The Physics of Acceleration: A Car Starts from Rest and Accelerates at 5 m/s²


Acceleration is a fundamental concept in physics that describes how an object’s velocity changes over time. When a car starts from rest and accelerates at a rate of 5 m/s², it means that its velocity increases by 5 meters per second every second. In this article, we will explore the physics behind this scenario, discuss the factors that affect acceleration, and provide real-world examples to illustrate the concept.

Understanding Acceleration

Acceleration is defined as the rate of change of velocity with respect to time. It is a vector quantity, meaning it has both magnitude and direction. In the case of a car starting from rest and accelerating at 5 m/s², the magnitude of acceleration is 5 m/s², and the direction is determined by the car’s motion.

Acceleration can be positive or negative, depending on whether the object is speeding up or slowing down. In our example, the car is starting from rest and increasing its velocity, so the acceleration is positive. If the car were to decelerate, or slow down, the acceleration would be negative.

The Relationship between Acceleration, Velocity, and Time

Acceleration is closely related to velocity and time. The relationship between these three variables can be described by the following equation:

v = u + at


  • v is the final velocity
  • u is the initial velocity (in this case, 0 m/s as the car starts from rest)
  • a is the acceleration (5 m/s²)
  • t is the time

This equation allows us to calculate the final velocity of the car at any given time during its acceleration. For example, if we want to find the velocity of the car after 3 seconds, we can substitute the values into the equation:

v = 0 + (5 m/s²)(3 s) = 15 m/s

Therefore, after 3 seconds, the car would be traveling at a velocity of 15 m/s.

Factors Affecting Acceleration

Several factors can affect the acceleration of a car or any other object. These include:

1. Force

Acceleration is directly proportional to the net force acting on an object. According to Newton’s second law of motion, the acceleration of an object is equal to the net force applied to it divided by its mass:

a = F/m


  • a is the acceleration
  • F is the net force
  • m is the mass of the object

In the case of a car, the engine provides the necessary force to accelerate it. The more force the engine can generate, the greater the acceleration.

2. Mass

The mass of an object also affects its acceleration. According to Newton’s second law, the acceleration is inversely proportional to the mass of the object. This means that a car with a smaller mass will accelerate more quickly than a car with a larger mass, given the same force:

a = F/m

For example, if two cars have the same engine force but different masses, the lighter car will experience a greater acceleration.

3. Friction

Friction is a force that opposes motion and can affect the acceleration of a car. When a car accelerates, it experiences both rolling resistance and air resistance, which act in the opposite direction of its motion. These forces reduce the net force acting on the car and, consequently, its acceleration.

Reducing friction can improve a car’s acceleration. This is why high-performance cars often have specialized tires with low rolling resistance and streamlined designs to minimize air resistance.

Real-World Examples

Let’s explore some real-world examples to better understand the concept of a car starting from rest and accelerating at 5 m/s².

Example 1: Drag Racing

Drag racing is a popular motorsport that involves two cars accelerating from a standing start to reach the finish line as quickly as possible. In this sport, acceleration plays a crucial role in determining the winner.

Suppose two drag racers, Car A and Car B, both start from rest and accelerate at a constant rate of 5 m/s². Car A has a mass of 1000 kg, while Car B has a mass of 1500 kg.

Using the equation v = u + at, we can calculate the time it takes for each car to reach a velocity of 100 m/s:

t = (v – u) / a

For Car A:

tA = (100 m/s – 0 m/s) / 5 m/s² = 20 s

For Car B:

tB = (100 m/s – 0 m/s) / 5 m/s² = 20 s

Both cars take the same amount of time to reach a velocity of 100 m/s, despite their different masses. This example illustrates how acceleration can compensate for differences in mass.

Example 2: Traffic Light Start

When a traffic light turns green, drivers need to accelerate their cars from rest to merge into traffic. The acceleration of a car starting from rest can determine how quickly it can reach a safe merging speed.

Suppose two cars, Car X and Car Y, are waiting at a traffic light. Car X has an acceleration of 5 m/s², while Car Y has an acceleration of 3 m/s².

Using the equation v = u + at, we can calculate the time it takes for each car to reach a velocity of 20 m/s:

t = (v – u) / a

For Car X:

tX = (20 m/s – 0 m/s) / 5 m/s² = 4 s

For Car Y:

tY = (20 m/s – 0 m/s) / 3

Ishita Kapoor
Ishita Kapoor
Ishita Kapoor is a tеch bloggеr and UX/UI dеsignеr spеcializing in usеr еxpеriеncе dеsign and usability tеsting. With еxpеrtisе in usеr-cеntric dеsign principlеs, Ishita has contributеd to crafting intuitivе and visually appеaling intеrfacеs.

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