It's been over a year since Ford has incorporated foot-activated tailgates into their cars, and we're hoping by now some of you have direct experience with them. (The bulk of Core77 editorial staff is a bike-riding, subway-catching, sneaker-treading lot.) Ford designers' simple observation that many people approach their trunk with both hands full, and their incorporation of a feature that pops the trunk open by waving your foot under the bumper, is a welcome one. But for those of you actually living with one of these cars, how is it in practice?
For those of you who've not yet heard of this, the way it works is a sensor on the car detects when someone with the key fob on their person is in proximity. It then enables a laser sensor under the rear bumper to read when a foot breaks the beam, and that opens or closes the trunk. Observe:
But if we look at this less-slickly edited video...
Shane Chen is a Washington-based inventor obsessed with moving the human body. His company, Inventist, has been developing strange-looking personal transportation devices for nearly a decade. We took a brief look at his Solowheel a few years ago, and it finally went on sale just last year. Check it out:
For those looking to burn some calories, Inventist's Orbit Wheel is user-powered:
Today marks "V-E Day," the day that World War II ended in Europe. And in a couple of weeks, it will be the 110th anniversary of Buick. To tie both anniversaries together, the automaker has released photos of the most fearsome Buick to ever come off the production line: The M18 Hellcat, a World-War-II-era tank destroyer.
In 1942, the last civilian Buick rolled off of the production line, and the factory immediately began retooling for war. Like much of American industry, GM had earlier been tasked with supporting the war effort, and when the tasks were divvied up Harley Earl's design studio found themselves with an unusual design assignment: Forget the Roadmaster—we need something that can kill enemy tanks.
Earl and his team came up with the Hellcat, a bad-ass nine-cylinder, 450 horsepower vehicle that weighed 20 tons. (For scale, a Roadmaster of the era weighed about two tons.) Despite the weight, the Hellcat had a top speed of over 60 miles per hour thanks to its engines, which were actually designed to power airplanes.
"The Hellcat was considered the hot rod of World War II," says Bill Gross, an historian with M18 restoration experience. "And Buick engineers also made it quiet by tank standards, so it was very successful at getting in, hitting a target, and getting out. To give perspective, most German tanks of the day were capable of just 20 mph and even today's M1 Abrams tank is outpaced by the Hellcat."
Earlier this week, we picked up on Sam Pearce's Loopwheel, which was unveiled at last month's Bespoked Bristol show (generally regarded as UK's response to NAHBS), for which Pearce is currently seeking fundingvia Kickstarter. Tom Donhou's booth was another standout from the third edition of the show—thoroughly documented in a photo gallery on Bike Radar—specifically, his head-turning fixed-gear, built expressly for speed.
Indeed, Donhou is stepping up to the plate, so to speak, in an attempt to break 100 mph on a relatively standard diamond-frame bicycle. The disc that vaguely resembles a chrome pizza is, in fact, a 104-tooth chainring—roughly twice the size of the standard 53T big ring on most cranksets—custom fabricated by Royce. (Assuming the cog is somewhere in the 12–15ish range, Donhou's contraption is geared at an astronomical 200+ gear-inches; for reference, Wikipedia notes that "a gearing in gear inches the same as a person's height in inches is a comfortable gear for riding on the flat." In other words, the obscene gearing would be comfortable from someone no less than 16’8”.)
I'm really into land speed record stuff, in the 60s when the guys were battling it out down on the salt flats almost doubling the speed limits in a couple of years, I love all that stuff. I know a bit about cars but I could never afford to take a car over there...
So I built this with the intention to feel it out, I don't know how fast it can go, that's my best guess as to what I can do. I built the bike how I thought it should look. No wind tunnels involved, it's all grassroots, it's done in that spirit of those guys in the 60s testing jet engines in their sheds. It's that spirit. We'll see if we can stay on it if we get up to 100mph. We've tested it up to 60mph.
