When it comes to technology and machinery, the Tower of Terror uses a very impressive system. Disney’s Imagineers used technology that existed in other Disney parks, but perfected them for the purpose of creating a ride that simulated an exaggerated free-fall.

The Tower of Terror uses a pair of large motors (12ft. tall, 7ft. wide, 35ft. long) to move the elevator carts through the 130ft. long elevator shaft. The cart can reach maximum speed in less than 5 seconds. The free-fall experienced in the ride is actually not a free-fall at all. These powerful motors push the carts down even faster than they would travel in a free-fall, in effect, heightening the overall experience. What makes this motor system even more impressive is that it gives Imagineers the ability to change the course of the ride (from ascending to descending and vice-versa) and to reprogram the course of the ride every time there is a new set of riders.

Another interesting aspect of the Tower of Terror is the 5th Dimension floor. While the appearance seems to be rather intricate, the technology behind it is rather simple. The entire room is made of mirrors, thin fabric, and optic lights, generating its ghostly appearance. The cart that moves the riders forward through this floor is, however, a pretty advanced piece of machinery. The same technology used in EPCOT’s Universe of Energy ride was perfected for the Tower of Terror: the Autonomous Guided Vehicles (AGV). The AGVs are self-controlling carts that don’t need a track. They also carry their own battery packs and can charge them as well. These carts are what make the eerie experience of the ride possible. They ferry the riders through a path that would normally be impossible for a traditional track. This technology that has been perfected in the Tower of Terror has made many different rides possible and has allowed for the creation of an extraordinary rider experience.

Check out this animation that walks you through the path of the AGV through the course of the ride: http://www.towerofterror.org/media/agv-animation.

This diagram shows the different parts of the Tower of Terror. When the AGVs enter the elevator shaft they are loaded onto larger carts. This entire mechanism is called the Vertical Vehicle Conveyance (VVC). The VVC is what allows the large motors at the top of the shaft to control the movement of the carts.