Posted by Sam Dunne
| 13 Oct 2014
About this time last year, Siemens unveiled their vision for the future of the London Underground: an innovative, lightweight and energy-efficient 'mass transportation solution' with the exterior styling grace of a plastic worm, and all the interior character of a hospital waiting room. When Priestmangoode unveiled their design for the New Tube for London last week, we breathed a sigh of relief that they didn't let the engineers design it.
The New Tube design comes two and half years after the Heatherwick's New Routemaster hit the roads of the capital and follows recent news that the city's upcoming Crossrail project (the hugely ambitious underground rail line cutting directly through the centre of London) will have exterior, interior and livery designed by Barber Osgerby when it opens doors to commuters in 2017. All told, we're pleased to see that London is turning to top British designers to shape the city's public realm.
Yesterday Tesla Motors held a press event where they announced their new all-wheel-drive models, which hit the road in December. These being electric cars, rather than using a single motor to drive all four wheels, Tesla is simply dropping a second motor into the car; with one up front and one in back, there's no need for a driveshaft in between and all of those pesky linkages.
And these cars will go from 0-60 in an absurd 3.2 seconds, in case you need to smoke a Bugatti. "This car is nuts," Tesla skipper Elon Musk told the audience. "It's like taking off from a carrier deck." (See video below for the full carrier deck/Battlestar Galactica-esque "launch sequence.")
Some optimists assumed that at last night's event, Musk was going to pull the sheets off of a completely self-driving car. While that's undoubtedly a ways off, the autopilot features announced last night for the new models indicate it's not as far off in the future as you might think. Using a combination of radar, a camera and a dozen sensors, this is what Tesla's new models can reportedly do:
- The new system will move the car over a lane when the driver uses the turn signal.
- The car reads speed-limit signs and adjusts the car to the speed on the sign.
- Drivers will be able to get out of the car in their driveways and watch it park itself in the garage. When drivers are ready to leave, the car will able to drive itself up, with the car's temperature and stereo system set to the driver's preferences.
"It will come to you wherever you are," Musk says. "It will slowly make its way to you."
I'm not sure why you'd choose to get out of your car in the driveway rather than in the garage—most architects are thoughtful enough to put a door between the garage and the house—but then again, perhaps Musk is targeting the super-rich owners who live in manses apart from the stables.
Years ago I was driving down Interstate 80 when a minivan rocketed past me in the left lane. I was doing about 70 in my Golf, the Dodge Caravan was doing maybe 95. Seconds later my rearview mirror filled with the flashing lights of a New Jersey State Trooper. As I pulled to the side to let him pass, I then realized he was pulling me over.
The cop explained that he had me going 87 on his radar gun, rolled his eyes at my suggestion that he tagged the wrong guy, and wrote me a big, fat ticket. It was obvious to me that the gun picked up the minivan, but as the cop came over the rise in pursuit, he saw my sporty little Golf and figured I was the culprit.
They used to say that if you bought a car in red, you were more likely to be pulled over. And if I was a cop tagging a group of cars and unsure of whom was the speeder, yeah, I'd probably pull over the car with the sportiest design. Backing this up, if a recent U.S. auto insurance study is to be believed, seven out of the top ten Cars That Get the Most Tickets (doesn't say for speeding, so it could be for any traffic infraction) have what we consider sporty designs. What's surprising is how un-sporty the other three are. Admittedly our parsing of this study involves a little guesswork, as only the models, not the specific production years, are mentioned. But here's the top ten, judge for yourself:
Some 28.1% of drivers that own this tiny econobox with a rather dramatic side swoop get ticketed.
9. Toyota FJ Cruiser
A bit too bulky to be considered sporty, we think, though you can't deny it has an aggressive profile. At any rate it's good enough to get 28.4% of its drivers pulled over.
8. Scion tC
This diminutive but fat-fendered coupe, particularly in this color, looks like trouble. It also has 28.8% of its owners reaching for their license and registration.
This is a fascinating idea that was developed by a research group at Japan's Keio University. By applying optical camouflage technology and using recursive reflectors, which "[reflect] light back in the direction of incidence," the researchers were essentially able to render the back of a Toyota Prius invisible, at least from the driver's point of view. Take a look:
What we found fascinating is their proposal that this could be applied to all 360 degrees. And aside from average motorists trying to back passenger cars into parking spaces, imagine what a boon this would be to folks driving delivery trucks, tractor-trailers, construction machinery and other bulky, blind-spot-laden vehicles.
