Clotaire Rapaille is a French-born American market researcher and author. He advises half of the Fortune 100 companies and several governments on how to influence people’s unconscious decision making and has appeared on TV shows such as 60 Minutes and in newspapers e. g. New York Times. He is the author of The Culture Code and more than ten other books. Dr. Rapaille received a Masters of Political Science, a Masters of Psychology, and a Doctorate of Medical Anthropology from the Universite De Paris - Sorbonne.
Rapaille has wide experience of the car industry – especially the American. Among the brands he has worked with are General Motors, Ford, Jeep, Citroën and Daimler Chrysler (for which he developed the Chrysler PT Cruiser). He now writes at carwinism.com on cars and identity from his American perspective.
Is an electric car that makes no noise and no pollution a real car, like a smoke less cigarette, or a non-alcoholic beer? Are these mutations what people want?
The American car industry is failing. It is now run by unions, politicians, and the government (“Washingtroit”). Can you expect any real creativity from these people?
The problem started when Detroit forgot its mission. Engineers took over and forgot about the American dream. No more marketers, no more anthropologists, the dreamers were replaced by bean counters. GM's culture became The Soviet Union and what was good for GM was not good for America anymore.
Americans wanted strong identity, uniqueness and Reptilian appeal (sexy cars like the Thunderbird, the Corvette, or the Ford Mustang). Detroit started producing generic cars, with no identity and no sex appeal, all built in the same plant, on the same platform. Engineers created Badge engineering, inventing a new product just by changing the Badge on an old one. They said "people just need to go from point A to point B". The magic was gone. The bureaucrats took over; the lawyers with their long and costly procedures and the unions took advantage of the weakness of the management. The result was a desperate run to cut costs that damaged efficiency and quality.
Then the Japanese arrived with better systems and as a result better quality. The Americans lost the Reptilian identity. So if all cars are generic, the Japanese are better generic manufacturers. At the same time, American car companies bought many brands to assimilate them and swallow them without respecting their identity. This is the American melting pot archetype; Jaguar was built at the same plant as Lincoln and became half a Lincoln.
By using the same suppliers, they lost the strong identity of Saab, Volvo, Jaguar and many others. Detroit wanted quantity, not quality. GM had a neurotic fixation on wanting to remain No 1 with the biggest share of the American Market. (The goal was not quality or profit, but quantity. This is the same dumb business plan that the American air transportation industry has been using - losing billions of dollars, for decades.
Remember the three brains? The cortex is numbers - the intellectual alibi. The limbic is emotion - love, identity, (people will call their Mustang "my baby"). Then there is the reptilian brain: power, big, sex, survival and reproduction. See the Cadillac of the 60’s, now that was a reptilian car, proud to be reptilian, with all its symbols: fins, hood ornaments, chrome etc.
The engineers then took over. They asked questions, believed what people said and built boring cars that nobody wanted to buy. So if there are no more reptilian cars available, let's buy a cortex car, a generic car. In this respect, the Japanese prevail. The Japanese did not win the American consumers; the American car companies lost them. Today J. D. Power says that Cadillac and Buick are better quality than Japanese cars! Nobody believes it. Too late!
In the US, a car must have a strong identity and must be a deep unconscious expression of who you are (your identity). People who drive a Hummer vote republican and people who drive a Volvo vote democrat, so there is a strong connection between political position and car ownership. But American car companies did not understand the deep need to preserve their brands' identities. They tried to change their brand codes, and in doing so confused the customers and lost them. Volvo was safety. They should have built on that and not forgotten it.
They forgot the niche market and wanted quantity (volume) and they lost the symbolic added value that they brought with the brand. When you own a Swedish brand you should be proud of the Swedish culture and promote it. If you Americanize it, you destroy it. Land Rover and Jaguar were British, not just an Americanized version of English class.
I have told car brand managers, "Your mission is not to sell cars, but to preserve and perpetuate an element of the culture your brand is coming from. You need to remember your village of origin. Only when you understand what your contribution to the world is, can you have a chance to go global.”
