Airbags and the Height of Drivers

Random picture of an old Honda car

Airbags and the Height of Drivers

About a month ago, Honda introduced a new concept airbag for their vehicles. The challenge for them, was protecting drivers from angular collisions. In such cases, the driver’s head seemed to slide off the airbag and cause injury.

The inspiration for them…Baseball mitts (or gloves).

The result. A frontal airbag system that deploys three sub-airbags that secure the head similar to how a baseball is caught.

After you check out the video below, is another challenge I was wondering about.

Here’s something I’ve been wondering about.

When an airbag deploys, there is a rapid inflating of the airbag [more on how that works, here], and a more gradual but simultaneous deflation by way of tiny holes in the airbag. This is to reduce the damage done by the face hitting the inflating airbag.

But even then, airbags can result in everything from a burning sensation and abrasion on the face, to facial burns, chest, cranium and shoulder injuries. Among those most affected, are children and short adults.

Shorter people are closer to the steering wheel, and therefore the airbag.

Which brings me to a question. Since short adults driving are closer to the steering wheel, from where the main airbag deploys, is it possible to vary the inflating pressure based on how front or back the driver’s seat is?

Let me know your thoughts.

If you own, manage or work at a company, and are grappling with a complex challenge or are in need of innovation for growth, get in touch. More here.

And you might find my book, ‘Design the Future’ interesting. It demystifies the mindset of Design Thinking. Ebook’s on Amazon, and paperbacks at leading online bookstores including Amazon & Flipkart.

If you own, manage or work at a company, and are grappling with a complex challenge or are in need of innovation for growth, get in touch. More here.

And you might find my book, ‘Design the Future’ interesting. It demystifies the mindset of Design Thinking. Ebook’s on Amazon, and paperbacks at leading online bookstores including Amazon & Flipkart.

Will Uber Disrupt Itself?

Will Uber Disrupt Itself?

Source: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DNnnJ0BXkAAiJhv.jpg

Most of you must have seen this image (or a version of it) in the last few years. I remember a lot of people sharing it or referring to it with almost a sense of pride and relief. It was almost as if the world had found a way to get the rewards without the work. I also remember using it about 2 years ago during my design thinking workshops. My objective was more about slowing down any wild imagination among participants, about creating business models without firm, underlying foundations.

Oddly, this would be the only section or slide that would find a small amount of resistance and counter-views. Apart from the losses Uber was amassing, there wasn’t much else to disprove it. Its valuation certainly fuzzied plain reasoning for many business folk.

And while the jury’s still out on the success or failure of Uber, I’ve been trying to see if there are any indicators in their drivers’ views.

On a recent Uber ride, the driver was telling me about their reducing margins. How Uber initially started with a very lucrative 15% (share of revenues Uber retained, leaving the rest for the driver partner). And how, with time, that share has increased to 20, 25, and now 28%. I also inquired about why I was often getting surge prices in the afternoons.

The driver explained that they prefer the mornings and evenings because of surge pricing. And since their revenue sharing is lower now, a lot of them go home to rest in the afternoons. A few afternoons ago, the app showed nearly half a dozen cars around me. Yet it took an hour of trying to get a confirmed booking. And the few drivers who cancelled, suspiciously called to ask where I was going, before cancelling. And recently, a few drivers have also asked how much I was being charged for the ride. Something never discussed before.

In an earlier post, I shared a story of another company before Uber, that perhaps did not have a good pulse on its different stakeholders. And how it eventually disappeared from this space in the face of Uber. By these recent signs, seems that if Uber doesn’t disrupt itself, someone soon enough might.

If you own, manage or work at a company, and are grappling with a complex challenge or are in need of innovation for growth, get in touch. More here.

And you might find my book, ‘Design the Future’ interesting. It demystifies the mindset of Design Thinking. Ebook’s on Amazon, and paperbacks at leading online bookstores including Amazon & Flipkart.

The Mortal Risk of Riding Shotgun in an Autonomous Vehicle

The Mortal Risk of Riding Shotgun in an Autonomous Vehicle

Source: link

We live in strange times. And in interesting and amusing times.

A recent article I read, spoke about how most automotive manufacturers are misleading (or are confused themselves), when they claim to offer autonomous driving features in their vehicles.

