31 Reasons to Thank Your Car

Written by Carly Hallman

Have you ever sat down and really thought about how fast the humble automobile travels? The highway speed limit in the United States is over twice as fast as the fastest human running speed on record. And that’s a cakewalk for your average sedan, which is actually capable of speeds of up to 120 miles per hour! There are some speed demons in the animal kingdom, too, though. The minuscule Anna’s Hummingbird can travel nearly 60 miles per hour. In this infographic, we’ll compare the speeds of human creations and nature’s inspirations to give us 31 reasons to be grateful for our cars.

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31 Reasons to Thank Your Car: The Impressive Speed of the Automobile

You drive to and from work, and maybe you go on vacation with it once or twice a year…but how often do you stop to really appreciate your car? Or, for that matter, the other motorized vehicles in our lives. Big 18-Wheelers haul freight across America, high speed trains can take us from Chicago to Denver on a moment’s notice, and airplanes bridge continents in hours. Once upon a time, all of these feats took days, months, and sometimes years. Let’s compare the speed of different animals and vehicles to appreciate how far we’ve come in the advancement of human transportation!

For each traveler, we’ll assume that they’re traveling at their maximum speed. It’s not the most realistic situation – but it represents an ideal. And for distance, we’ll go literally across America – from Los Angeles, California to New York City, New York. Along the way we’ll learn some fun facts about our travelers, too! Join us on an adventure of appreciation!

Vehicle/Thing Top Speed Length of Time it Would Take to Travel from Los Angeles to New York City Notes/Facts
Average Highway Speed Limit in the U.S. 65 mph 43.1 hours The speed limit in the U.S. varies from state to state but is typically 65 – 70 mph. Though there are parts of Texas where the speed limit is 80 and even 85 mph. Speed limits were prohibited from being over 65 mph until 1995.
Average Sedan 120 mph 23.3 hours Many of your average sedans are electronically limited to only go as fast as 120 mph or so.
Horse 44 mph 63.6 hours The most popular breed of horse in the U.S., the American Quarter Horse, is also one of the fastest. Some individuals have sprinted at speeds of up to 55 mph.
Human (On Foot) 28 mph 100 hours Usain Bolt, of Jamaica, holds the record for the fastest human footspeed on record at 27.78 mph, set during a 100 meter sprint.
Average 18-Wheeler 85 mph 32.9 hours Some 18-Wheelers, like an average sedan, are electronically locked from going too fast. Those that aren’t are often limited by their tires, which begin to fail at around 70 mph. But in this imaginary world, we’ll push an 18-Wheeler to its probable limit.
Penguin (On Foot) 2.4 mph 1,166.6 hours The poor penguin isn’t a very fast waddler. But Emperor Penguins can swim at more than twice their land speed.
F-16 Fighter Jet 1500 mph 1.6 hours This blazing fast fighter jet was developed back in 1974. They will remain in service in the United States until 2025 or later.
Street Motorcycle 110 mph 25.5 hours For this example, we used the Honda Fury VT1300CX.
Commercial Airplane 575 mph 4.3 hours Of course, if we take delays into account, you might have to add 1 – 2 hours onto this.
Ostrich 60 mph 46.7 hours There are special saddles made to ride and race ostriches. Their top speed is similar to the typical cruising speed of a motorcycle, but one has to imagine that they’re a fair bit bumpier.
Greyhound Dog 46 mph 60.9 hours Greyhound dogs are bred for racing, and are the fastest domesticated dogs.
Pug Dog 5 mph 560 hours Pugs are on the opposite spectrum from the Greyhound. Even it’s top speed pales in comparison. But any Pug owner will tell you that while 5 mph doesn’t sound impressive, these little guys accelerate fast!
Bearded Dragon 25 mph 112 hours While fast, these lizards are known for their easygoing nature too.
Average Truck 105 mph 26.7 hours We used the Ford F150 for the average pickup truck.
Hot Air Balloon 245 mph 9.9 hours This record was set by the Virgin Pacific Flyer on its trip from Japan to Northern Canada.
Diesel-Electric Engine Train 116 mph 24.1 hours The fastest commercially operated diesel-electric engine train is the Denver Zephyr, which goes from Chicago to Denver.
Bugatti Veyron Super Sport 268 mph 10.4 hours The current title holder for the fastest production car is the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport. Only 5 of them can reach these speeds – the rest have electronic limiters.
High-Speed Rail Train 194 mph 14.4 hours The fastest commercially operated high speed rail train is the CRH2 in China. It went from Wuhan to Guangzhou North until it ceased operation in 2011.
Racing Bicycle 25 mph 112 hours This is the expected speed for a bicycle racer. The fastest speed on a bicycle of any kind was 82.8 mph, set by Sam Whittingham in a recumbent bicycle.
Audi RS7 190 mph 14.7 hours With 560 horsepower and a 4.0 liter turbocharged V8, the Audi RS7 can go from 0 to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds.
Saturn V Rocket 6164 mph 0.4 hours NASA’s workhorse rocket has pushed humans to the Moon. So a trip from LA to NYC is really nothing special.
African Elephant 25 mph 112 hours You might not imagine that a hulking giant like the African Elephant was capable of such speeds – but indeed, they can outrun most humans!
Anna’s Hummingbird 61 mph 40.1 hours Anna’s Hummingbird has the highest known “length-specific velocity” of any vertebrate.
Domestic Cat 30 mph 93.3 hours If they weren’t sleeping, they could keep pace with your car when you’re driving around town. Instead, they put this energy to use bouncing off of every wall in your house between the hours of 12am and 4am.
Snail .002 mph 1,400,000 hours For your reference, that’s about 160 years.
Speed of Sound 761.2 mph 3.7 hours By definition, this is Mach 1. Now that you have the numbers, you can figure out how many Machs a snail crawls at!
Segway 12.5 mph 224 hours This is the maximum speed of the Segway i-Series. That’s a maximum of 2 horsepower per motor.
A Bullet 720 mph 3.4 hours This is the general speed of the .22 LR bullet, the most common in the world.
Black Mamba Snake 14 mph 200 hours The Black Mamba is the fastest snake in Africa, and one of the fastest in the world. Old legends and myths tell that the Black Mamba can outrun a man or a galloping horse, but scientists don’t believe these to be more than myths.
Tiger Beetle 4.2 mph 666.7 hours Tiger Beetles move so fast for their size that, at their top speed, they actually go temporarily blind.
Coyote 40 mph 70 hours Even when missing a front foot, a hunting coyote can reach up to half this speed.

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