Research today on roller coaster launch methods is primarily focused on improving the systems already in use. The two systems that show the most promise are hydraulic and pneumatic systems. This is apparent by the record boasting speeds and heights of hydraulic roller coasters, and the mind blowing acceleration achieved by pneumatic systems. A chart located at the end of this document shows the statistics on the tallest and fastest of each kind of roller coaster. The numbers show the superiority of these systems over the others, as well as traditional lift hill coasters, where gravity is the limiting factor for acceleration.
Research on Hydraulic systems is aimed at making them more reliable, trying to avoid the problems with faulty cables that have plagued the Top Thrill Dragster. Additionally increased speed and acceleration are being sought. Improvements in both performance and reliability have taken place, as proven by the success of the Kinga Ka.
Research on human reactions to these extreme rides has become an issue, since they are continually pushing the limits on what humans can endure. Politicians and critics alike have taken shots at the bodily harm that roller coasters using these new launch systems are capable of imposing on people.
It has long been known that speed is not the issue. It’s the change of direction that actually limits the body’s tolerance to force and causes stress to the cardiac system. According to Harold Hudson, chairman of the subtask group that developed new standards for measuring and limiting G force (ASTM F-24), a misunderstanding about the relationship between G force and speed was the major cause of the criticism from the media and various politicians. This onslaught suggested that rider injuries and even death were the direct result of the industry’s reckless need to produce higher and faster rides that bring people to the park.
One major aspect of G forces that’s often misunderstood is that G force is not just
one measurement. Acceleration in three axes is considered in design: vertical (up and
down), lateral (side to side), and fore and aft (ahead and behind). One has to be very
specific about what axis is talked about because requirements for lateral are very different
from vertical requirements for G forces. It’s important that one is focusing on the
magnitude of the G force and also duration as well as the onset—how quickly the G force
is applied to a human and how quickly it’s taken away.