Their mindset seems hugely flawed, if not shocking. Article here

Don Norman could have a field day ripping this mindset apart.

I have heard numerous stories since when I was a teen. Of people falling off to sleep while driving to or from work in the US. It never made sense to me. However, in the years since, I have seen and personally known fatigue while driving.

I worked in Pune in the manufacturing sector for a year and half. Work largely involved workday trips to relatively far off industrial sectors and every other weekend trips back home, I was mostly driving alone.

Then there were outstation trips, where I would leave early one morning, pick up one or two colleagues, and drive to another city, attend meetings at companies spread across a large industrial sector. The next few days would involve more meetings all day, before either driving back to Pune. Or driving to the next city for an encore. In all, over 33,000 km in under 18 months.

What auto manufacturers apparently offer with autonomous driving, is different versions of driving systems that take care of driving for you. It could be identifying and staying within lanes, measuring vehicular distance and safe braking, and using GPS to drive you to your destination.

You would assume you could completely disconnect and do your thing, as your car takes you places. However, auto manufacturers still expect you to be as alert as if you were driving, in case a sudden manual intervention is needed.

That expectation of theirs is absurd at best.

Humans are either engaged or not. Or as my Statistics professor would often quote the popular idiom, ‘she’s either pregnant or not, there is no somewhat pregnant’.

If you have someone drive a car, you can hope they are awake and alert. And yet there’s no guarantee, proof being the numerous accidents that occur due to distracted driving.

But the moment you are not driving, your brain switches off, or switches to something else. Unless you are a professional rally car navigator, or in the armed forces.

On most long distance drives, be it with friends, family or work colleagues, the person in the passenger seat eventually nods off, and I’m almost certain it is not because of the company.

So, expecting someone not to drive, but have the alertness and rapid response times of someone who is, is asking for a lot!

Of course, the biggest reason for this expectation is not so much the flaws in technology, but rather human behaviour again. Many autonomous vehicle accidents are due to unanticipated human errors – be it pedestrians or other human-driven vehicles.

So the effort should be on improving that unpredictability in erratic human driving, before rolling out technology that could potentially cause fatal harm to customers who come with a very different expectation of the technology than what the manufacturer offers them.

Look at the quality revolution and process improvement. They took industry by storm several decades ago. And their impact on our machines and automated processes is unquestionable. But are we humans more efficient today, or are we far more distracted and poor managers of our time than we were? Phones, entertainment and noise to blame.

Maybe manufacturers are explaining the gaps in tech to customers before the purchase. Maybe even spelling out the risks and precautions to them. But there’s only so much you can change human behaviour in short periods of time.

And finally, it was amusing how this potentially life-threatening flaw got reported.
The article was titled, “..a UX risk!”
Why dilute a crucial message?
It’s a f@€k!^¢ risk to life! Far more than a risk to the customer experience.
Can’t have a bad experience if you’re dead. Why not highlight that?

If you own, manage or work at a company, and are grappling with a complex challenge or are in need of innovation for growth, get in touch. More here.

And you might find my book, ‘Design the Future’ interesting. It demystifies the mindset of Design Thinking. Ebook’s on Amazon, and paperbacks at leading online bookstores including Amazon & Flipkart.

The 106 Ladies at the Auto World Vintage Car Museum

The 106 Ladies at the Auto World Vintage Car Museum

I was in Ahmedabad for a meeting earlier this year. Had to visit the Auto World Vintage Car Museum before getting back. With 106 cars there, it is a car-lover’s heaven. The cars are owned by Mumbai-resident Pranlal bhogilal Patel. A must-visit if you find yourself in the city.

Reached the museum around 1:30 pm on a May afternoon. Was probably about 42°C, and the open place just had roofs over the car halls. Had planned to get at least a picture of each of the 106 cars. Hope I did. The phone screen felt like it was on fire, but thankfully it held.

You might want to keep your laptop or phone a little away from you so you don’t drool all over it.

Click the car picture below to get to them. Enjoy!

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SUV Drivers – Look Out

India has seen an almost meteoric rise in the number of SUVs and compact-SUVs in the last few years. Perhaps the size fits in well with our gradually growing economy, disposable incomes, and egos. Among things that haven’t grown, is our sense of driving and responsible presence on the road.

