Automotive Technology and How to Make it Interesting

kennith

Well-known member
Apr 22, 2004
10,891
169
North Carolina
The 2020 Defender thread and my perpetual search for a new car got me thinking. What's missing? Why isn't this new stuff exciting and fun, instead of something to gripe about?

I started considering Mercedes a bit after years of being disappointed with their offerings, and I think they've figured it out.

Their new SUV leans into corners. Think about that for a second. You've got all the air suspension and computers in the world, and it took someone this long to turn a drive into a theme park. If you're going to have this stuff on the car, let the engineers have fun with it. I'm really looking forward to trying one of those. It also bounces, and you all know damned well that would never get old.


Hey, Land Rover: This is what you should be letting people do with air suspension! It's a toy, so let drivers play with the thing. I know that's for sand (and it's probably the single best sand feature I've ever seen in my fucking life), but barring motion sickness, I'd be forever doing that in parking lots and at stop lights. I can't wait to see if Clarkson and crew get hold of that thing.

The same goes with their ambient lighting. It's not infinite, but you do get 64 colors, and it's full of little tricks. Fuck it. Go full RGB.

If the car is full of computers and screens, and they all control various features that in the past were just mechanical parts that you forgot about... Let the owner play around with them. Let it be fun.

Now, the only question is, can that Renntech suspension module get the AMG wagon doing that... I've already sent them an e-mail. (y)

Cheers,

Kennith
 

kennith

Well-known member
Apr 22, 2004
10,891
169
North Carolina
That bouncing is hilarious. No German engineer developed that with a straight face.

I've watched it several times now, and I've laughed my ass off each time. I wonder how long it took that team to perfect their pitch...

Hell, I wonder if Mercedes even knows what they've sold. :ROFLMAO:

I'll tell you what they've done, though: They've captured my imagination and certainly my attention.

Cheers,

Kennith
 

kennith

Well-known member
Apr 22, 2004
10,891
169
North Carolina
The configurable gauge cluster in that Mercedes got me thinking about something else.

If I have to endure an LCD gauge cluster, give owners a template to create their own skins. Snoopy or Star Wars, you ought to be able to make anything you want. It's wasted potential not to allow that, and not rocket science to implement.

The screen may be annoying to have, but at least you could customize it to suit your tastes or eyes.

Cheers,

Kennith
 

ERover82

Well-known member
Nov 26, 2011
3,578
254
Darien Gap
I’m excited by the stuff that’s hard to market. Suspension tech, material science, systems engineering (reliability), etc.

The D2 ACE system was interesting. I’d like to see suspension more reactive to terrain. Adjust individual heights to keep vehicle more level, or when a large obstacle approaches.
 

discostew

Well-known member
Sep 14, 2010
6,221
417
Northern Illinois
The configurable gauge cluster in that Mercedes got me thinking about something else.

If I have to endure an LCD gauge cluster, give owners a template to create their own skins. Snoopy or Star Wars, you ought to be able to make anything you want. It's wasted potential not to allow that, and not rocket science to implement.

The screen may be annoying to have, but at least you could customize it to suit your tastes or eyes.

Cheers,

Kennith
Endure a thin film transistor screen? I think people are afraid of technology. Lots of people want a distributor in a rover cause it makes sense and they "think" they can fix it if it fails. The thing I have noticed about technology changes and new products is pretty telling. Systems I don't know much about are systems that never break. I've never had to figure them out. After 40 years of this shit I've had to be on the front end of stuff when it starts to be a problem. Went thru hell figuring out whats going on, but once you figure it out it's just a bunch of repeated shit. day in, day out. If a system really works, nobody knows much about it.
So people are most afraid of the very best technology.
 
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kennith

Well-known member
Apr 22, 2004
10,891
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North Carolina
Endure a thin film transistor screen? I think people are afraid of technology. Lots of people want a distributor in a rover cause it makes sense and they "think" they can fix it if it fails. The thing I have noticed about technology changes and new products is pretty telling. Systems I don't know much about are systems that never break. I've never had to figure them out. After 40 years of this shit I've had to be on the front end of stuff when it starts to be a problem. Went thru hell figuring out whats going on, but once you figure it out it's just a bunch of repeated shit. day in, day out. If a system really works, nobody knows much about it.
So people are most afraid of the very best technology.

I just don't like staring at them in a car, or being charged extra for something I don't want that's typically cheap, and costs far less to fit and integrate than analog gauges. The new Mercedes stuff is the first time I've seen them look like they actually belong in an interior. Kudos to them for using two smaller panels to create that large display.