Of course you have to keep reinventing your brand, but you must always be loyal to its code. Some brands are doing it; Mini Cooper, Bentley and Jeep Wrangler. Jeep is the only brand that has seen its sales going up in the US and this is because it never lost its identity. Let's hope that Porsche is not going to become Volkswagen, Jaguar to become Tata, and that Saabs and Volvos will become real Saabs and Volvos again.
Does the American car industry have a future? Never underestimate an American, they just have to go back to basics, re-activate the Reptilian brain, make it simple (they say KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid) and own the dream again. GM has a bureaucratic culture, centralized and run by engineers who don't understand the market and Chrysler is still traumatized by the German invasion (the joke use to be: "How do you pronounce Daimler Chrysler? Chrysler is silent“). Ford might be the one who will survive and thrive if they think Image, Symbolic Added Value and Marketing and send the single minded engineers to retirement. We need to see visionary marketers on the Detroit boards, who just want to make a car that people want to buy. People want size (big) and power. Detroit has to deliver this with enormous improvement in fuel economy. They have the technology to do it. They can do it, but do they have the mind set, the spirit, the dream?
Kåre Rumar gained his Ph.D. in 1969 on a thesis about the human ability to see in the dark while driving. He was assistant professor of psychology at the Technical University of Uppsala, Head of Research, Professor and Deputy Director-General of the Swedish Road and Transport Research Institute (VTI) in Linköping, Traffic Safety Director at The Road Administration in Borlänge. He also guest researched in two years at the Transportation Research Institute, University of Michigan, USA, and has authored over 200 scientific publications, mainly treating vision in night traffic, and kept a
large number of lectures nationally and internationally.
Risk of an accident per driven kilometer in the dark is between two and ten times higher compared with daytime traffic, on average about twice as high but for some accidents as accidents involving pedestrians and single vehicle crashes, it’s about four times higher and for wild animals about ten times higher. Why is it so?
The major reason is the dramatically reduced visibility in night traffic. Human eyes are designed for natural light and works very poorly in the dark. The ability to identify weak contrasts are sharply reduced and the dazzling sensitivity is highly elevated. Car lighting is not good enough to replace the light our eyes are made for – sunlight that is. Until a strong beam gives the distance you want to see only 1 / 100000 of the sun's light. Even a good high beam dazzles oncoming drivers and reduces visibility further. For older drivers, this deterioration of vision in the dark is significantly greater than for younger ones.
Typical sight range to dark obstacles is with good halogen light (halogen lamp gives away three times as much light as the light bulb) about 50 meters for young drivers and about 40 meters for older drivers when meeting another car. In strong beam without meeting, the equivalent sight range over 200 meters for the younger and more than 150 meters for the elderly. Since we need at least 150 meters sight to drive somewhat safe these short sight ranges explain why accident risks in night traffic are much higher than in daytime where the visibility is only limited by the road curvature.
Many have tried to improve vision in the dark with different chemical and optical means but no one has succeeded. That leaves just to improve car lights. When I started studying car light, the light source was the old light bulb. The light was guided by the headlamp lens and the dipped beam’s light image was symmetrical. One could establish that since the car's childhood engine, brakes, steering, suspension etc improved significantly. Compared with this technical development, vision has developed very little. But during the last decade, xenon light (xenon lamp provides nearly three times as much light as halogen) and most recently light-emitting diodes (which draws much less power) has come and already had their breakthrough in more advanced cars. Today, light is optically controlled in high degree of reflectors design instead of with the headlamp. The most advanced lighting today does not just comprise high beam and dipped beam but different light images for different environments and conditions, like highway, road, street, curve, rain, etc.
The next evolutionary step will probably be that lighting becomes really intelligent - the car itself can adjust the light after current specific needs, taking the oncoming car's distance and lighting characteristics, traffic composition, the route and its characteristics, weather and road conditions into account. Not only the headlights will be intelligent, but also the various signal lights (where LEDs have broke through quickly) on the car, so for example, they should adapt to the overall light level and be stronger in the sunlight and weaker in the dark. Brake lights should not only indicate that the driver has the foot on the brake, but also how strong she brakes. Another promising development is electronic sight, e.g. infrared sensors, which can warn the driver for warm obstacles; humans and animals. An old but still hard to beat idea is polarized light, which makes it possible to run on the beam without dazzling.
