Bumper cars are electrically powered and require a complete circuit to operate. In older bumper car setups, each car has a metal pole with a wheel that touches the metal mesh ceiling, while the floor of the ride is also made of metal. Electricity flows from the ceiling through the wheel, down a wire in the pole, through an electric motor and completes its circuit via electric contacts under the car (a wheel or small metal brush) into the floor. The pedal on the floor acts as an on-off switch for controlling speed.
Unlike regular automobiles, bumper cars have front wheels that can turn 360 degrees. Turning slightly left makes them move forward and turn left; turning more sharply causes them to spin around in circles; turning even further to one side makes them go backwards. Bumper cars don’t travel very fast and have large rubber bumpers that absorb impact during collisions.
Bumper cars use overhead wires like those found in electric trains – electricity comes from high up in special poles which connect with metal rails under each car for electrical return. While it’s possible to get shocked if you touch both ceiling and floor at once, dry skin and shoes provide enough insulation against this risk.
Unfortunately, bumper cars only work within their designated arena – they cannot be driven outside of amusement parks or other designated areas.