Donhou is confident that he can break triple digits, though he acknowledges that the effort is something of an ad hoc endeavor: although my fellow cycling enthusiasts know that Columbus MAX tubes are among the best available, Donhou has been booking a decommissioned airstrip as weather allows; a modified Ford Zephyr serves as the pacecar. As he told the Telegraph, "What started as just a bit of fun started to get a lot more serious pretty quick and now we're gunning for 100mph. It's just been really DIY, there's not been a load of money put into this."
As one of the premier art and design schools in not only the UK but the world, the Royal College of Art boasts the world's longest-running Vehicle Design postgraduate program (i.e. Masters program, for statesiders). The Class of ’13 has recently launched a Tumblog of their endeavors at VehicleDesignLab.com, which is essentially a daily dose of auto design porn: mostly digital sketches, supplemented by abstract form studies and a few tidbits of inspiration and documentation of the coursework.
Jungwook Jay Lee
The image blog is intended to offer a glimpse of the inner workings of a design department, specifically "to follow the process of final projects in real-time." Ian Slattery (MA ’13) elaborates:
So much of the studio work and process is unseen. Traditionally students work for six months in seclusion before displaying their designs. This year, vehicle design students will update the blog daily and give the chance for people to follow and interact with the run up to the graduate show.
This year's class was keen to investigate new ways of displaying work in order to open up to a wider audience. As a year we are striving to update the traditional design degree show format, and will be continuing this theme in our final exhibition in June.
We feel the automotive industry is evolving and we wanted to evolve with it by using all the media available to us, in order to create a richer narrative to our work.
A few weeks ago, we took a look at the 'work' of Ines Brunn, a German expat and trick-cyclist extraordinaire who has currently set up shop (literally) in Beijing. And while Prolly documented a fair share of gorgeous vintage steel in the People's Republic, it turns out Reuters TV beat him to the punch with this report from January of this year:
Ok, so the reporting is rather superficial—agency dude owns 30+ bikes; small-wheelers are setting up shop—but frankly any interest in cycling is good interest.1 While the automobile remains the status symbol par excellence in China, the purportedly growing appreciation of the bicycle is certainly a step in the right direction, and I must say I concur with Yu Yiqun's comment: "For people who don't understand bikes, they ask, 'Are you out of your mind?' You could buy a car for the price of this bike. But we just have different ways of looking at things."
Not that even a highly coveted Gios (or Colnago, Tommasini, etc.) will ever have the same cachet as a Ferrari or Maserati, but at least it's a far more practical way to navigate a city during rush hour.2 Case in point, this 2011 Streetfilms short on "The Biggest, Baddest Bike-Share in the World," in Hangzhou, China, which puts our almost-launched CitiBike to shame:
I don't know much about the enigmatic fellow behind Death Spray Custom besides the fact that his given name is David Gwyther and he's based in London, and his morbid moniker is simply "an identity that is used to front my adventures in surface design. It is intended to be a playful riposte to an often serious world of art, design etc." Per the same interview with CycleEXIF last year, he's "mostly self taught," and contrary to McLuhan, he believes that "the medium isn't the message, the painting part is a small fraction of the process. I'd like to add I'm not a bicycle painter by any means, just an artist who likes two wheels."
I'd known about his custom paint work for bicycles for some time, but true to his word, he comes up with wicked paint schemes for a variety of mostly speed-related objects—auto, helmets, tools, etc.—and executes them to dazzling effect. His portfolio is well worth a visit, from the Tool Box (featuring a slogan that is unprintable here) to a NASCAR-worthy Chevy Silverado and all variety of helmets and bicycle-related objets d'art.
I'm also interested to see that this area is considered Bed-Stuy; image via Brooklyn Spoke
Over this past weekend, I've been seeing the telltale solar arrays throughout Fort Greene / Clinton Hill, each a beacon for a row of pylons, roughly the length of a bus stop, that will soon be home to squadrons of public bicycles. In fact, on my morning commute today, another crew was installing a station near on ramp of the Manhattan Bridge, at the corner of Sands St and Gold St—a major cycling thoroughfare where I happen upon cars and trucks idling in the bike lane at least once a week.