One problem is that it is so difficult for drivers to assess how well a car’s lighting really is. Studies show that drivers often assess car light after how much light it's just in front of the car which is completely wrong, the lights must be further along the road. In all vehicle tests done in various newspapers, headlamps is unfortunately not tested in a serious manner. The exception is Swedish car magazine Vi Bilägare, which present a number of key characteristics of the headlights. (I have been involved in developing that test).
Against this background, it is strange that car buyers almost never get an opinion on the quality of a car’s lights, for example by making test runs in the dark.
Audi night test – limited number of places
In September, Audi Sweden will start to offer test driving of the latest models under conditions where light security is in focus. In addition to good lighting, there is a range of technical solutions that help drivers in the dark. As the instrument lighting that automatically adjusts the brightness so there is no dazzle, automatic de-dazzling when two opposite cars meet, headlamps following the road in curves for example. The first darkness test driving will take place during week 39 in Smista (Southern Stockholm) when Audi opens up its most modern car plant in Sweden. The opening night driving has a limited number of places and applications are made by e-mailing email@example.com.
Today Audi celebrates its 100th birthday. This is something which we in this year of automotive industry crisis has counted down to - and acknowledged by paying tribute to the car's technological evolution here on Carwinism.
I would like to thank all the enthusiasts and experts who have helped this far to describe the development of the car, from many intriguing and interesting perspectives.
All the posts on Carwinism find a common theme in innovation as a vital component in the survival of the car. The innovation factor have determined to which extent the car has kept pace with the surrounding world, and surrounding events have at the same time pushed the development of new innovations forward. While the automotive industry is undergoing its biggest transformation as yet, it is my belief that this relationship will continue to determine the survival and success of the industry.
Continue to follow Carwinism and please contribute with your own thoughts and opinions about the car's technological evolution.
But above all, have a pleasant summer!
Managing Director of Audi Sweden
On the official Audi anniversary site, you can follow the whole celebration online. German Chancellor Angela Merkel take part in the celebrations and a new model, Audi A5 Sportback, is launched. Among other things.
Olle Hagman is Ph.D. in social anthropology at the University of Gothenburg and Engineer from Chalmers. Few have looked so deeply into the relationship between the car, man and society. On carwinism.com he describes how the car has evolved from a practical machine to an organism that help keep our dreams alive.
In the debate concerning Koenigsegg’s financial ability to develop SAAB, the dream perspective has been lost on the way. For, in my opinion, it does hold great value that the manufacturer of the world's fastest car, designed by a Swedish entrepreneur who since childhood has dreamed of making cars, over night has managed to turn around the perception of SAAB. From being a supplier of American nightmares to Swedish dreams.
When it became possible to get around, without having to use your own (or the horse’s) muscle power, the car was freedom embodied. In the over hundred years leading up to the first T-Ford leaving the assembly line, the inspiration for how a car should look came from horse-drawn carriages and locomotives. However, as the car evolved, the machine-like ideals faded, and the car started its metamorphosis towards becoming an organism. The design has come to involve rounder and more closed shapes. Although this long-term development is clear, it has not always followed a straight line. The machine-ideal has always made its comeback in times of technological optimism. Car design have also always taken elements from other technical products and by so doing, surfed on their success.
With more affordable an airline tickets, anyone can now travel the world, meaning that the true freedom of the car measured in range has dwindled. In the matter of hours you can be in New York or Paris, while the corresponding time in the car will get you a much shorter distance.
Having said that, it may seem a bit contradictory that the car as a symbol of freedom is greater today than ever. The explanation is that, as with almost all technologies, you are always buying the dream-potential. (This may explain why older people who never actually use their car still have it parked outside the house.)
At the end of the 1800’s the car would look like a machine with moving parts and the details clearly visible. Today, all the approximately 1500 parts that make up a modern car, is more of a closed unit. Something more organic.
It is often claimed that the car has gone from being a toy for the rich to a rational and trivial tool for every man. There is great reason to remain skeptical to this. David Gartman is one of the world's top researchers in how the car has evolved in relation to society. He argues that the car has become more and more symbolic. He divides the evolution of car into three distinct eras: class distinction, mass identity and subcultural difference.
