Average Speed vs Average Velocity: Difference and Comparison

Both Average Speed and Average Velocity are two fundamental principles of physics in the chapter on Motion with reference to time and distance. But without basic knowledge about the two, many get confused between the two and sometimes even use them interchangeably.


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If studied properly, one can clearly understand these two phenomena’ differences.

Key Takeaways

  1. Average speed is the total distance covered by an object in a specific time, whereas average velocity is the displacement of an object in a particular time.
  2. Average speed does not include the direction, while average velocity does consider the direction of motion.
  3. Average speed is a scalar quantity, while average velocity is a vector quantity.

Average Speed vs Average Velocity

Average speed is the total distance travelled divided by the total time taken to travel that distance. Average velocity is the displacement (change in position) divided by the time taken to cover that displacement and is a vector quantity that includes both magnitude and direction.

Average Speed vs Average Velocity

The Average Speed of an object can be calculated by dividing the distance it has covered by the time it has taken to cover the latter.

The Average Speed can help determine the average rate a particular body will take to cover a given distance. The SI unit of the latter is m/s or meters per second.

The Average Velocity can be described as the displacement with reference to the initial or primary position of the object divided by the time taken. A Vector quantity determines Average Velocity. The latter has a direction that is the same as that of the direction of the displacement.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonAverage SpeedAverage Velocity
DefinitionThe terminology is used to determine how fast or slow a particular object is traveling.The terminology that is used to define the rate in change of displacement.
DirectionAverage Speed does not have any specific direction.Average Velocity does have a specific direction.
Quantity Scalar Quantity.Vector Quantity.
FormulaDivide the total distance traveled by the total time spent.Total Value of Displacement covered divided by the Total Time Taken.
Circular PathThe Average Speed while traversing in a circular path can never be zero.Average Velocity while traversing in a circular path can be zero.

What is Average Speed?

The average speed of an object can be described as the phenomenon that occurs over a period of time, separated by the interval’s length.

The term “instantaneous speed” is used to define the upper bound of the average speed using the length of the time interval as a metric as the average speed reaches zero. The method for calculating an object’s speed is the distance travelled measured by the time it took to reach that distance.

According to the International System of Units, the unit of speed is m/s or meters per second.

But the most common unit that is used for denoting speed in daily purpose usage is k/h or kilometre per hour, and in the United States and the United Kingdom, it is Miles/hour. The unit knot is commonly used for measuring speed and distance in both the air and the sea.

A speedometer is an instrument that is used to measure and calculate speed. The latter is a scalar quantity. This implies that it has no direction. This phenomenon is used to express how fast or slow a thing is travelling. Speed can never be a negative quantity.

It always is either a positive quantity or zero.

average speed

What is Average Velocity?

The fundamental concept of Velocity in kinematics is the branch of classical mechanics that is used to describe the motion and movements of the bodies.

Velocity is a physical quantity. And the latter is known to have both magnitude and direction. The absolute scale value or magnitude of the velocity of an object is called speed.

The SI of velocity concerning the metric system is m/s or meters per second. The growth rate in the item’s way with respect to the frame of reference is classified as the velocity of the object.

It is a capacity or function of time. The velocity is equal to a definite speed and direction of a particular object.

Velocity can also be defined as a vector quantity. The direction of the latter is comparatively easier to find. The latter’s direction is the same as when compared to the direction in which the object is moving.

The acceleration of the body with regard to the time frame divided by the time it took is the method for calculating the average velocity of an object in a given time interval. Displacement is the terminology used to define the change in position of a particular object.

average velocity

Main Differences Between Average Speed and Average Velocity

  1. The terminology, Average Speed, is used to determine how fast or slow a particular object is travelling, whereas Average Velocity is the terminology that is used to define the rate of change of displacement.
  2. Average Speed has no specific direction, whereas Average Velocity has a specific direction.
  3. Average speed is a scale, whereas average speed is a vector.
  4. Total length, divided by the amount of time required to traverse the distance, is the formulation for evaluating average speed. However, in the case of average speed, the above formulation is a total displacement value split by total time.
  5. In the case of the circular path, the Average Speed while traversing in a circular path can never be zero, whereas the average velocity while traversing in a circular path can be zero.
  1. http://chiuphysics.cgu.edu.tw/yun-ju/CGUWeb/SciEdu/Publication/20080221CASE/YJChiuCASE2008%20FullPaper.pdf
  2. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Lakshmi_Tharun_Ponnam/publication/306193278_Scilab_Textbook_Companion_for_Principles_of_Physics_by_F_J_Bueche/links/57b34eba08ae030fe246cfa0.pdf

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