The station map, for better or for worse, looks like a yellow cloud over the entirety of Manhattan below 60th St and a veritable pizza slice of Brooklyn.
Traffic patterns aside, I'm curious as to how they arrived at the pricing structure—specifically, I'm concerned about the lack of a single ride option. The pricing starts at $9.95 for a 24-hour pass with unlimited 30-minute rides, adding incentive for residents to spring for the far more economical $95 annual pass, but the cost-benefit analysis for a single trip inevitably favors alternatives: subway, bus or foot, which come in at a fraction of the price even for a round-trip journey. I suppose the logic is that the annual pass will pay for itself even for moderate and/or seasonal users (i.e. $95 = ten days, or four weeks at $25/per), but only time will tell.
We'll find out soon enough: As of this morning, Citi Bike is open for registration, with additional perks for "Founding Members." Sign up here—by some estimates, new members are signing up at a rate of three per minute.
UPDATE: No word on launch date, but it's slated for May.
Renault and British designer Ross Lovegrove unveiled the Twin'Z, an all-electric cabon-fiber concept car at Milan's Triennale Design Museum last week. The electric motor on the Twin'Z is rear-mounted and the four 96-V lithium batteries are hidden in the floor of the car; according to Gizmag, "driving motivation to the rear wheels is done by 50kW (68hp) of power and 226 Nm of torque...[and] can achieve a top speed of 130 km/h (80.7 mph)." Reflective of Lovegrove's design language, the car's compact and organic form also draws from the French manufacturer's most emblematic models like the Renault 5 and Twingo.
The Twin'Z is designed for the city-driver in mind—the backseats are integrated into the floorplan and the dashboard is replaced by a smartphone connection to create more space in the cabin. Electric hinges on the front and back suicide doors eliminates the need for the central B-pillar allowing for further access for loading things and people in and out of the car.
As we saw with Conquest Vehicles, armored vehicles with windows do not come cheap. That's why if you and six of your squadmates are sitting in the back of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle with the door closed, your only view is of armor plating. And the lack of windows has a potentially deleterious effect beyond promoting motion sickness: You have no idea what you're about to step into when the ramp drops open and you're meant to deploy.
That's why the U.S. Army's TARDEC (Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center) put a bunch of ID students from the Transportation Design program at Detroit's College for Creative Studies in the same room with experienced Army officers and soldiers for a brainstorming session. One result is the Virtual Window concept, whereby a super-durable 46-inch flatscreen is mounted to the interior of the rear ramp; it's basically a back-up camera with a big-ass screen strong enough for soldiers to stomp over while they pile outside. "The video feed from the camera appears on the display, which gives soldiers the ability to see outside the vehicle with the ramp closed," explains TARDEC engineer Andrew Kerbrat. "This visual situational awareness could be a game-changer in how the Soldier proceeds out of the vehicle."
Of interest is that this particular "Innovations Solutions Training Event," as it was called, wasn't spread over a semester but was instead crammed into just three days. By all accounts the CCS students were up to the task:
[Warrant Officer] Charles Fannin commented on the design session's aggressive agenda. "I thought, 'Wow, how can we talk about ideas and solutions and have them drawn up or visualized in such a short amount of time?' [But] It was fascinating. As we were talking, things were being drawn up instantly with concepts and designs. I'm just in awe of what the students were capable of doing."
CCS Transportation Design Associate Professor Thomas Roney said that kind of collaboration is essential to the process. "It gets people who maybe aren't used to being together all in the same room bouncing ideas off each other. You get some better ideas out than you probably would have without that happening," Roney noted.
TARDEC engineers will review about 140 sketches to identify potential ideas that could move forward.