During the era of class distinction, the car was one of the most apparent markers for class. This era was in itself quite long and its end point was marked by the flying machine inspired creations with panoramic windows and fins, many of them signed by GM's Harley Earl. During the early post-war period, every economic curve pointed upwards. Everyone could be rich and class as we hade known it, be dissolved. Confidence in technology was high, not least within rocket propulsion and nuclear possibilities. This sense in western society of everything being possible was reflected in the cars. Probably this may be one explanation as to why cars from this era still hold such a nostalgic attraction today. If there is only something that definitely was better before, it sure was the future.
The technology-optimism continued in the 60’s, which was the decade that marked the start of the mass identity era. Now there were other types of machinery design that cars referenced, as household appliances and transistor devices. The wave of solidarity and the pursuit of common objectives resulted in that your car of choice had a lot less to do with class and more to do with highlighting your values. The key word used in the car commercials of the 50’s and 60’s was comfort. And the car was a family matter – literally. It is no coincidence that car commercials at that time depicted happy nuclear families and a dog. Not exactly the serpentine road focus of today, although driving pleasure started to become a sales argument at this time.
"Caravanes et camping" (caravans and camping), Geneva poster from 1969. Togetherness and family are in focus.
If the 60’s were about breaking conventions, the society of the 70’s was progressive but calculating and rational at the same time. The belief in the rational human being was great and graphs and tables made their entrance into car advertising. Car design followed the same trend. Cars would start looking a bit more dull and boring in order to strengthen the buyer in her belief of making a sound and rational choice. At the same time, the individualization of society began taking off. It was reflected, for example, in an increasingly frequent use of driving pleasure in advertising. It was now the driver's – remember not the family’s – own personal and individual pleasure that was stressed. The common objective of the masses of shooting for a higher standard of living was abandoned. However, in the 70’s it was a type of controlled individualization where one could choose from a number of given paths. It was not okay to stand out in anyway.
The individualism of the 80’s was quite different from that of the previous decade. Now, the willingness to pay top dollar to stand out suddenly became very high. One should shout out one’s identity and how successful you were as an individual. It was at this time that Swedish union leader Stig Malm gave Porsche 911 the label stock exchange-scooter.
DKW Meister Klasse 1952 and Audi 5000 Turbo on advertising poster from 1980 (click on image to enlarge). From rounded features for the masses to the lean power for the individual.
Today, our personal identity and the means to express it is all about subcultural difference. Meaning that our consumption of a certain product is not a very exact predictor of who we are. It is possible for example to be millionaire and drive a small compact car, as well as it is possible to have a lower income and own an expensive car. Still, the car is very much an expression of our dreams and symbol for who we want to be or look like. And it is really the potential of the car we buy, not how many of its features we actually use. Not too many go driving their SUV in the bush, but that you can. And with today's high-powered cars we could all go crazy driving. Luckily, most just dream it and leave it to the professionals.
To sum up, the car has been on a journey from a machine, to a dream machine, and an organism. In a society characterized by a never before seen variation between different lifestyles, the availability of different types of cars becomes the equivalent of the natural variation of the flora and fauna. The car as symbol of freedom today corresponds more organically to the various individual lifestyles and values that society holds. In that respect, the prospects of SAABs to continue being those symbols of freedom, is brighter now that the brand has freed itself from the headaches of Detroit and instead of being associated with mass production is associated with something narrow and exclusive. And importantly, a Swedish saga of success.
Henrik Otto - chief designer of whiteware manufacturer Electrolux - reflects over the close relationship between whiteware and car design. Henrik is a former design director at Volvo where he notably produced the models S40 and V50.
Few product categories have been so important to industrial design, and paved the way for developments in other product areas, as the car. One of Electrolux’s early major designer names was the father of industrial design, Raymond Loewy, whom in addition to drawing Stud Baker, Lucky Strike and Coca Cola logos also made the Electrolux refrigerator L300 in the 40’s. His colleague, Sixten Sason – father of the original Saab, also designed a range of products for Electrolux during the 30’s. As recently as a month ago, an American car manufacturer’s design department asked if they could use one of our products as an inspiration. And it's mutual. The reality of consumers drives all product development within Electrolux, even design. However, we draw inspiration from many worlds, and cars have a special place for most industrial designers. Therefore we always send people to the major car conventions.