Unfortunately, the technology may never come to pass. The concept was put forth in 2011, and there's been no word on an update since the video above was released in 2012. But tell me this thing wouldn't get Kickstarted in a heartbeat.
Via DigInfo TV
Last week Argentinian director Fernando Livschitz released this video titled "Rush Hour," shot using some clever film trickery:
What's interesting is that if all cars were autonomous, that scene could one day actually be possible. Maybe the motorcycles are a stretch, and the humans and cyclists travling at such perfectly measured paces that the cars could accurately predict their timing; but at a minimum self-driving cars could certainly be programmed not to hit each other, and to thread the needle at intersections.
The hardest part would probably not be the technology, but garnering human acceptance. As safe as I knew it was, I'd have a hard time not having a heart attack while riding in any of these vehicles.
Everyone loves to bash corporations, but few talk about how much good they can do in this world. Their immense fortunes and longevity means they can undertake radical, expensive experiments that smaller outfits simply couldn't sustain.
A good case in point is Walmart and their Advanced Vehicle Experience concept truck. Built earlier this year as a testbed for their fleet efficiency program, it features a 53-foot trailer whose roof and sidewalls are made from single-piece 53-foot-long panels of carbon fiber. This confers a weight savings of some 4,000 pounds, meaning it can carry an extra 4,000 in cargo to burn the same amount of fuel, or carry the same weight of cargo as before and save a tremendous amount of fuel.
Creating carbon fiber panels of that length is fiendishly expensive, and a company would have to ship a lot of cargo indeed before they'd make their money back on fuel costs. In other words, you'd need a Walmart to do something like this. With 6,000 trucks crawling our continent and logging millions of miles, the overall, long-term impact would be substantial.
With the goal of "revolutionizing the watersport industry," Swedish company Radinn has released their first product: an electric powered wakeboard. The carbon fiber craft carries onboard lithium batteries and is controlled via a wireless handheld remote, allowing the rider to cruise at up to 30 miles per hour.
The coolest thing about having a self-propelled board is that it frees the rider from the beach. With an EPW one could navigate rivers, lakes, public fountains in Stockholm...
The 64-pound board's batteries can provide 30 minutes of runtime. Currently in its final testing stages, it's expected to go on sale next year. And no, it won't be cheap, but if you've got twenty grand to throw around, you could do a lot worse.
Posted by Sam Dunne
| 22 Sep 2014
UK design blog Dezeen have collaborated with car manufacturer MINI at London Design Festival this year to create an exhibition of commissions exploring the future of transportation. Far from a showroom for shiny self-driving cars or connected-car dashboard concepts, was eclectic collection of exploratory interpretations by artists, designers and architects was on display in the ground floor entrance of design and furniture fair designjunction. The exhibition space itself embodied the theme—architect Pernilla Ohrstedt teaming up with 3D-scanning specialist ScanLAB to create her contribution 'Glitch Space'—an enormous arrangement of vinyl white dots meticulously laid out across the exhibit floor as a representation of the swaths of environmental data that will flow through the city in a future of driverless cars.
On the same theme, Dominic Wilcox, ever the inspiring out-of-the-box thinker, turned a lot of heads with the revealing of his incredible 'Stained Glass Driverless Sleeper Car.' Not just a pretty piece of craft, Wilcox's creation is actually a profound reflection on the future design possibilities for the automobile. In a future in which cars are self-driving and super safe, the forms, materials and uses that have constrained automotive design in our time may no longer apply. Although Wilcox's fictional future car manufacturer's website shows a spectacular array of possibilities this could present, the stunning stained-glass model on view demonstrated the equally appealing option of rolling around town in a half-car, half-bed 'hybrid,' revealed when lifting up the hood (below).
While food trucks are all over NYC, and the cocktail trend continues to spread across the city, we've never seen anyone combine the two and create a Booze Truck. But a select amount of tipplers in the UK just may spot one. It isn't any regular booze truck, and as far as we can tell they ain't charging for the drinks. Which should remain affordable for the proprietors as it can only seat two folks at a time.