While the format of the highly-compressed brainstorming session was new, it isn't the first time TARDEC and CCS have collaborated; at least one student, in fact, got a job out of it. James Scott was a CCS student back in 2010 who participated in an earlier team-up, and he's now been hired as an industrial designer on TARDEC's Advanced Concepts team. (He's the guy who did the rendering seen above.) And as a former design student who's presumably sat in on his share of brutal design crits, he knows the math: "At the end of the day, 80 percent of the ideas are unfeasible," he says, "but perhaps 20 percent have nuggets of innovation that could be further investigated."
There is at least one thing I'd like to see design schools develop as a result of collaborations like these: It ought to be integrated into crit sessions that if you turn in a crappy rendering, all of the other students do push-ups.
It seems like just yesterday I was commenting on the seasonal influx of urban cyclists riding both for business and for pleasure. Oh wait, it was just yesterday that I mused on the topic du jour (or of the week, as it were), and apparently I'm not the only one: local framebuilder Thomas Callahan is stepping up to the task of supplying savvy Brooklynites with handcrafted bicycles at a reasonable price.
I've known Callahan of Horse Cycles for a couple years now, ever since he hosted the afterparty for the first annual New Amsterdam Bicycle Show; his booth at last year's show was a standout (no word on whether the show is returning this year). I've made a point of peeking into his shop in South Williamsburg from time to time since then, and it seems like he's always juggling a constellation of new projects alongside his bread and butter of building beautiful bicycles.
For the past few decades, a custom bicycle was the sort of luxury that only a select subset of cyclists would even consider, and most modern-day commuters are still content to stick with off-the-shelf offerings from industry giants (no pun intended). But with a growing market for discerning riders looking to upgrade to something a little nicer, Callahan hopes to meet them halfway with a line of Made-in-Brooklyn production bicycles. Where Detroit's Shinola has the deep-ish pockets to put some marketing muscle behind their launch, Callahan's turned to good, old-fashioned crowdsourcing to launch the Urban Tour Project:
We had the chance to interview the sometime artist and jack-of-all-trades on the occasion of the Kickstarter campaign:
Core77: What inspired you to launch the Urban Tour project? I imagine you've seen increased demand for touring/townie bicycles?
Thomas Callahan: Yes, I have seen an increase in the demand for touring bikes and townies—or just a bike that is versatile. More people are riding more of the year. They're looking for something they can run fenders on and racks, both for touring or just the commute into the city. The train ride into the city from Brooklyn is getting crazy and I think people realize they can actually enjoy their morning commute on a bicycle and often reduce their commute time [in the process].
Also, a lot of people want a single bike that they can commute and also tour on. Obviously, people log more miles on the commuting side, but to have something that can handle the occasional tour is great. The bike is set up specifically for this—the geometry is a little more snappy that your average touring frame to give you the performance you need in an urban environment.
Over the past few days, we've seen the majority of the winners for the International Bicycle Design Competition (IBDC) 2013: the first 12, who won an invitation to a design workshop in Taiwan, and five more who won a bit of cash in addition to the invite. Without further ado, here are the judges' selections for the top five prizes: Each of the designs seen here were deemed worthy of a very respectable 100,000 TWD prize (about $3,350).
ubqo sixty60 | Mountainbike Frame Marco Giarrana - University of Design and Art, Basle, Switzerland
The ubqo sixty60 is a frame with strong, clean, independent lines that covers a wide range of uses. It eliminates the only real weak points of virtual pivot designs: it replaces two small linkages, which are exposed to extremely high loads, with large excenters, which can resist the loads much better and exhibit durability and stability. With its round-edged carbon profiles, the ubqo sixty60 is ready to tackle any terrain.
What the judges had to say: "It is a different frame design that is just like a universal adjustment for bikes of the newest generation."
- I'm not sure exactly what's going on with the points of articulation for the rear suspension, but it looks vaguely hubless to me.
