Sometimes I just sit back and wonder at what the designers or manufacturers of common things had to deal with.
Perhaps the shape of a mug handle was a point of contention between several people, or the thickness of your desk was the result of a compromise that came from a grueling 4 hour long meeting, or there is an engineer somewhere that is extremely proud of the weeks they spent designing an office chair wheel that won't suck up a cord, or the designer which worked several weekends in a row to completely redesign the shape of the base of a desk lamp so that the regulatory sticker could be placed on the back and not on the front.
It makes me feel better when I feel like I'm wasting time trying out different button shapes and sizes for a stupid menu somewhere deep in an app that nobody will ever really care about.
(It fit onto one of the openings in the box-like compartment you can see in the left side of the unit http://www.hpaircraft.com/neon/100_2342a.JPG)
I didn't appreciate it then, but I find modern automobiles to be a minor miracle given how many components go into it and the level of detail that goes into designing each one, both individually and so that they all get nicely packaged together.
I think the more important reason is historical, though. The car companies of today were almost all established back in the days when shipping cars internationally was expensive, and operating a factory in a foreign country was difficult. So each major industrialised country wound up with a few manufacturers after a lot of consolidation -- in the US dozens of manufacturers got reduced down to three. Then there's three German, two French, one (major) Italian... Japan is a weird case but it is still consolidating... Only in the last few decades has the car market become really global, and as a result there's ongoing consolidation continuing, eg Fiat-Chrysler and Renault-Nissan.
It's not that much different from laptop computer makers; there's a bunch of them, all with slightly different designs, but they all use CPUs from AMD or Intel, they all use optical drives from 2 or 3 different companies, they all use memory from a few suppliers, they all use LCD screens from a few suppliers, etc.
Another thing to consider is patents: take a brand-new car apart, and compare it to one from 1996. You'll find a lot of stuff really hasn't changed much (now compare the '96 car to a '76 car, and you'll see a lot of gigantic differences). A lot of stuff in the auto industry has become very mature IMO. Obviously there's a lot of new electronics in new cars (things like lane-keeping assist, radar cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, etc.), but many things look exactly the same: suspensions are about the same, brake systems are identical, the moonroof in my '15 isn't really any different from ones in cars from 10-15 years ago, etc. Patents only last 20 years, so a lot of stuff has probably reached a "good enough" level and the patents have all run out, so companies are probably just doing a lot of things the same way because it's been found to be optimal.
Convenience comes at a price, and only after a great deal of thought.
Most newer bathroom designs seem sane to me, since they were designed with ADA compliance in mind. Except for airport bathrooms for some reason, where you have to cram yourself and your luggage into a stall that's the same size as any other stall outside of the airport.
As far as I'm concerned, any public bathroom where the partitions between stalls have any gap at all (especially about 12 inches as they usually are) are not sane. There is no reason for that gap; it's just creepy.
It also lets people check for feet before prying open the door.
It's also for if you have, er, a "wide stance" like former senator Larry Craig.
It also saves 12 inches of material.
They could save lots more material by just not having any partitions at all. Why don't they just do that?
As for checking for feet, airplanes solved that problem decades ago with door latches that indicate "occupied" when they're closed.
I do the same, and probably the one item that I've thought about more often than others is, hilariously, those novelty testicles they sell to attach to your car's trailer hitch. Between design, materials, manufacture, distribution...just how much work goes into truck nuts?
Random things like thanking the person who fitted the alternator belt on the tractor that ploughed the soil the carrots were grown in.
is there product which would take more space and weight more while being extremely cheap as soda drink? i can't think of anything as large and cheap as bottle of soda
That being said, when coding software or accomplishing a purely "tech" task, most of my time is usually spent on the "minor details" so I guess it isn't all that much different.
I, Pencil (from 1958):
Also, drive them from the edge, not the center.
OK not really "why not all?", but I am surprised that i'ver never seen this before.
So without thinking I started to "clean" them. Half way through it came to me there was too much of the stuff to be by accident and there was no marketing reason for it to be light gray.
Couldn't think of what to google at first? Painted wipers? Dusty wipers? Then I tried graphite powder + wipers because it resembled what a ground up pencil might look like. Bingo.
Apparently, it's a lubricant to prevent squeaking, shouldn't be disturbed before being placed on the vehicle. Of course, I had already wiped it almost clean off of one wiper. Felt a bit stupid afterwards.
Good news is wipers don't squeak.
My 2008 Prius? Nope. My sister has a 2007 Honda Odyssey, no auto lights either. How much difficulty is it to add a damn photosensor and a switch?
Basically, instead of just a headlight bulb with hi and low beams, they use a single bulb (probably LED) and a TI micro-mirror array, controlled by a computer-vision (and other sensors) system to control the headlights to do some pretty amazing stuff:
* adaptive high-beams - lighting only the areas that need it
* auto-highlighting road-side obstacles (like animals or pedestrians or cars)
* placing "signage" at the feet of pedestrians to warn them
* highlighting of signs (and only the signs) with high-beams
Imagine the car steering the beams where needed, when needed - brightening things for your attention, dimming areas that are unwanted (oncoming traffic, for instance - to keep from blinding the other drivers), placing other information on the roadway as needed (for you and/or pedestrians), etc.