The refrigerators during the 1940s and 50’s became plump, cultured chrome details and their looks correlated with the car designs at the time. Note the similarities of the handles.
Let me give two modern examples of cross-fertilization between cars and white goods where design has made the products easier to use.
Classic dashboard controls have emigrated to the steering wheel, wherefrom the stereo and phone are now managed. Similarly, the vacuum cleaner's control has moved from the device itself to the handle. In that way, the user doesn’t have to stoop.
For long, ovens had at least one knob for each plate, and two for the oven. Now, they become fewer, and on some models, there is only one left. Just as the navigation wheel found in the center console on the Audi. (Which in turn probably is inspired by the iPod.)
Navigation wheel from an Audi and Inspiro wheel from Electrolux.
The automotive industry has always been one step ahead of other product types in terms of asserting brand values. The automotive industry was the first to recognize that distinctive design and individualization created both brand identity and sales. Cars are visible everywhere. They cannot be avoided. The design can make prints in a different way than other products, which is a clear benefit. An unconventional form like that of Toyota Prius can be drummed in, to become familiar and popular. The verdict of the consumer comes faster and is more absolute for a product that she sees first time in a store. Nanosecond fast!
The more fuel efficiency and streamlining has been deposited in car design, the more has bodyworks from different brands come to resemble each other. This, together with the hard competition, has driven the individualization of other elements. In particular,the car's face has become more marked, with headlights and grills that have grown by a number of sizes in the matter of just ten years. At Electrolux, we work just as car manufacturers, with "long distance recognition", i. e. that even from afar it must be clear who the sender of the product is.
For a vacuum cleaner in a supermarket environment, it is important that the brand can be identified by the shape. As for a car, the basic shape is clearly limited by functionality. For vacuum cleaners, the frameworks are limited by the engine, the space to collect waste, and the extension cord. An element, of many, that we worked with here is the wheels. Not too long ago, vacuum cleaners had their wheels hidden. They have now grown and become important form elements. On UltraOne, at least I see clear features of car rims.
Dr Anders Sandberg at Oxford University and Research Director at think tank Eudoxa, shares how new technology in the near future will make the car become a smart robot. One that goes on autopilot and communicates with other cars, the personal calendar and Department of Transportation. And we are almost there. Not so long ago, Stockholm motorists installed a transponder on the windshield as a preparation for the experiment with congestion charging.
That modern cars are becoming more digital is nothing new, but the trend has far-reaching consequences which will mean that cars go from being tools to become robots. Here are seven possible effects of the technologies that are under development:
For the roadtrip, the wedding day or just to get away, one will be able to let the car select destination. The car knows what the driver and the passengers like, how they feel and what the occasion is. It also knows where you have been and not been. (A friend and his wife do this type of random trips each wedding day - though in a more analog approach.)
Paying for green light
Smart cars can communicate with the traffic system and negotiate the green light. (The technology is already in place for emergency vehicles and buses). Motorists who want to progress more quickly can pay a small sum and traffic light will prioritize them a little higher. Good source of revenue for the Road Administration and a reason to go after the busy business men's cars.
The same way that both water and land animals group for the task of protection and cooperate when hunting for food, smart cars can form not just columns (ie traffic jams), but self-organized flocks. During long trips on the highway one could have temporary neighbors. Children connect computer games against neighboring car's rear seat and chats. Romances between drivers may also arise across lane lines.
Road villas becomes the prank of 21th century
Just as human intellect, artificial intelligence can be fooled if it is fed with false impressions. With small effort it will be possible to fool smart cars so that they behave strangely. Strategically placed objects, with surfaces that reflect the car's radar, can get cars to become overly cautious, a particular route may attract cars that end up in seemingly inexplicable lanes.
