A bumper car is a car designed to be used in an amusement park ride known as bumper cars, in which numerous cars are set loose on an enclosed track. Theoretically, the goal of bumper cars is to move around the track, with the safety systems of the cars protecting people in the event of a collision, but most riders prefer to spend their time on the ride ramming each other. Bumper cars have been around since the 1920s, and the ride was immensely popular between the 1920s and the 1950s.
Early bumper cars each had their own engine, with the simple car being surrounded by a large rubber bumper to provide protection in the event of a crash. The steering mechanism was simple, and the cars were usually sluggish and hard to manage. The Lusse Auto-Skooter and Dogem were both popular models. Modern bumper cars are electric, deriving their power from grids in the floor or ceiling of the ride, which can be activated and deactivated as needed, although their steering is often just as soggy as their 1920s counterparts.
A bumper car ride usually has a floor which is designed to reduce friction, allowing the cars to slide around easily, and materials like graphite may be sprinkled on the floor to decrease friction even further. Some rides are done on ice, an even slipperier surface. Riders are admitted onto the ride in a big group, the power is activated, and the bumper cars run for a set period of time before the power is turned off again.
Many bumper car rides are designed to be very gentle, so fairly young children can use them without the risk of injury. There are usually some height and weight requirements, however, which are designed to protect people who are too short or too light to be safe on a bumper car. These rides are also not recommended for pregnant women, as there is a risk of a sharp impact which could hurt the developing fetus.
Many amusement parks include bumper cars in their attractions. Amusement parks in fixed locations may have quite elaborate setups, while traveling fairs may have simpler, more stripped down versions of bumper cars for their patrons. As a general rule, these rides are quite safe as long as the maintenance schedule is followed and the operator runs the ride according to the manufacturer's directives. Riders also need to be careful about allowing extremities to protrude from their bumper cars.