There is a beauty to how some products (and software) are designed.
Think scissors. If we want to cut something fast, we use the forward section of the blades (speed multiplier). Want to cut something fatter or tougher, use the rear end of the blades (effort multiplier); and cut slower, or risk breaking the scissors.
And Mixer grinders. Need to grind coffee beans to a powder? Start with the low speed, and slowly increase. Jump to the highest speed fast, and you could damage the blades or motor.
Cars (MT) and commuter bikes follow a similar rule. More torque for climbing on lower gears, and better speed on higher gears. Try climbing in a high gear, and you’ll stall. Go fast in a lower gear (or drop to a low gear at high speed), and you wear out the gear.
Think Software. I’ve always admired the MS Office suite. Layered, so novices like the teenage us got some basic fun. And as our task complexity deepened, the software opened up to keep pace.
Physical products have manuals. Tech service cos would benefit if they spelt out the expertise/ features they offered. Many of us use online services not knowing half their features; many of which could simplify our work or make things more enjoyable.
Make layers appear as the user gets ready for them.
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?
Little over a decade ago, I had just learnt how to drive a car, and, sorry; I must learn to be specific. I had learnt to drive a car in India. Yes, here, it takes more effort, selfless commitment, definitely more skill, and sheer bravery to even just want to learn to drive a vehicle here, let alone actually drive.
Not even attempting to give you an idea of what it takes, here’s a picture I took on a holiday in Rajasthan a few years ago.
That said, every once in a while, random scenarios would pop up in my head. About what if I was driving and ‘this’ happened, or, how would I react if someone on the street did ‘something like that’. It was probably a natural part of getting accustomed to the newly acquired skill and to getting used to how perspective changes when you are behind the wheel.
I remember one of the ‘possible scenarios’ was about who would be to blame. Say, if a vehicle was driving within the speed limit, and if it were to inadvertently hit someone who decided to dart across the street at the last second. It would give the driver almost no time to react. So could the driver be blamed for the fault of a reckless pedestrian? One who, well knowing the risks, still decided to test their luck? The answer came back a resonating, ‘no‘. The driver could not be blamed. I then reassured myself with the example of trains. Trains travel at specific speeds, and have considerably large stopping distances. So if someone decided to cross the track when a train was close, and got run over, it couldn’t possibly be the engine driver’s fault? Knowing well that crossing tracks is unsafe, and that crossing streets recklessly, equally so.
It all seemed fine. Till yesterday. Yesterday, a speeding train in the state of Bihar in North India, ran over 37 [yes, you read correctly; thirty-seven] pilgrims who were crossing the track at the time. It was tragic. And it was the fault of the pilgrims. But for those who of you who don’t know what followed, angry crowds nearby went on a rampage, setting the train on fire, and attacking and killing one of the engine drivers, leaving the other one in a critical condition. [the news article]
So my theories on ‘who’s to blame’ went out the window. India. A superpower. Among the most promising economies, is still incapable of identifying who’s at fault in something as obvious as this unfortunate incident. It also gives one a glimpse into who we are. Not who we are capable of being, but instead, of who we have stooped to become. Hopefully not for long though. Knowing risks, we’ll still expect the other person to take preventive measures, while we try to kiss a runaway train, while we try to break Border Collies speed records while crossing before speeding cars. Yes, that’s who we have somehow become.
However, and incidentally yesterday itself, there was a story that ended the day on a note of optimism. Bombay’s public bus transport service, the BEST, has been infamous for menacing drivers who break signals, who have run over pedestrians, and damaged vehicles as well. In my family itself, we have two to three horrifying incidents to narrate. Of how BEST’s impatient drivers have damaged our cars just because they were in a blind frenzy to zip through bus stops and go home.
But last night was different. I was driving mom to the market to pick up some groceries. The road I was on, required me to take a right turn to get into the market lane. However, before I could take the turn, there were vehicles coming from the opposite side, and passing my car on my right side. I had to wait with the indicator on, as 5-6 cars whizzed past. A BEST bus was approaching too. While I could have quickly made the turn, knowing them well, I decided to wait for him and the few cars behind him to pass. However, to my complete surprise, he stopped the bus, and signaled for me to take the turn, while cars patiently waited behind him. Still confused, I made the turn, mom still wondering if that had actually happened. Thank you, Mr. BEST driver, for the pleasant surprise.!
Well, we all have it in us to change. We all have it in us to make a positive difference. It all comes down to us deciding to make that choice.
Sure the Tatas have had their share of tough n’ rough times with the Nano, and they buggered up with the advertising as well. That means there was extremely insufficient advertising, and never at the right time. It just struck me, what stopped them from making a kick-ass tv commercial for the monsoon season. Am sure for bikers riding through heavy rains, praying you don’t skid, getting drenched less in rain water and more in dirty water that cars and trucks splash at you would have made for a compelling reason to buy a Nano.!
Why, then, didn’t they think of it before? They really could have made it rain Nanos this season.