The car can access the calendar in your computer and by itself find the most efficient order to visit different sites in. While the owner is asleep the car will evaluate itself and the calendar to decide whether a pharmacy visit or meeting with the colleague should be made first, and it closes the case by contacting the colleague’s calendar to propose a schedule change.
Depending on settings and that the car learns the driver's personality based on driving, a car can customize its personality to a high degree. Careful cars that avoid the risk of accidents, green cars carefully saving on emissions (and perhaps, if the owner wants it, subtly penalize non-environmentally conscious cars in progress by activating pane flushing just when you meet the environmentally unfriendly car), cars that try to avoid breaking traffic rules - or cars touching the limits (and other cars programmed to squeal if they observe something weird). Because a car's personality says a lot about the owner, and vice versa. Something insurance companies have taken on.
The collective car conscious
When a car's software learn something, it transmits the information to the vehicle manufacturer’s server, which can pass on knowledge to other cars. Not only new drivers updating the hardware in the car, but it is also conceivable that information, about how a car prevented or did not prevent a certain sort of accident, can get other cars to be safer.
There is no reason to believe that people are the best drivers. We are slow, has a wandering attention, can not interpret the signals from the car’s all sensors and, sometimes, we become stressed. In short, we are not primarily created to drive. That suggests that automation can be significantly better than people in more and more areas.
After the automatic gearbox, cruise control was probably the first step towards the robot-car. Adaptive cruise control is coming now, which makes the car detect cars in front of them with laser or radar, and slows down or accelerates in order to keep a suitable distance. Sensors can also warn or prepare the car for a crash.
The next step is communication between cars so they can jointly plan their behavior. One area studied is "platooning", where cars on motorways automatically coordinate their acceleration and form chains to save fuel and reduce noise. But to get these benefits, cars need to run close together, which requires precision and rapid response, as people hardly cope.
Networking cars can also act as mobile sensors - report road conditions, warn of obstacles and to alert rescue services if accidents happen.
In certain moments, such as parking, most people are probably willing to let the car steer itself. But it is likely that cars will be able to govern themselves in more and more areas.
The dream of the driverless car has lasted for a long time, but so far been held back by the difficulty to understand the car's nearest environment, navigation, control the car by self and to plan movements. Today, sensors and GPS are cheap and good enough to solve the first two problems, and digitization of car mechanics has made control manageable. What remains is the motion planning, a classic robotics problem where much research is ongoing.
Perhaps the strongest argument for driverless vehicles, are the results of the DARPA Grand Challenge, a competition for driverless vehicles sponsored in 2004, 2005 and 2007. 2004, no participant passed the goal line at all. 2005 all the cars, except one, beat last year's record, and five of the 23 vehicles passed the more difficult 212 km off-road route, which included tunnels and sharp turns. In 2007 the race was moved to an urban environment, where vehicles navigate a 96 km long stretch in which they were forced to follow traffic rules and deal with other traffic. The winner, Carnegie Mellon University’s “Tartan Racing” survived the journey in 4 hours and 10 minutes. Maybe not such a high speed, but the pace of the vehicles are impressive. Given that the U.S. military will continue to be very interested in finance and use autonomous vehicles, it is likely that we will see more efficient vehicles in the near future. Applications on civil cars are likely, especially as the EU and other players show more interest.
What is really important for the popularization of smart cars will be safety, how practical they are and the matter of responsibility. As with other technologies, the price of the intelligence will decrease and become negligible over time.
Whenever any form of safety equipment will be cheap enough, usually it also becomes mandatory. This means that it is perfectly conceivable that intelligent automation is not just an option but a standard.
The interface between man and machine is important. It is not enough that a car is smart, one must be able to spend time with it too.
The really difficult question is how much we will trust smart cars. People need a sense of having control of the situation. That is why many more are afraid to fly (no control) than to go by car (more control). Networking cars may well be seen as a threat to privacy - but who knows, maybe they also allow "social running" which instead encourages use. For example, the car proposes the trip objective, since it knows that other people with same interests as the driver is going just there.