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The Glow Rider | Light System Kuang-Chung Hao, Yi-Ching Lin & Yen-Liang Chen - National Taipei University of Technology, Taipei, Taiwan
Bicycling in the dark can be extremely dangerous. The Glow Rider is a flashing light, a taillight and a projection light all in one. The Glow Rider is mounted on the rear fender; it acts as a high-powered taillight. At a flick of the switch, the Glow Rider projects a bright beam of light onto the rider's back. This creates a larger lit surface area, which makes the rider significantly more visible in the rain or dark.
What the judges had to say: "The idea is applicable to potentially any bike. Though we think about the future, bikes are also about encouraging sustainability. The idea is self-sustainability and it's a good marketing point."
Which of these two photos above has been Photoshopped?
Here's your answer.
Last week, North Korea got a black eye for Photoshopping their amphibious hovercraft military force, so this has got to sting: Here we Westerners are with so many resources that we're creating hovercrafts not just to transport troops... but to make it easier to get around the golf course. Yesterday golfer Bubba Watson and sponsor Oakley released this video of a hovercraft golf cart. (You'd think this was an April Fool's Day joke, but if it is, it's a day late.)
Sure, this thing deserves the hashtag #firstworldproblems, but one thing I did find interesting was the "33 times less than a human foot" pressure statistic. You hear that, Kim Jong Un? We won't even mess up our perfectly manicured recreational lawns. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
We also have some comments from the judges this time around—the submissions were reviewed by Henry Chang (Gearlab Co. Ltd., Taipei, Taiwan), Edward Chiang (Giant Bicycle, Taichung, Taiwan), Martin Kessler (Process Group, Zurich, Switzerland), Ishigaki Tetsuya (Toyo frame, Tokyo, Japan), Georg Todtenbier (Cre8 Design, Taipei, Taiwan) and Michael Tseng (Merida Bikes, Taichung, Taiwan).
Frame 22 | Urban Bike with Bamboo Frame Yu-Yuan Lai - Shih Chien University, Taipei, Taiwan
Frame 22 is an urban bike with bamboo elastic structure, completed with a bamboo-craft master. The shock absorber and handle bar stems are made of flexible bamboo, which reduces the vibration and maintains the flexibility of the bicycle. In order to enhance the power of back triangles, the bamboo structure extends from seat stay to chain stay. Bicycles are always cruising around in cities and the road bike is the best choice among all the alternatives for riding on concrete roads. Sometimes roads are cratered, and it is risky for bikers to dodge the holes; therefore, Frame 22 was created as an urban bike with light shock absorber, which offers a more comfortable riding experience to bikers.
What the judges had to say: "This is a fantastic combination of wood and steel. One of the judges would actually like to ride it."
The Essence | One Bike - Two Riding Styles Ming-Kang Chang - Shih Chien University, Taipei, Taiwan
This bike offers two different riding styles, fixed-gear [or] single-speed. To achieve this concept, the bike's top tube and seat stays are replaced by thinner steel bars. There is a special rear hub that can turn in two modes: single-speed freewheel or single cog. The seat is also designed to be removed or assembled quickly to adapt easily to the way in which the rider wants to use it.
What the judges had to say: "The only difference in this special design lies in the carbon fiber frame using steel bars. It's a good design that can actually work and reduce the total weight by 100-200 grams."
- I was a bit baffled by this one, as I thought the skinny tubes were supposed to be tension cables. Frankly, I don't understand how the fin-like 'saddle' works or if it has a shaft drivetrain... or, for that matter, how it converts between fixed and freewheel.
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Children's Bike Seat Martina Staub & Lisa Nissen - Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz, Aarau, Switzerland
The design of this children's bike seat focuses primarily on the aspects of safety and lightweight. The seat consists of two parts: the protective frame is made of fiberglass reinforced polypropylene. The cushion is a 3D mesh and is soft and protective at the same time. In the event of a sudden stop, the child is secured by the 5-point safety belt. The design of the frame provides optimum protection for the child's head. The system includes a sleeping position and the footrests can be easily adjusted to virtually any position. If the seat is not in use, it can be used as a carrier. The taillights can be attached to the frame as desired.
