Friday, 24 April 2009

The problem with car design and the motor industry is.....

.... that the product they are selling doesn't really fit the intended use.

This post comes from a conversation a colleague and I had on the drive out to see a client.

My basic theory is this: the majority of cars that are sold today, are being sold on a range of features that aren't really compatible with safe and environmentally friendly use on urban roads.

The first part of this was sparked off by my asking 'why don't all cars sold today have a GPS linked to the engine management, so that in urban areas the speedlimits can be automatically enforced?'. This seems to me like a fairly obvious way of reducing the speed of the traffic for the price of a (guessing) £150-250 component.

My colleague pointed out that this would be a very un-popular move and probably terminal for the government that attempted to bring it in.

This prompted the discussion about cars and how they are marketed. Speed and power are very significant factors in this even still. It has been refreshing to see fuel economy finally getting the headline slot in the adverts for some cars, but it is still a minority that are discussing this.

I think the issue goes beyond the marketing however, to the way that as a product cars are designed. It seems to me that cars are being built as though for racing and then sold for use on the roads. Many cars are over-powered for the intended use, designed to deliver top-speeds far in excess of the legal speed limits and matching acceleration. Cars aren't it seems designed to operate as efficiently as possible at 30mph - the speed that most cars (used in cities or urban area) spend most of their lives driving at. To the point where in some of the cars that I've driven they are hard to keep down to the speedlimit and need to be contantly reigned in.

Hence the GPS linked speed limiting. If we continue developing cars as they currently are, designed for speed and acceleration, maybe we should be using some of the readily available technology to ensure that this power is used in an appropriate setting - the motorways, not on the urban roads.

1 comment:

Chris said...

Although I did say that it would be very unpopular for anyone to try and introduce speed limiters, I now see that TFL are testing them out in London over the next 6 months:

Once again I underestimate the ability of the British public to stand aside whilst our civil liberties are stripped from us.