With Grey Goose for a client, London-based branding agency Ragged Edge created The World's Most Intimate Martini Bar, as they've nicknamed it, by restoring an old Citröen Type H. In addition to the exterior restoration, they've kitted it out with an interior of leather, marble, bronze, brushed metal, and etched glass to create a "fully functioning luxury bar."
If you're wondering why there are photos of bread on the side for a company hawking vodka, the project is officially called the Boulangerie Francois Camionnette ("French bakery van") as a nod to another branding event RE held last year: In London's Soho they launched a pop-up artisanal bakery, where guests could "sample fresh Grey Goose bread, made using the finest soft winter wheat from the Picardie region in France." (That's the same type of grain Grey Goose is made from.)
As the Nazis occupied France and commandeered production at the Citröen factory, Citröen's design team was still secretly working on their own projects. One of those was the iconic 2CV economy car. Another was an equally quirky-looking but very different sort of vehicle called the Type H. And interestingly enough, one of its key design elements was inspired by the aircraft used by the Germans occupying France.
Like the 2CV, the Type H was meant to do more with less. But whereas the 2CV was meant to haul people and their farm goods, The Type H would be its urban counterpart, a proper delivery van. It would be a direct successor to their TUB and TUC delivery vehicles, whose production had been killed for want of raw materials during the war. Here's what that pre-war TUB looked like, by the way:
As you can see, a van requires a lot more surface area than the 2CV. This raised the problem of how to stiffen the van's structure while using materials as economically as possible. The answer was flying above Citröen's heads and landing at airfields in occupied France:
Part 1: Ignoring War and Sabotaging Nazis on Their Way to Producing Funky, Iconic Cars
Do you think it was harder, or easier to design cars when your main competition was horses and carriages? Whichever you believe, imagine you're a car designer or engineer and this is the brief you receive:
We need you to design something that's going to remain in production for over four decades.
- It has to be cheap.
- It has to be easy-to-maintain.
- It has to be easy to manufacture.
- It has to get good mileage, let's say 78 miles per gallon.
Maybe you'd stall by asking who the target buyer is and what the car's performance needs are. So they come back to you with
It needs to be able to carry four farmers and over 100 pounds of their goods and harvested crops to market over unpaved roads. And they might be carrying eggs. Yeah, so make sure the car can drive across a ploughed field while it's loaded up with eggs, and that the eggs won't break. Also, sometimes they might need to carry big stuff like furniture, so make sure you design in a solution for that.
As impossible as all that sounds, that was what the development team at Citröen was facing in the mid-1930s, when France was still largely rural farmland. It didn't take long to figure out the car would have to be small to meet the first set of criteria, and the project was dubbed TPV for Toute Petite Voiture, or "very small car."
It took 47 prototypes, but by 1939 the TPV was deemed ready. To achieve the light weight the car was made using a lot of aluminum (which back then was so cheap that over in America Singer had begun building their Featherweight sewing machines out of the stuff). The car's seats were even lighter--they were pieces of fabric slung from the roof by wires, like a hammock. The roof was canvas and could be rolled back like the top of a sardine can, from the front windshield almost all the way down the back to the rear bumper. It only had one headlight and one taillight. But it worked, and it satisfied the brief, so the company came up with a snazzier name—the 2CV, for Deux Chevaux-Vapeur or "two steam horses," and prepared to try a first production batch of 250 cars.
Then World War II broke out.
As the Nazis invaded France, Citröen probably realized that their factory would soon be building Wehrmacht trucks. So under the direction of company president Pierre-Jules Boulanger a/k/a PJB, they started hiding the 2CV plans and destroying all of the prototypes. A few prototypes needed to be saved, however, presumably because they contained some winning formula of engineering that would be difficult to recall, so those were buried underground or hidden in barns. And one prototype was modified to look like a pickup truck so it could hide in plain sight.
Amazingly, in 1995, three of the original TPV prototypes, the ones that PJB had ordered hidden during World War II, were found in a French barn.
The key characteristic of a Military-Industrial Complex is that armaments manufacturers want wars to keep going, so that they can keep making profits. Thankfully for the human race, not all industrialists are willing to propagate this system. France's Andre Citröen, an engineer by training, was one such enlightened individual.