What the judges had to say: "The design is very simple. People in Japan or other Asian countries would like to use this product. Regarding the design of the frame, the judges reckoned it can actually be made."
- Seeing as I'm not a parent myself, I can't speak to the functionality of this design, but I agree that it strikes me as among the more realistic, production-ready entries.
Now in its 17th year, 2013 marks the first time that the International Bicycle Design Competition has partnered with iF Design Talents. Although the judging took place in October, following the submission period, the winners were announced just a couple of weeks ago at the Taipei International Cycle Show. Given the sheer backlash to two of the more recently-seen bicycleconcepts here, we'll offer no more than a measured critique of the winners of the 2013 International Bicycle Design Competition. Far be it for me to take issue with the judges' selections of 22 prize winners from a field of 590 entries, who earned an invitation to a three-day workshop in Taiwan (the top ten won a cash prize as well)... though I couldn't help but notice some of the usual suspects, from hubless wheels to stylized e-bikes and, of course, lights galore.
Judges Michael Tseng (Merida Bikes) & Martin Kessler (Process Group)
In any case, here are the 12 'Third Place' winners, who earned the invitation to a three-day workshop in Taiwan, with a few discursive comments where applicable.
ALIGHT Brian Franson - NC State University, Raleigh, United States
ALIGHT is a retractable lighting device that attaches to the rear seat of a bicycle, [incorporating] stretchable electronics and a retractor mechanism, which allows it to be coiled up or extended out. By extending the light to the rear wheel axle, it creates more surface area and a larger visual impact [which can be seen from all angles]. ALIGHT emits a bright green light, which will turn red when braking and flash yellow when turning left or right.
- Definitely a novel approach to bicycle lighting, but I wonder how other road-users will interpret the lines of light, which don't explicitly indicate a bicycle (or any vehicle, for that matter). Drivers and other cyclists alike might find it confusing.
* * *
Anti-Theft Pedal Yao Ying-Liang & Hsu Ting-Yun - SHU-TE University, Kaohsiung City, Taiwan
Using the profile of the pedal, the two sides of the pedal are extended to form a fork-shape, it is then fixed at the support of the rear wheel, locking the pedal. Thus, the pedal cannot move forwards, offering an elegant anti-theft function.
- I find that pedals protrude rather awkwardly when locking up; this concept turns them into an ad hoc locking mechanism. I'd be curious to see if this could be extrapolated into some kind of integrated U-lock, but I imagine the additional bulk/weight would be a limiting factor.
* * *
DORA Helmet Concept Balázs Filczer - MOME, Budapest, Hungary
DORA has been designed for cyclists who travel through the city very often, especially at night... its lights can be seen from every direction. The other problem is the non-equivalent signals between the cyclist and the drivers, mostly during direction changes. DORA helps you change direction easily and safely. The front light on the helmet gives you light directed toward the road; moreover you can leave your bike (and its light) behind, because the light is exactly where you look.
- I've seen some similar concepts, so it's not entirely original, but it benefits from strong presentation, and the handlebar-mounted Bluetooth remote is a nice touch. Still, I think it would make more sense to somehow integrate the buttons into the brake levers (though this means that each one would either have to have its own battery, or be wired to a single battery).
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Gran Turismo Justin Chan, Paul Czarnietzki, Mina Lee & Andrew Lesniak - University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada
Known for their ergonomics, recumbent tricycles allow people with injuries that prevent them from riding a normal bike to still enjoy riding. However, recumbent tricycle designs have remained unchanged and stagnant. The Gran-Turismo is an update to improve on the areas of aesthetics, safety, materials and technology. Inspired by the essence of a modern super car it aims to match their road bike counterparts in building materials and to stand out in style and performance. Using an existing recumbent tricycle, we overhauled the frame while keeping the same dimensions and geometry to maintain its ergonomics.