India’s roads are getting more dangerous. And the higher seated position makes it tougher for SUV drivers to see, especially around the vehicle. Add to this the narrow, blocked or poorly-lit (and therefore unsafe) footpaths/ sidewalks, and you have more and more pedestrians choosing to walk on roads instead.

This is why it becomes even more important for pedestrians walking with small children, to keep them on your side that is away from the traffic. This also means moving them from one side to the other on dividers, when crossing bi-directional traffic. Or carrying them when crossing roads. It is tough enough for drivers of hatchbacks and sedans, thanks to the lack of lane discipline and distracted pedestrians. But it will be more dangerous if pedestrians bank on just the cautiousness of SUV drivers, given their limited proximity view from their high seats. And slightly more so with women drivers.

Sources said the observations will be given to the civic authorities to help them improve roads.

Source: link

The image above shows how you should never cross the road when accompanying children. You should be between the children and oncoming traffic.

Here’s an older post highlighting the risk [link here]

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How Well is Tata Motors Connecting Aspirations?

Earlier this year, Tata Motors announced a new brand identity. ‘Connecting Aspirations’. Sounds good, but how well is the company truly connecting aspirations?

For many years now, I have wondered why Tata Motors isn’t among the top 2 selling passenger cars in India. Despite being, what I believe, is a company and group that represents an image of the ideal Indian citizen. Grounded in values, and always striving for the seemingly unachievable; but never at the cost of people, country or values. I have also been concerned about Tata Motors’ preparedness for the future of passenger transportation.

So, a few months ago, I thought of doing a little research into why the brand in general, and its Indian lineup in particular (excluding the JLR lineup) might be coming short, in the face of competition from Maruti and Hyundai. And then in September, I took my views and recommendations and requested one of the former stalwarts of the Tata Group to share the same with their CEO, Mr. Butschek. Subsequently I sent a copy to Mr. Ratan Tata. Didn’t hear back from anyone at Tata Motors. Below are the key points I highlighted on the file I sent them.

On the upside, I found they had a good range of vehicles to cater to a wide economic strata.

On the flipside, I highlighted 3 broad areas of concern, going deeper on some, and making some recommendations for the future. The 3 concern areas were:

  • Design/ Styling
  • The Nano
  • The Indian buyer/ brand perception

Going a little into the details…

The Design/ Styling:

Apart from a general carry-over of styling from their earliest models onto many, if not most of their recent range, in particular, I found something wrong about the Tigor, a car they have a lot of hopes riding on. Even though the company website puts the car in a category/ sub-category of its own called StyleBacks, the design isn’t intuitive. And the company hasn’t taken much efforts in educating the masses either. So most people put it in the compact sedan segment by default. And that’s exactly what I did too. Which brings me to my first recommendation to them.

The above cars (from top to bottom): Tata Tigor, Maruti Swift Dzire, Ford Aspire, VW Ameo, Honda Amaze, Hyundai Xcent

If you consider the heights and widths of the above popular cars in the compact sedan segment, here’s how they compare.

Numbers in millimeters

My view was that customers who buy sedans are looking for luxury and status, among other aspirations in their car. And one of the key, unexpressed expectations, is a wide and low sedan. The Tigor, however, is exactly the opposite of that. It’s taller than most of its peers, and is narrower too. Could that be a reason it hasn’t become as popular as the company might have wanted it to?

The only other car that probably compares, at least from a thought-process of ‘why’ point of view, is probably the BMW X6, that was first launched sometime in 2008-09. This crossover however, made more logical sense at least, compared to the Tigor. Firstly, it was a merging of the capabilities of an SUV, and the styling of a coupe. While the Tigor tries to do something similar, the concept falls flat when it is done in a category that expects something completely opposite. The X6, compared to peers in its segment (more SUV), is a giant, longer and wider than most SUVs. Which fits in well with what a prospective SUV customer might intuitively want.