Honestly, I don't know how it works aesthetically, because they did exactly what I normally hate: They stuck a tablet on the dash. I've been cursing Mazda for that recently, and somehow Mercedes figured it out. We're nearing Star Trek levels of interface hardware simplicity, here.

If they want to impress me with that, and actually get me to happily pay extra, they'll need to standardize a few more things, use better hardware, and increase serviceability for the end user. It's just a display and a template, so give easy, sandbox access to people; keeping the original software in tow for flashing if something goes wrong.

One hand is still behind the back, here. Hell, it's almost an extra step not to allow it.

Computers are extremely reliable; even boringly reliable if they've been made properly. Display technology is, as well; but there are limits with miniaturization. When you push the comfort zone too far for a given display generation, you pay with longevity. The same goes with not working alongside the right entities building the computer itself or the software.

There's a 39 year old computer ten feet from me, and it's running right now. It's still as good as new. I deal with aged electronics daily as a hobby, and it can be done properly, I assure you. I could buy an off the shelf laptop today, however, and many would break very quickly. There are right ways and wrong ways to build and design this stuff, and when it's going in something that will be operational for at least a decade, you need to do a better job on the electronics.

That's a critical part of the vehicle in modern life. Any screen you see in a car has to compete with your iPhone and at least my Acer X34.

Automotive manufacturers are dangerously close to missing that point entirely. They spend a lot of effort going for style at the expense of service; proprietary parts they don't intend to produce any longer than they have to, and that nobody else ends up cranking out when they stop.

Don't use computers just because they're mandated or a new trend, like you're doing now. Use computers because computers are BETTER.

The difference in those philosophies is the difference between me griping about being stuck with yuppie shit and me being excited to play with the dash of my new car. It's the difference between "How do I fix this?" and "Let me grab another screen right quick.", or tolerating a gauge cluster vs making your own.

It would allow you to keep your car relevant longer, and prevent... The obsolescence of interface aesthetics? Fuck. That's a new thing.

That's why I like relatively primitive dot matrix displays so damned much; they never go out of style, they can respond extremely quickly, they're highly reliable, and they're easy to read. VFDs can be done well, too; but it's more expensive to do that nowadays than it was in the past, as they aren't used as often.

I welcome computers in cars, but not just any computer. Moreover, there are limits. Reliability can be a curse if nobody knows how to repair something because it generally doesn't break, and there's only so much you can do without spares. There has to be more thought put into what should be computerized and what shouldn't. Going back to the Star Trek analogy, the biggest legitimate flaws in the Enterprise design are those damned doors.

I don't care how many computers are in there, so long as the car will work without them. If it won't, you've designed the vehicle poorly.

Nearly every vehicle manufacturer designs vehicles poorly, and they know they do. Again on the reliability front, I don't like a disposable society. I want to keep a car for a long time, and I want that stuff to work down the line, or at least be replaceable within reason for a consumer.

Cheers,

Kennith
 

kennith

Well-known member
Apr 22, 2004
10,891
169
North Carolina
I’m excited by the stuff that’s hard to market. Suspension tech, material science, systems engineering (reliability), etc.

The D2 ACE system was interesting. I’d like to see suspension more reactive to terrain. Adjust individual heights to keep vehicle more level, or when a large obstacle approaches.

Imagine what happens if Mercedes puts that Air Body Control or whatever on the G.

Better yet, imagine what happens when Land Rover figures out how to do it and combines it with their fancy off-pavement programming...

We're at the point now that this stuff can predict what it needs to do; it's just a matter of connecting the dots. Air suspension is too good to leave alone. It will happen eventually, and when it does, hopefully the actual air systems will be a little more solid. We're getting there.

It's done on larger vehicles at higher cost every day. It'll get better on the consumer end over time. Now that the computers are on board, manufactures are stretching their legs a little.

Cheers,

Kennith
 

discostew

Well-known member
Sep 14, 2010
6,221
417
Northern Illinois
I’m excited by the stuff that’s hard to market. Suspension tech, material science, systems engineering (reliability), etc.