If you're looking to take your hygge out of Copenhagen and into the mean streets of New York, look no further than the recent collaboration between Danish Furniture brand BoConcept and Mercedes-Benz operated smart. We first saw the smart Fortwo BoConcept signature style car a month ago, during its European debut as a brand ambassador vehicle at the 2013 Geneva Auto Show. The car is now joined by its domestic counterpart: the Smartville furniture and accessory collection.
We had the chance to sit down with Head of Marketing Communications & Brand Management smart Michael Schaller, BoConcept's Collections and Visuals Director, Claus Ditlev Jensen, and General Manager of smart USA, Tracey Matura, to get some insight into designing a major corporate collaboration.
Core77: Tell us about the origin of the collaboration, was smart itching to design a sofa? Had BoConcept been waiting for a chance to get into automotive design?
Claus Ditlev Jensen: Two and a half years ago, the agency for smart approached BoConcept because we have experience as the urban brand for interiors, and smart represents the urban brand for automotives. When we saw the initial presentation and heard about the ideas, we could only agree that it sounded like a fantastic idea.
We have the same mindset—[we both deal with serving] the customer in a functional way, to be cool, to have the right thing at the right time and also the vision about quality. When you buy our products you will be happy.
When we were together the first time, we were saying, "Okay, but what can we get from it?" That's what we were thinking at BoConcept and I'm sure they did the same at smart, thinking how smart are they at BoConcept? How can they match what we are thinking?
Michael Schaller: It was less that we had been searching for a corporate partner and more that we knew the same people and they said, "Hey, we know both of you and you have so much in common, you should meet"—that was how we had the initial meeting. It was very organic because we had so many similarities. We didn't have any difficulty making the brands fit to each other. It was more or less by accident that we were connected.
Are there plans for expansion of the line? Will we see more furniture pieces, maybe a storage line for our small urban spaces?
Jensen: Well we can't say anything about future collaborations. But [our design teams] have a great relationship and if you have a great relationship—you don't dump it.
Despite airlines' attempts to board us in an order that reduces bottlenecks, we've all been stuck behind a passenger blocking the aisle while loading the overhead bin. This slows down the boarding process and, potentially, delays the departure time. Molon Labe's solution is a row of seats where the outermost one slides up and over the center seat, temporarily increasing the aisle space:
With the seats tucked in, the aisle now goes from 19" to 43" wide. The company reports that's enough room for a wheelchair to roll through, and it's presumably enough room for us to slide past other people.
The presentation images are a little underwhelming, and the company's claims seem a bit lofty—they're claiming the seat design can save airlines $75,000 a day in fuel, as "Airlines waste energy powering essential services while on the ground." But despite the primitive renderings, the system is apparently for real; they've announced they're debuting this Side Slip Seat at the upcoming Aircraft Interiors Expo next month in Germany.
Why are Australians so goddamn crazy? Listen to how calm these two Aussies sound while they accidentally drive towards last week's tornado, then calmly try to outrun it (initially in reverse!):
(I'd have warned you that the language is NSFW, but I'm not sure "fack" officially qualifies as a curse.)
Perhaps the reason Australians are such a hardy, unflappable lot is because the country's so rugged. I was reminded of this when I recently watched this brief clip of a Mercedes G-Wagen that has been modified and ruggedized for the Australian Defence Force:
Recently, I did a Google search for the Saab Sonnett III to post an image into the Core77 discussion boards (we were discussing V4 engines). On Google's image search, I noticed a really well-done presentation sketch for a modified Sonnett. Intrigued, I clicked to visit the page and found myself on a blog with some 70-odd presentation sketches for cars, hot rods, engines, suspensions, car interiors and other vehicular concepts, all of equally excellent execution.
I immediately wanted to share this treasure trove of design inspiration with everyone I knew, but thought that I'd contact the blog owner first: Jack Ashcraft in Southern California.