I think right now it is still a "beta idea" - still being developed. It seems plausible, but it might be something that proves too complex to be practical. The other downside of it (maybe the greatest downside) is that replacing bulbs (not too mention the module!) is probably going to ultra-super expensive.
Of course, most of these luxury cars already have a "service position" of "remove the entire front portion of the car" (or, if doing something interior, "remove the entire dashboard") - which already puts you into the several-hundred dollar repair cost range before anything is done...
That's the key. Whenever I read about all these new features I just think it's one more thing that will inevitably break.
And then when it breaks, it's more expensive to fix. E.g. the alternator on my BMW X5 went out. Fine, shit happens. But when I had it replaced I found out its water cooled. Which simply makes the repair that much more expensive.
It seems that all luxury cars are like that. They're engineered more for the repair business than for anything else.
Your photosensor system probably won't dim the lights for cars driving in front of you, as the red tail lights likely aren't bright enough, and now you're irritating the people you're following.
The intermittent wiper design not only solved that problem, but paved the way for far greater flexibility when it comes to how fast or slow the wipers should wipe. It also did so with a relatively simple circuit (just charge a capacitor to a certain voltage, then use it to power the motor; adjust the charge rate to adjust the wiper rate). Pretty neat in my book.
Actually, the circuit is a variable oscillator controlled by the adjustment of a potentiometer that controls the charging of the capacitor; that RC constant controls the oscillator (similar to a multivibrator), which is configured to dump the charge to activate a transistor that activate the relay which connects the wiper motor to the battery (there's also a switch contact involved that opens when the motor has completed one revolution). A simple circuit details this:
Kearns' patent essentially shows the same kind of system:
I find it interesting that he did design it this way, as production transistors at the time were still fairly "new" on the market, and would have been an expensive component. There are probably ways to design it back then that wouldn't need a transistor - perhaps based on a bi-metallic switch plus resistance for adjusting the time for a heater to heat up (basically, re-using an automobile blinker in some fashion?) - though maybe this was the direction Ford was trying to take, and Kearns was able to use the "new-fangled part" to his advantage?
Oh - in case it hasn't been posted yet - the New Yorker article the movie was based on:
There are many, many ways to solve this problem. I just don't see a rather mundane engineering solution as being genius. (Cars are full of these sorts of solutions.)
Not sure if that is only designers, or includes test people and manufacturing people. The stabilizer flight controls group on the 757 I worked on consisted of maybe 15 engineers and draftsmen. We did the elevator controls and stabilizer trim system. It was a fair amount of machinery, and there was an awful lot that needed to be taken into account. (The stab trim and elevators are flight critical, meaning it's pretty serious business and nobody wants to make a mistake.)
It took about 3 years.
This did not include the "stress" group which double checked the design, nor the testing and manufacturing people.
The disadvantage was that when you floored the pedal to pass a truck, the wipers stopped working, just when you needed them.
Conversely, when you lifted off the throttle, they flapped insanely fast.
And on a sidenote, he also had a difficult time finding a mechanic that could work on the car, as many don't know how to work on an engine that old.
He had a 1963 truck - for longer than he had the car. It was much easier to find a mechanic.
Usually, the only people I see who like ancient cars like that, but who don't actually work on them themselves, are extremely wealthy and have significant private collections. Not just some regular middle-class guy.
Most folks are like that: Some work they can do, other work they pay folks to do, either because of lack of knowledge or lack of equipment. Dad wasn't any different. Some repairs were winter repairs, but he couldn't do it all, especially in his last few years.
Many military Land Rovers (60+ years worth) were 24v, at least the ones built specifically for military usage. The lights relay on mine is both 12 & 24 volt, so interchangeable with the many models of vehicle in service. The windscreen wipers are mechanical though, no relay at all, but they only have two positions; on & off.
Beyond that I'm not sure off the top of my head, but I do know that a 12v conversion is a very common modification to ex-military vehicles like the CUCV.
Doors, tops, windshield wiper motors...kids don't know how easy they have it these days.
edit: and I suspect the reason they're pneumatic is because they already have air-powered accessories, so that's one fewer motor to break down.
I know that most people here are from SV where corrosion, snow and potholes don't exist but come on, this one should be obvious.
Edit: Apparently, high end electric wiper motors use self-resetting circuit breakers to deal with frozen wipers.
Though, given Tesla is still one of the only new auto makers around, it still is imensly hard to compete against the established companies.
(The weather is too nice in this video, though, so you can't really see how much of the windscreen it manages to clean - however you can certainly see that it manages to trace out more of an ellipse than a circle.)
It was coo, but had drawbacks.
We used to have Mercedeses when I was little and I always used to wonder why the inside wiping outline would be round and somewhat M-shaped.