See, Citröen was responsible for mass-producing armaments for France during World War I. But he realized the war wouldn't last forever, and knew that the factory he was running was going to be shut down unless there was something else to mass produce afterwards. With six years of pre-war experience working for the early French automobile manufacturer Mors, Citröen decided he'd produce a car—and he started working on it as early as 1916, two years before the war even ended.
That's why, when Allied victory came in late 1918, Citröen was ready to roll out a car just four months later. The lightweight, relatively affordable 18-horsepower Citröen Type A was a success, and by 1920 the Parisian factory was producing 100 per day.
They cranked out some 24,000 units before Citröen succeeded the Type A with the Type B2.
As someone recently introduced to regular bicycling by Citi Bike, New York's bicycle share program, I love bike lanes. I just wish there were more of them; their relative Manhattan scarcity, and my unwillingness to brave the laneless streets with the battle-hardened bike pros, mean I must often choose circuitous routes in order to safely remain a wussy.
I assumed NYC won't add more bike lanes because of the added cost and the resultant auto traffic congestion (more room for bikes means less room for cars). So I was very surprised to read a NYC Department of Transportation study [PDF] released this month that found that adding bike lanes actually increased the flow of auto traffic.
How is this possible? In two words, clever design. But before we get into the details, for those of you not familiar with the style of NYC's newest bike lanes, let's have a look at the old system:
As you can see, placing the bike lane there leaves the cyclist in danger of getting "doored" by someone getting out of a parked car without bothering to look first. And the painted buffer between the cyclist and moving traffic offers zero protection from a car that veers out of control. So in 2007 they started shuffling things around like this:
With this improved design, the cyclist now rides adjacent to the sidewalk. The painted five-foot buffer prevents the cyclist from getting doored by a parked car, which now resides in a parking lane that provides a solid physical barrier protecting a cyclist from colliding with a moving auto. And if you look at the dimensions listed, you'll see the buffer can now safely be reduced by two feet in width, while the bike lane got wider by the same amount.
So right off the bat this second design is smarter than the first, and the numbers bear that out: In 2001, the old-style lanes were in effect. In 2013, the new-style lanes were in existence. And there has been a "75% decrease in average risk of a serious injury to cyclists" in that time period.
Brooks Stevens was a Raymond-Loewy-level industrial designer, and in fact, formed the IDSA in conjunction with Loewy and a group of other ID'ers. And while his name never seemed to achieve the recognition of Loewy's, he had a career every bit as colorful and influential. Upon his death in 1995, The New York Times called him a "giant in industrial design" and revealed that back in the 1940s, he nailed a certain appliance's form factor that still exists today:
One of his early successes was with a prototype clothes dryer, which had been developed by Hamilton Industries in Two Rivers, Wis. At the time, the only way to dry clothes was to hang them on a line.
Hamilton's engineers had developed a metal box with an electrically powered rotating drum inside and equipment for gas heating. The device was featureless except for an on/off switch.
"You can't sell this thing," Mr. Stevens recalled telling the developers. "It's just a sheet metal box." Mr. Stevens suggested putting a glass panel in the front and loading it with the most brightly colored boxer shorts the manufacturer could find for demonstrations in department stores. That is what happened, and modern clothes dryers still follow the same basic layout.
As another example of design longevity, Stevens designed the 1949 Harley-Davidson Hydra Glide. Harley-Davidson's 2014 Heritage Softail Classic has essentially retained the same front fender and tank-mounted speedometer.
A year earlier Stevens had designed a very different vehicle: These sweet Skytop Lounge passenger railcars produced by Pullman-Standard in 1948, and used to run the route from Chicago to the Twin Cities. The Skytop Lounges remained in service until 1970.
Next weekend Toyota will unveil a concept car not at an auto show, but at the World Maker Faire in New York City. The chosen venue is purposeful: To create their Urban Utility (U2) concept vehicle, Toyota's CALTY design arm conducted interviews with previous Maker Faire participants. The resultant design has yielded a car described as "a flexible, functional gadget that owners can customize according to individual, on-the-go needs."