The proliferation of autonomous vehicles can also be stopped by legislative difficulties, for example when questions of liability in case of an accident can not be resolved. Today we have little experience in dealing with autonomous machines responsibility, and even "normal" accidents could be due to automation. Although the system is safer than human drivers, big lawsuits could cost a lot of time, money and trust - the group of people rescued by the system is invisible and unaware of it, while those suspected to have been harmed by it are visible. Here it is important to have the ability to demonstrate increases in general safety, as it is likely that many states will protect their industry from litigation if it can demonstrate that autonomy provides security (and perhaps environmental) benefits.
All technology development takes time. We both over- and underestimate how quickly certain techniques can pass through. British analysts have made cautious predictions of various smart road infrastructures by year 2055 here.
I think they really underestimated how quickly our traffic will be robotized.
Dr. Anders Sandberg
James Martin research fellow Future of Humanity Institute, James Martin 21st Century School, Oxford University, and director of scientific research on think tank Eudoxa.
The kinship between early 19th-century cars and boats was not only evident in the heavy use of wooden materials; the car was also controlled using a sailboat-type tiller.
Visually, the evolution of the steering wheel has been about diameter and dimension. At first, the steering wheel was quite a substantial object to hold with a steady grip. Eventually though, the diameter of the wheel would be reduced and its dimension grow. The variation between steering wheels also became greater as the differentiation car models accelerated. The sportier the car, the smaller the wheel. When the airbag broke through in the 70's the wheel center grew considerably to be able to house the airbag module.
The first function to be added to the steering wheel and that had nothing to do with handling was the signal horn. Today, controls for the sound system, cruise control and phone are commonly found on the steering wheel. The inspiration from the racing world has also resulted in some cars to grow pads, which replace gear stick.
Steering wheels from DKW 1000 of 1962 and Audi A3 of 2009.
If conventional halogen lamps were replaced with LED lights, it would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 90,000 tonnes in Sweden. As well as the major environmental savings, the new LED lights also use less energy, which saves money, they adapt better to the surrounding light and weather conditions and also offer a solution to the eternal headlight problem when meeting other cars on the road. This is according to Harry Frank, a professor and member of The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and Arne Hörvallius, Technical Manager at Audi Sweden.
LED (Light Emitting Diode) technology was invented as far back as the middle of the 1920s and is currently used for everything from traffic lights, head torches and Nintendo Wii’s hand controls. The car industry has already been using LED lights for quite some time, primarily for indicator lights on the dashboard; in recent years they have also been used for red and yellow rear lights. However, it has been more difficult to produce a white light, which is why it has been banned for use as a headlamp.
If LED lights are used instead of conventional car lights, power consumption can be reduced by up to 90 percent for the same intensity of light. This means that while dipped headlights using standard halogen lights use 0.8 percent of the car's fuel consumption, LED lights only use 0.1 percent. A simple numerical example illustrates the impact LED lights would have on the environment.
In 2007 there were around 4.3 million cars registered in Sweden. Only a small proportion of these currently have LED lights, so they will not be included in this calculation. If you look solely at petrol and diesel cars, 9,000,000,000 litres of petrol and diesel were used in the transport sector in 2007. Private cars make up most of this figure. If you then look at carbon dioxide emissions, private cars emitted around 13,000,000 tonnes in 2007.
This simplified model therefore shows that headlights in Swedish cars currently account for 0.8 percent of the 13 million tonnes of carbon dioxide that are emitted every year.
This means that halogen lamps are responsible for around 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year. Seeing as switching off lights is not an option, we need to have a kind of lighting that is more fuel-efficient. If all cars on the road only used LED lights, and we used the same calculation, headlights would account for 10,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. This would therefore represent a reduction of 90,000 tonnes.
”I also think that LED lamps present a major advantage as we now move over to having more electric cars. As LED lamps need a very low amount of electric energy, cars can be driven longer,” says Harry Frank, professor and member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
Financial and safety benefits
A study that was recently carried out by Carwinism.se shows that Swedish car drivers put the environment at the top of the list when answering the question: ”What kind of technical innovations do you think we need to invest in most to save the car industry?”. 56 percent answered the environment, 31 percent finance and 9 percent safety.