You can kind-of see this in this wonderfully retro polish marketing video: https://youtu.be/XceslAEY2i0?t=69 (watch the lower end of the wiper blade for the outline of the water wiped away).
It's one of the many tesla features i just shake my head about. It sounds cool but there is good reason the other billion cars on the road went with the simple solutions. Water and wipers are cheap. Dont mess with a good thing.
Since the advantage is minimal this overhead makes them generally more annoying than useful.
I was a teenager. Now that I'm an engineer, it's not so funny; it's an interesting design trade-off.
They also tend to leave a mess at any point where you actually need to use the liquid e.g. when you are driving through sand/dirt or mud but then again most people won't drive their CLX through a swamp or a sandstorm.
Who does that? I've never heard of anyone doing that.
Windex $2.72 / L 
That is, Windex is roughly 4x as expensive.
Granted, you could be diluting the Windex, but it's already mostly water, and it doesn't have any freeze-proof guarantees to begin with, which wiper fluid does. I think you folks are doing this odd thing to entertain yourselves...
I idn't like it - it's nice to let the cleaner soak into the windshield before tearing up the squeegee part of the wiper blade.
The W124 was an emblematic and brand-defining car for MB for more than a decade which also introduced this ingenious design, but they will pretend they know European car history by mentioning VW Beetle, Reliant Scimitar and Lancia Stratus.
Have you noticed the rear brakes lights on cars? Absolutely every model of car has a different shape: triangle, concentric circles, polka dot pattern, you name it.
I doubt that anyone is the least bit influenced in their car choice by how cool the brake lights look.
I'd like to think that the car companies avoid making a standardized brake light to put a thorn in the side of after-market parts manufacturers. At least that evil explanation makes economic sense.
In reality, I think that car designers do what they like doing -- making new designs. Even in cases where it makes zero difference to the user. Even in cases where a standardized design would be better for everyone.
 Because of cost, availability (every garage would stock a standard brake light), detection of the standard rear light pattern by collision avoidance systems.
Of course they are, it's part of the car's styling and car manufacturers spend a lot of money on car design. The shape of the tail lights helps dictate the shape of the car's body.
If you think taillights have no effect on styling, imagine a 1960's Mustang tail light on a modern Tesla:
Doesn't seem so farfetched to me. For instance, I particularly like the taillights on the latest Honda Civic. A lot of recent BMWs have nice-looking taillights too. And I can recall, as a kid, thinking the taillights on my mom's 1962 Ford Thunderbird were particularly cool, styled as they were to suggest jet engines (at least, that's what they looked like to me at age 7). Oh, and then there were the sequential turn signals on our 1967 Mercury Cougar...
Anyway, taillights are certainly not the only important stylistic element on the car, but I wouldn't dismiss them completely either.
Have you seen the taillights on Dodge Chargers? http://o.aolcdn.com/dims-global/dims3/GLOB/legacy_thumbnail/...
Or on the Mustangs of that generation?
I don't know if either of those are enough to influence my buying choices, but I know for sure if I was going to get a late-model muscle car, it wouldn't be a Camaro - http://gmauthority.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/2014-...
A couple years ago I drove a car with very distinctive tail lights (the Mercedes CLA AMG: http://images.caricos.com/m/mercedes-benz/2014_mercedes-benz...
I found the tail lights to be the first thing anyone spoke of when talking about the car - in person most people said they loved them, online many people hated them except for the base of customers that loved the car. And no amount of performance data would convince them to drive the car - the tail lights were THE deal breaker.
I've had similar debates over he colour of mud flaps I had on my old Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution (they were red, on a metallic orange car). Again, people online in enthusiast forums felt I was mentally ill and they would never drive such a monstrosity, it was just a personal preference for me. The colour for them was the deal breaker. http://www.zercustoms.com/news/images/Mitsubishi/Lancer-Evol...
Just like some won't drive a green car even if it has amazing stats.
The moral is: Most people don't think like engineers, for better or worse.
In reality its because "Razor Blade Model". Since you can only get the correct lens/housing from the manufacturer, they can charge what they like. Since your insurance is paying, neither you nor the panel-shop give a fuck about the cost. Extremely high margins for the manufacturers. Same goes for bumpers.
 - 996 was the internal model designation for that generation of 911, which was being designed at the same time as the original 986 series Boxster.
as for wipers and windshields, damn people clean your windshield weekly at least. being a motorcyclist I tend to spot certain elements about the cars and people I see on my trips and dirty windshields annoy me and many are dirty on the inside more than outside. that affects your safety and others!
I was planning to watch that tonight on Netflix.
It works great, though you have to reapply every few months when it wears off. And you can't apply it in the rain, so you have to remember ahead of time....
I'm eager to try that, and still curious why the industry didn't push for a one-click solution here.
I have to admit tho, I drive faster during heavy rain on the highways due to the lack of police. I fell like I am unleashing my hidden "Senna" :)
Take a look on YouTube, some fun videos of cars going through mud and it not sticking one bit.