While text descriptions of the concept are light, the renderings tell the tale. Makers apparently expressed a strong desire to haul a variety of goods, as a lot of attention has been given to how onboard storage is to be managed via a "Multipurpose Utility Bar" and "Retractable Latching System:"
Teague and Nike recently teamed up to work on a rather interesting concept: the Athlete's Plane, an airplane interior designed specifically for professional athletes. For a moment, put aside both the unrelatability of a specialty vehicle designed for millionaire Adonises, and the memories of your own cramped air travel experiences, and check out how Teague and Nike addressed an unusual set of needs with technology and design.
First off, the unusual needs in question. The first reason these specific passengers are a bad match for conventional airplanes is because pro athletes these days are frickin' huge. Even a first-class seat is not going to be a good fit for a Tony Picard, and Tyson Chandler is not stretching out comfortably on your average lay-flat seat-bed.
Second, regardless of the sport, all pro franchises and college teams know the hell that is the away game. The hour-long bus rides familiar to high school athletes pale in comparison to what an airplane will do to your performance. As the Teague research cites, "Studies prove that home-field advantage is actually a lot less about the effects of raucous crowds and a lot more about the negative effects of travel, which create an "away disadvantage." [One study] confirmed that motor function measurably deteriorated in athletes after air travel and then lingered for roughly the same number of days as the number of time zones crossed. That's bad news if you're an athlete traveling from the West Coast to the East Coast on a Friday for a Sunday game."
With these issues in mind, Teague and Nike designers and training experts set about devising "four areas of performance innovation that are not addressed by commercial charters:"
Recovery: equalizing the negative effects of air travel on the mind and body, and bringing the training room to 40,000 feet through in-flight biometrics and analysis to accelerate injury diagnosis and treatment.
Circulation: fostering natural mobility and building in equipment that ensures optimal circulation and promotes healing.
Sleep: designing ideal sleeping conditions for individuals and sleep strategies for entire teams to maximize physical readiness.
Thinking: creating spaces for key mental activities, especially film study--enabling in-transit film review both before and after games.
Here's what they came up with, captions theirs:
As soon as the athletes board they begin receiving information on their physiological state post-game.
A meal plan corresponding to athletes' unique nutritional needs awaits them in the self-serve nutrition zone.
This one's got us scratching our heads. The blogosphere has been blindly touting the design of Singapore-based AirGo Design's Orion airplane seating system with headlines like "Seat Innovation Hopefully Makes 'Recline Rage' a Thing of the Past," "If This Company Succeeds, We Won't Be Fighting About Reclining Airline Seats" and evaluations like "[With] AirGo's Orion seating system, reclining isn't an issue: The seat behind and the seat in front are designed to prevent one passenger's actions from interfering with another passenger's space." But when we look at the renders, we're just not seeing it. Take a look:
Are you kidding me? First off, look at how absurdly far apart the seats are from each other. If Orange Guy straightens his legs, there's so much room that he couldn't even touch Blue Guy's seat with his toes. What airline do you know that's willing to lose revenue by spacing the seats that widely?
Secondly, yes, the overhead-mounted screens mean that when Blue Guy reclines, Orange Guy's viewing experience is unaffected. But look at Orange Guy's tray—does it look like a laptop is going to fit on there?
The Bajau Laut people are sometimes called "Sea Gypsies," due to the fact that they live their lives on the ocean. "The Bajau Laut are some of the last true marine nomads," writes photographer James Morgan, who has documented parts of their lifestyle here. "An ethnic group of Malay origin, they have for centuries lived out their lives almost entirely at sea, plying a tract of ocean between Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia."
When your people's lives center around the ocean, it makes sense that you learn about dealing with water from a very young age. Case in point: After a Bajau Laut canoe carrying children took on water and sank, dumping its young occupants into the drink, this young girl managed to quickly bail the boat out in a surprising (to us Westerners) manner:
Meanwhile at least half of my adult-age, city-bred friends don't even know how to swim. We would have been clinging to the dock trying to Google how to do this on our phones.
Posted by erika rae
| 3 Sep 2014
If I were to ask you to sketch a car you'd bring to the Burning Man grounds, it's probably right to assume that it would be one of three things: 1) seemingly impossible to create in the time you've got before the next festival, 2) made of some sort of metal or other steampunk material, and/or 3) have some capacity to spit flames from some surface. But before we get into that, quick throwback: You might remember that time we covered Unknown Fields Division's solar bus prep for the big event (which resulted in this photo gallery) or our breakdown of the mobile Spanish galleon design from the 2002 festival. If you were into that, you're going to love this.
