Don’t Jump Over a Moving Car, But Here’s How To Do It With Physics

Rhett Allain
6 min readFeb 24, 2022
Sketch: Rhett Allain. A person jumping over a moving car.

You just never know when you might have to jump over a car that’s speeding straight towards you. Oh, and maybe that car is a McLaren sports car — you know, it could happen. Even more importantly, this could be part of a TV show called America’s Got Talent: Extreme.

Basically, the show is just like AGT but with extreme stunts. For this extreme event, Aaron Evans jumps over a speeding car (he actually does it three times). Check it out.

OK, now for a small complaint directed at AGT-Extreme. Hello people. I notice that you have MANY different camera angles of this stunt. You even have a drone view from above and an in-car view. That’s just super great. But in the end, all I want is the stationary camera in NORMAL speed showing the whole jump. I know it’s a lot to ask, but I’m only asking this once. Please think of all the physics teachers. Thanks. Oh, that drone shot would be useful too — but I’ve already asked for too much.

Now for an analysis. There are a couple of key physics principles to consider here, but let’s start with a video analysis. There is at least one shot showing the last jump that can be useful. Granted, it’s in slow motion — but it’s all I have. I can use my favorite video analysis program — Tracker Video Analysis (it’s free).

The basic idea of video analysis is to mark the location of an object in each frame of the video. If you know the frame rate, you can get time values. Also, if you know the size of something in the frame you can also get x-y position of that object. In this case, I’m going to use the wheel base of the car (I assume it’s a McLaren Artura — wheelbase of 2.64 meters). Of course, I don’t actually know the frame rate since the mean people at AGT-Extreme slowed it down. Oh well.

Here is a plot of the horizontal position of both Aaron (the jumper) and the car. Note: the time axis is not real (but slow motion).

Rhett Allain

Physics faculty, science blogger of all things geek. Technical Consultant for CBS MacGyver and MythBusters. WIRED blogger.