individuals own vehicles than studying just how people get around.

  • Four years after GM pooh-poohed Ford’s intends to release an aluminum vehicle, it’s rolling down its very own extra-light hauler, a carbon-fiber loaded Sierra pickup. GM promises it will not dent.

  • Ford will start testing autonomous vehicles in sunny Miami, Florida. It’ll run driverless vehicles on public roads, yes, however it will even experiment with how to get packages and such to clients with no distribution man.

  • The Porsche Mission E gets its own supercharger community. Almost 200 800-volt DC charging stations can include 250 kilometers of zap on automaker’s svelte low rider in just 20 moments.

  • Volvo has made a decision to seize the continuing future of transport by firmly taking larger wagers. This week, it follows Toyota, BMW, GM, Renault, Nissan, and Mitsubishi and launches unique venture fund. The investment’s supervisors will lean on Volvo’s entree to the Chinese market through its parent company, Geely, to woo the latest startups.

  • Contributor Eric Adams jets to South Korea and takes a ride in Hyundai’s Nexo crossover. It’s fun your car is fueled by hydrogen, even cooler that model drives it self, perfecting roundabouts such as for instance a human. (That’s supposed to be a match.)

  • This year’s Formula 1 period begins in about a thirty days, and something’s slightly different right here: the “halo”, a clunky metal-and-carbon-fiber loop. The theory is protect drivers’ noggins from traveling debris, but engineers invested considerable time figuring out how to keep carefully the vehicles good and fast despite it.

  • After several years of planning, California’s Department of automobiles officially OKs the evaluation of self-driving automobiles with out a motorist. The latest rules should kick in in early April. Organizations will still need to monitor their vehicles with remote operators.

Your Trip Inside a Self-Driving Car regarding the Week

Bing self-driving sister business Waymo is mostly about to start out managing a completely driverless taxi service in Phoenix, Arizona, so no better time than the show to produce bit of autonomous propaganda. If you’re not merely one for the lucky beta testers or reporters or investors to acquire a ride in a very self-driving car, love this particular Waymo-made, 360-degree appearance inside a quick journey.

Required Reading

News from elsewhere on the net.

In Rearview

Essential Stories from WIRED’s canon

Arguably the funnest element of building robust infrastructure is beating it. For testing purposes, needless to say. This 2012 feature from Rob Capps takes united states inside Ford’s Tough Testing Center, where the Detroit automaker actually leaves its engineering prowess to the mercy of door-slamming, tire-running, suspension-shaking devices.

Gadget Lab Podcast: Google’s AI-Powered Camera Exposes Photography’s Future