While perusing the articles, street style shots and videos of the 2014 event, I fell upon one that caught my eye right away. Among the installations and themed artwork temporarily lives the DMV—Department of Mutant Vehicles, or the people responsible for approving any of the "art cars" designed by attendees. Thankfully, someone documented this year's DMV, offering a nice look at some of Burning Man's mobile masterpieces:
When you think of knockout sci-fi concept designers, you probably think of Syd Mead and/or Doug Chiang. Between Blade Runner, Tron, Terminator 2 and the later Star Wars films, both men have gotten their due. Their names also ring a little sweeter to us because both majored in Industrial Design, Mead at Art Center, Chiang at CCS. But for fans of this genre, there's another man whose name you may not know and whose work you should look at: Jean-Claude Mézières, whose background was not in industrial design but in illustration. And if you have seen the original Star Wars trilogy, you have seen the largely uncredited influence of his work (further down in this entry are the most egregious examples).
Mézières' background is as wonderfully confusing as it is interesting: Born and raised in Paris of the 1930s and '40s, entered an art academy at the age of 15. After graduation he did two years in the French army, seeing action in Algeria, and briefly worked as an illustrator upon his discharge. Then he became so fascinated by the American West that he hitchhiked across America in the 1960s to fulfill his lifelong ambition of becoming an actual working cowboy in Utah.
After wrapping up his cowboy gig and American adventures, Mézières returned to France—and started an influential science-fiction comic book, at a time when sci-fi was about as popular in France as being a hitchhiking cowboy was.
Posted by Ray
| 21 Aug 2014
When it comes bicycles, we're often inclined to say nay. Call us snobs/cranks/grouches or what have you, but we are generally of the opinion that you don't go reinventing the proverbial human-powered two-wheel conveyance. Here's a new one that (if nothing else) offers a new approach to an integrated locking mechanism.
Starting with the notion that any lock can be broken, Juan José Monsalve, Andrés Roi and Cristóbal Cabello have designed the "Yerka," a bicycle frame that features an integrated lock—i.e. the bike cannot be ridden if the lock is severed. Where many of the past Oregon Manifest entries (for which a lock is required per the brief) explored concepts that were integrated into the main triangle of the frame—Tony Pereira's version was deemed worthy of first place in 2009 and 2011—the Chilean engineering students have opted to build the shackle into a main tube. I don't condone locking to trees, but kudos to the team for developing a working prototype:
Carlos Tomas dropped his Mazda 6 off for a detailing appointment at a shop in Toronto. When he returned to pick it up, he noticed some cosmetic damage to the front of the car that he swore wasn't there before. But the body shop denied responsibility. A suspicious Tomas brought another car to the shop the following week, a sportier RX-8, and this time he secretly photographed the odometer before handing over the keys.
When Tomas picked the RX-8 up five days later, he noticed an extra 449 kilometers had been racked up on it. And amazingly, he received a CAD $45.60 bill in the mail from the local automatic toll collection agency.
We're guessing the designers and engineers over at Chevy have heard stories like this once too often, as they've actually cooked up a feature to solve this with their 2015 Corvette:
What's interesting is that the technology already existed as part of the Corvette's Performance Data Recorder package, which uses a small camera to shoot HD footage from the driver's POV, while a mic records the in-cabin audio and a computer records the vehicle data and telemetric info. The PDR was originally designed for track-heads who wanted to improve their lap times, but "We soon realized the system could have many more applications," Corvette product manager Harlan Charles said in a press release issued yesterday, "such as recording a scenic drive up Highway 101, or recording when the Valet Mode is activated."
The info and video can be viewed in-car immediately after recording, and it's also downloaded onto an SD card if you want to take the proof to the cops or just upload it onto YouTube. "Think of it," says Charles, "as a baby monitor for your car."
Price inflation doesn't usually make a physical noise, but it did in 2008, in Cam Woods' neck of the woods. As gas prices rose to $4.50 a gallon, California-based Woods noticed that less folks were driving and more folks were buzzing around town on mopeds and motorized bikes. "All of these bikes were using 2-stroke engines that sounded like chainsaws on steroids," he writes. "I thought the forest was being cut down."