The D2 ACE system was interesting. I’d like to see suspension more reactive to terrain. Adjust individual heights to keep vehicle more level, or when a large obstacle approaches.
They still run an improved version of ACE on anything supercharged. Adaptive dampening is pretty cool. The early Evoque has metal suspended in the struts oil. When the suspension ecu wants stiffer shocks it applies battery voltage to a magnet and the strut gets so stiff you can't move it thru its travel
 

kennith

Well-known member
Apr 22, 2004
10,891
169
North Carolina
They still run an improved version of ACE on anything supercharged. Adaptive dampening is pretty cool. The early Evoque has metal suspended in the struts oil. When the suspension ecu wants stiffer shocks it applies battery voltage to a magnet and the strut gets so stiff you can't move it thru its travel

Now there's a part worth all those decades of crappy Cadillacs. Hard to believe they're the ones that pushed the technology.

It's one of the best innovations nobody has heard about. Ferrofluid is fucking outstanding stuff.

Cheers,

Kennith
 

braves6117

Well-known member
Now there's a part worth all those decades of crappy Cadillacs. Hard to believe they're the ones that pushed the technology.

It's one of the best innovations nobody has heard about. Ferrofluid is fucking outstanding stuff.

Cheers,

Kennith


Edit: wait, Cadillacs pushed this tech?

I know Audi went Ferrofluid crazy, but didn't bring it to mass market immediately on cost and R&D concern; eventually, it landed in LeMans and the R series
 

kennith

Well-known member
Apr 22, 2004
10,891
169
North Carolina
The magneto-rheological (MR) fluid was developed by Lord Corp in Raleigh (I worked there for a bit).

https://www.lord.com/products-and-s...al-suspension-systems/how-does-mr-damper-work

Cool video on how it reduces shock/impact:

Huh. I didn't know who actually developed it. My back hurts just watching that. :ROFLMAO:

What I find most interesting is the relative simplicity of it. Not the simplicity of development, but of design and function. The more simple something is in deployment, the harder it was to get it to that point, usually.

It's a perfect example of what I'm after in modern technology.

I kind of consider it alongside shape memory alloys, because they are both "foundational" developments, and those are the most impressive, as well as the most likely to push us further. There's no telling where the limits are with either of them, and yet we've been fucking with them for a very long time.

The knowledge was there long ago, but the ability to control signals with that level of precision at a reasonable mass and cost is a relatively new innovation.

Cheers,

Kennith
 

kennith

Well-known member
Apr 22, 2004
10,891
169
North Carolina
What I really think is next level cool is taking something that was perfected with computers, and finding ways to make it work without computers. That's the pinnacle of elegance at this specific time, in my opinion; learning how to make something work with the (I know this is really pushing the word "ease") ease of programming, and then transcending the internal complexity of the computer.

We learned what we needed to learn making it function properly with all that silicon brainpower, and that knowledge is sometimes enough to apply to a dumb assembly. Now, this isn't a proper suggestion, but imagine a shock filled with non-Newtonian fluid. I'm not saying that would work, I'm just saying it's an example of a way to vary viscosity in a shock absorber with no controlled signal.

If that worked, it would have been done a million times over by now; but if you took those MR shocks and invented a way for them to generate their own pulses without programmed input; with only a constant signal or self-generated signal, it would be interesting. Not necessarily any more simple than using a computer, or even more reliable/reasonable, but interesting nonetheless.

I mean, think of the man who finally put two and two together on those shocks; the one that had the idea before the team made it work. As a kid, he might have played around with ferrofluid, and realized that the properties of a fluid mixture could be controlled via magnetic means. Later on, he could have realized different fluid mixtures could be controlled via electromagnetic means.

Sometimes, you don't know if an idea is stupid or great, but the only way to find out is push it. That's one of my biggest flaws; I don't finish stuff like that. I lose interest and move on to something else. Don't do that. If you come up with something cool, push it or try to find someone who can help.

The only way I personally get anything like that finished is as a consultant, and I do enjoy those short-term contracts, but I leave a lot of money on the table that way.

Cheers,

Kennith
 

mbrummal

Well-known member
Jan 23, 2009
2,863
6
Apex, NC
Bose made an active suspension years ago that seems pretty cool. They could probably integrate that with the air suspension to do some really neat stuff.

 

kennith

Well-known member
Apr 22, 2004
10,891
169
North Carolina
Bose made an active suspension years ago that seems pretty cool. They could probably integrate that with the air suspension to do some really neat stuff.


Bose... I'm surprised they didn't try to use one shock absorber to take the place of four. :ROFLMAO:

Looks smoother than a damned Citroen DS. Of course, it was probably calibrated for the tests, but even so that's impressive.

It's an interesting departure from convention. I'm sure there will be some mixing and matching over time.

Cheers,

Kennith