However, when answering the question, ”Which of the following do you prioritise when buying a car?”, both finance and safety came before the environment. 64 percent of respondents thought finance was the most important factor when buying a car, 56 percent chose safety and only 23 percent thought of the environment first. In other words, LED technology needs to provide both financial and safety incentives to have a broad impact.
Based on figures from 2007, 13,000 km is the average distance driven in petrol-powered cars every year. This figure was 30,000 km for diesel-powered cars (source: the Swedish Institute for Transport and Communication Analysis). Using a petrol and diesel price of SEK 12 per litre and an average consumption of 0.87 litres for every 10 kilometres, this means that the average car driver pays around SEK 15,000 for petrol and diesel every year. Transferring to LED headlights would lead to a reduced fuel cost of SEK 0.5 billion every year for Sweden’s car drivers.
As for safety, LED lights make it possible to manage the flow of light based on the colour of the road, the weather and the traffic situation. Changing between dipped and full headlights would take place automatically using LED technology, and would therefore remove the irritating headlight problem when meeting another car on the road.
In 2007 the Audi car company was granted exemption from the ban of using full LED lighting when it launched its R8 model. On 11 July 2008 this ban was fully lifted, opening the doors for all car manufacturers to gradually replace halogen technology with LED.
(CO2 emissions from all registered cars in your country per year x 0,008) - (CO2 emissions from all registered cars in your country per year x 0,001) = CO2 emission saving due to shift from halogen to LED in your country
American cars will emit 30 percent less carbon dioxide by 2016. On this theme, Harry Frank from the Energy Committee of The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has made some calculations on the forecasts for the future of the combustion engine and the electric engine.
There is only limited access to bio raw materials, which means that it has to be used in the best way possible. I have therefore had some fun calculating how effective it would be to use a square metre of land for energy cultivation.
My calculations show that two decilitres of ethanol can be extracted from a surface equivalent of one square metre of wheat-cultivated land in Sweden. This ethanol can then be used to run a private car with a combustion engine for two kilometres a year.
A solar panel cell on a similar surface, using current technology, will give 100 kilowatt hours of direct electricity in Sweden per year. A private car with an electric engine could then be driven for 400 kilometres per year.
New research findings show that one solar cell can increase efficiency by as much as three times compared with current solutions per square metre. This would mean that an electric car would have a driving range of as much as 1,200 kilometres per year for every square metre of solar cells.
This result not only shows how much better it is to ‘cultivate’ electricity directly, but also how much more efficient an electric engine is than a combustion engine. The efficiency of an electric engine in an electric car is around 90%, compared with a petrol or ethanol-powered combustion engine that has an efficiency of around 20-25%. A diesel-powered combustion engine has an efficiency of around 30%. Electric engines are therefore much more effective than combustion engines.
Written by Harry Frank
Energy Committee of The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
Private cars in Sweden emit around 12 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, i.e. 60% of road traffic emissions.
Light lorries in Sweden emit around 3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, i.e. 15% of road traffic emissions.
Heavy lorries in Sweden emit around 5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, i.e. 25% of road traffic emissions.
Private cars and light lorries will have an electric engine in the future and together, these account for 75% of road traffic emissions. Transport by heavy vehicles will be taken over by rail transport.
The figures are taken from the Vehicle 2008 report from the Swedish Institute for Transport and Communication Analysis Fig 3.1
Mankind went from being bent over to being upright. Car windscreens have made the same evolutionary journey, but in reverse. In the first generation of cars, windscreens were completely upright and their only function was to protect drivers from weather and the wind. However, the more developed cars became, the more windscreens started to slope.
The aircraft industry inspired early car manufacturers to start working with streamlining, and a 90-degree angle between the bonnet and the windscreen did not fit in with this. The more the engineers optimised the bodywork, the more cars of different makes started to look like each other and marketers were worried that this would reduce sales. So instead of the engineers deciding the shape, the designers were given the responsibility, resulting in cars becoming less drop-shaped and more distinctive.
It was not until the 1980s that designers and engineers started working together seriously. After the oil crises, fuel use was put into focus and a hunt for reduced air resistance got underway. Windscreens started to slope even more and nowadays the angle between the bonnet and the windscreen is more obtuse than ever.