Next concern, the Nano:

I have always held that the Nano was, and is a brilliant concept. [also here] Sometimes, the customer is too ignorant to deserve a great product. In India, the Nano is a shining example of that. However, Tata is also been a little vague and limited in marketing it correctly. What I perhaps would have done differently, is dramatically narrowed the target segment, and focused my marketing effort on them. Perhaps college students, or individuals in their first job. This segment is looking for ways to express their individuality. The Nano perhaps could have been that canvas. It would have taken an elaborate but easy-to-use and affordable customization program, but perhaps been worth it.

Finally, the Indian buyer’s perception of the Tata brand:

Well over a decade ago, the Tata lineup was branded by many, as a tourist vehicle brand, despite there being at least one company with a higher share in tourist vehicles. The peculiar Indian customer wants premium and affordable! Even leaps of refinement by the company have been met with disproportionately lower sentiment (and money!) from prospects. Many people continue to paint its new models with the same old brush.

My suggestion was for them to create a new sub-brand, or a new subsidiary, without the Tata name in it. Lexus, Acura, Infiniti, among others pulled it off well. And now, Maruti is trying something similar with the premium Nexa brand.

Tata has futuristic and beautiful cars like the Pixel and Mega Pixel in the lineup. And electric cars in the near future. They should consider introducing it under another brand, to avoid the brand-perception hangover.

Anyway, back to my final suggestions to them. Firstly, instead of being an average, and horribly late entry into mainstream racing, why not be somewhat early in electric racing?

The last suggestion was suggesting a possible alliance with Tesla Motors. Both companies after all, are similar in being grounded in values and having a pro-customer mindset. Interestingly, late last week, there was news of Mahindra and Uber partnering towards having a sizable number of electric vehicles on Uber’s fleet in India. That’s what being proactive is about.

Just a week before that, I recently met someone at a Design Thinking workshop I was conducting. She said she used to work at Tata Motors before. Excited, I mentioned having sent some suggestions their way. While she seemed to share the admiration I had for the company, she laughed and said that when it came to new ideas, they ‘were a wall’. For the company’s sake, I hope they’ve evolved since.

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Design Thinking: An Idea for Tesla’s Supercharging Wait Time Problem

An idea using a Design Thinking mindset, for Tesla’s Supercharging Wait Time Problem

Tesla has really transformed the automobile industry, cracking the existing fuel industry and automotive heavyweight nexus. And this is despite the first versions of electric motor driven vehicles dating back to 1828! That’s when Hungarian Ányos Jedlik invented a type of electric motor and a model car to power it with. The first known electric car, powered by galvanic cells, was built by Scottish inventor Robert Davidson in 1837.

The world, at least a few parts of it, have come a long way since. The total number of electric vehicles in the world, crossed 2 million units a few months ago!

Tesla is arguably the most popular electric car in the world today. And yet, even with the slightly more affordable Model 3, which is a few weeks behind on its delivery dates, these cars are expected to take about 30-40 minutes to charge completely (on 220-volt supercharger charging stations). And while that’s significantly down from the 9.5 odd hours the Model S takes to charge.

The Tesla Roadster: source

While running costs will probably come down significantly, average charging times are still quite high. At least compared to non-busy fueling times in the day at good ol’ petrol bunks. And given our need for everything to work in the shortest time possible. Same need that ready-to-eat packaged meals, fast charging mobile tech and granola bars aim at satisfying.

Tesla’s Supercharging stations: source

Surely designers and engineers at Tesla Motors and at other companies are wondering how reduce recharging times.

To give you a glimpse into the probable Charging Station Problems:

  • Not enough stations
  • Considerable Time-to-charge
  • Large wait area needed for vehicles coming in
    (a concern in countries with limited real estate)

Given the interesting constraints, and that electric cars and their ecosystems continue to be built the way they are, I realized that it needed a fresh look, perhaps with a design thinking mindset, in an attempt to solve it.

I believe one way to dramatically reduce charging times, is to differently design the cars’ battery packs and charging stations themselves. And also the model around which the battery packs fit into the bigger picture.