Woods reasoned that there must be a quieter, cleaner alternative than whipping around on a smoke-billowing two-stroke engine, and as a bicycle/motorcycle prototype builder for nearly two decades, he was in a position to do something about it. His work background made him well aware of a certain ubiquitous and tiny (50cc) Honda motor with a very long history:
The Honda 4-stroke horizontal OHV motor is the most popular and most copied engine in the world. It was first introduced in the Honda Mini-Trail 50 in 1969 and is still being used today almost unchanged in the CRF50. Companies in China have been making copies of the Honda engine for years with all kinds of variations in design and displacement, but all have the same motor mounts as the Honda. The copies of the Honda XR50 spawned a whole group of minibikes called "pitbikes." The amount of aftermarket performance parts for the Honda XR50 and its pitbike clones is endless.
Woods figured that the ubiquity and affordability of the motor—you can buy them used and inexpensive on Craigslist and eBay, and a new Chinese-made 50cc Lifan clone can be had for a little over $200—made it the ideal DIY snap-in powerplant. He then Frankensteined together a bike using off-the-shelf mountain bike parts connected to a custom frame and swing arm of his own design, and mechanically solved the problem of having both a motor and pedals capable of driving the rear wheel.
Woods dubbed his invention the Motoped Motorized Bicycle. It was reliable, lightweight compared to a motorcycle, and slightly heavier than a two-stroke but a lot cleaner and quieter. It was also pretty efficient, delivering 120 miles of travel on a single gallon of gas. And swapping in larger motors was also possible; popping in something closer to a 150cc meant you could go as fast as 65 m.p.h, though the mileage dropped down to closer to 90 miles per gallon.
Applied Minds is something like a think tank that actually creates things. The "interdisciplinary group of artists, scientists and engineers, with skills in architecture, electronics, mechanics, physics, mathematics, software development, big data analytics, system engineering, and storytelling" has worked on everything from vehicle engineering to cancer treatments to 3D interfaces to algorithms. So it's no surprise that co-founder and inventor Bran Ferren came up with a project as crazy as the KiraVan.
The KiraVan is a massive truck that can do, well, everything, both on-road and off. It can scale 45-degree slopes. Its fuel tank can hold 170 gallons of biodiesel that provides a range of 2,000 miles between fill-ups. It stores enough food and water on-board for a crew of three to survive for three weeks between grocery runs, and all the while electricity is coming in from a bank of solar-charged batteries. The truck is engineered to run through both extreme cold and extreme heat. It can deploy its own freaking drones so you can scout ahead before you proceed. And oh yeah, there's a turbo-diesel motorcycle mounted to a small elevator on the back.
On long-haul flights, both flight attendants and pilots need to take breaks. Yet airplane designers are of course forced to cram cabin crew rest areas into confined spaces, to leave more room for revenue-generating passenger seats. So how do they manage it, and what do these spaces look like?
Crew Rest Compartments, or CRCs, vary in design from plane to plane. Boeing's enormous 787 has this pimpish loft space nestled above the passenger compartment, where up to five flight attendants can catch some shuteye:
The photo above is of the space as it exists in an actual airplane. If we look at the design-phase mockups, below, we can see the designers initially had a slightly different idea: In addition to the cleaner, clutter-free surfaces, the place is well-stocked with pillows in an effort to promote cabin-crew pillow fights.
The pilots have their own separate sleeping compartment. It features the same privacy curtains suspended from ceiling-mounted tracks that you see in the flight attendants' bunk room.
In this photo, shot by The Flying Engineer, we see the 6'3" Captain Pat Bearce is able to stretch out in one of these comfortably.
In terms of oh shit moments, this had to be a doozy for the train engineer. Last month nineteen cars on a 90-car train derailed in Montana. Some of those freight cars were carrying 737 fuselages on their way to Boeing, and six of them fell off, with three of them sliding down an embankment towards the Clark Fork River. Luckily no one was injured, and here's what the aftermath looked like:
An accident like this raises a serious logistical issue: What the hell to do with these fuselages? It's not like you can give six-packs to a couple guys named Jim and ask them to throw them back up onto the railcars. These things are loaded and unloaded with special equipment that bypassing rafters don't exactly have tied to the backs of their Super Dutys.