And here’s what I came up with. It might not be the ideal solution. It might even be ridiculous or too complex to implement. Or it might be a step in the right direction:

Design Changes to Battery Packs:

  • Split into a many smaller interchangeable sub-packs (4 or 8 units, etc.)
  • Since really high speeds won’t be necessary on city roads, a speed-limiter & the onboard computer will help in power management by using sub-packs in sequence, making for easy consumption/replacement
  • Replacement of entire sub-packs with charged ones at charging stations
  • Standard replacement / billing (eg.: ¼ or 1/8 & multiples, etc.)
  • People pay for # of packs they replace with charged packs
  • Anti-theft battery sub-pack locking mechanism built into the car
  • Customers have a seamless experience – interchangeable battery sub-packs – Tesla maintains battery quality, replaces old batteries

And Design Changes to Charging Stations:

  • Cars drive onto a ramp, or stop at a point
  • Underground unit exchanges specified packs
  • Limited real estate, as recharging is quick
  • Spent packs stacked vertically underground & charged for next cars

I could not find an appropriate email id on the Tesla Motors website to send this idea to. And so I tweeted it to Elon Musk.

Here’s a simple overview that I shared via my tweet. What are your thoughts on solving this problem, and on my idea? Can you think of a better one, or improve on this one?

Update [2018]: In Nov. 2017, Honda claimed that by the year 2022, their electric cars will charge in 15 minutes. It obviously sounds impressive. However, a good benchmark for them and other manufacturers, would be mobile phone charging times. Some of those are down to giving 15 hours of juice with 15-20 minutes. That’s the kind of ballpark human patience will expect in years to come. Are auto manufacturers (pun warning!) gearing up for that?

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A Design Question: Turn Indicators on Cars

Image: source

A Design Question: Turn Indicators on Cars

As cars get sleeker, so do its lights. But I’ve noticed that the entire rear light cluster has been shrinking in size on some cars. And in some, the turn indicators are designed or placed in a way that possibly defeats its purpose.

A car’s rear lights cluster includes reversing lights (white), brake warning lights (red) and turn indicator lights (orange or red).

When brakes are applied in a car in front, we notice two things. The red brake lights themselves, and a visual perception of the car slowing down (or increasing in size). Even in the absence of brake lights, we would, albeit not always as fast, realize the car in front of us is slowing down or has stopped, based on visual information processed by our brain. So with the brake lights, that’s two cues for us to slow down.

On the other hand, when a driver plans to turn (especially in developing countries, where there often aren’t demarcated/dedicated lanes for turns (including for u-turns), the only cue we have, is the light. If the driver were to make the turn without using the indicator (which often is the case), there is a higher risk of accidents, especially if the car doesn’t slow down enough before making the turn.

Therefore, could turn lights be more important compared to brake lights, as there are no other cues to alert vehicles behind that a car is going to turn?

So here are some design questions for you.

So should you design turn lights bigger than, equal to, or smaller than brake warning lights? And should they be placed distinctly separate from the red brake lights to make them easier to spot, especially around sunrise and twilight?

Image: source

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A Rural Electric Ride

Hemalatha-Annamalai- Ampere Vehicles

A Rural Electric Ride

While a lot of us are busy in our world of self-indulgence, it’s reassuring to know there are Indians like Ratan Tata, who’d go the distance with regard to businesses that positively impact to one or more segments of the population.

I’m speaking about the Nano in particular here, the world’s cheapest car that was inspired by the concern Mr. Tata had for a number of Indian families that traveled with their spouse and children on two-wheelers, and the risk that posed to their safety.

Now I’ve written a few posts mentioning the Nano, though I don’t think I’ve written enough about that business and engineering marvel.

Anyway, here’s a relatively unheard of company in the field of ‘affordable’ AND ‘electric’ cycles, scooters & load carriers from India.

Hemalatha Annamalai of Coimbatore, the founder of Ampere Vehicles Pvt. Ltd., has been making affordable electric vehicles since 2008. What’s better, is that she has a focus on rural transportation. And it gets better. She is backed by Kris Gopalakrishnan, one of the co-founders of Infosys. And none other than the original king of low-cost vehicles in India, Mr. Ratan Tata himself.

May there be more entrepreneurs like her.

Read more about her and her vehicles here: link

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5-wheel suitcase design suggestion

Suggestion to designers Sung Ha Lim and Hee Kyung Oh for their 5-wheel suitcase design (link)

yanko design - bag design suggestion 2Link to my detailed comment about the design of this 5-wheel suitcase is here: link

Originally posted here: link