After a career in the USAF, Ashcraft owned a Saab-Fiat-Citroën dealer and also raced Saabs and Fiats in hillclimbs and autocrosses in California. That kind of serious automotive addiction led him to study transportation and industrial design at Art Center. After graduating in 1976, he stayed in California and designed aftermarket parts, kit cars and aircraft and consulting for some major auto makers. On the side, Ashcraft continued to stoke his passion for Saabs by restoring them and dealing in parts for vintage Saabs. Today, he's semi-retired, but keeps himself busy with restoration projects, his own Fiat hot rod project and reconditioning distributors and vintage speedometers.
This brings us to his sketch blog. All the time, he had been amassing sketches of all kinds of dream projects. A couple of years ago, one of his sons decided to start scanning the sketchbooks and share them with the Internet leading to this very unique collection.
Remember the Thonet bicycle concept, and how we weren't sure if the seat-tube-less design would be possible to execute in steambent wood? Seeing as there's still no word on whether it will become a reality, Japanese design student Yojiro Oshima has done them one better with a prototype of his unconventional bicycle concept. For his degree project at Musahino Art University's Craft & Industrial Design Department, he has designed and built a Y-Foil/Softride-style frame by hand (it wasn't based on a chair per se, but I'm seeing a little Wegner myself).
The designer recently sent the project to James Thomas of BicycleDesign.net, where Oshima notes: "This proposal is about the shape of the frame and the handle mainly which doesn't concern what material it's made out of. The maximum comfort can be put into practice by wood." Thus, the frame concept also echoes that of the previously-seen (steel) Van Hulsteijn, which is currently in production.
A visible seam
Regarding the construction and other carpentry/bike nerd concerns, Oshima adds,
It is all hand made. The down tube and seat tube are hollowed with plenty of thickness left not to disturb the surface when planed too much. As a result, it weights about 14kg in total. The thickness is uncertain though, I guess it's about 6-12mm. It is bonded the half and half into one.
I was also curious to learn that the trispoke-style wheels were originally known as "baton" wheels—the renderings of the Thonet concept has a set of HED's top-of-the-line carbon fiber version—and that the clover-like construction is intended to "soften the ride." Similarly, the cantilevered saddle intended for comfort, while the short stays speak to performance by "assuring the stiffness."
Why won't the internal combustion engine die? To oversimplify the issue, it's partly because of its incumbency and partly because it's very good at what it does. Environmentalists hate it because it's dirty, and while some engineers pursue alternate energy forms, there are still plenty of smart people tweaking the internal combustion engine to make it less dirty, more efficient, and more powerful.
One person in the latter category is Christian von Koenigsegg, the rather brilliant inventor behind the Swedish supercar skunkworks that bears his name. Anyone with a basic understanding of how engines work is bound to be impressed by von Koenigsegg's latest, a camshaft-free design.
With a conventional engine, the valves are driven by cams that are necessarily egg-shaped, with each cam driving its attendant valve stem into its deepest extension at the pointiest part of the egg as the cam rotates on the camshaft. Simple physics dictate this be a gradual process; because of the egg shape the valve gradually opens, maxes out, and gradually closes. If a cam was shaped like an off-center square, for instance, the valve stem would break on the corners.
With von Koenigsegg's "Free Valve" engine design, the valves operate independently and electronically to depress/open, while a mechanical spring returns them to the closed position. This means the valves quickly slam open, allowing fuel to flood the combustion chamber, then quickly slam shut. Ditto for the exhaust valves. So fuel is not gradually seeping in and exhaust is not gradually seeping out—it's going BAM in, BAM out. The benefits? The engine is much smaller, of course, requiring no camshaft or timing belt. On top of that they're projecting 30% less fuel consumption, 30% more torque, 30% more horsepower, and a staggering 50% less emissions.
In the video below, von Koenigsegg walks you through it:
Last year, we caught wind of a company called Roof for Two that had a cool project under wraps, no pun intended: A portable, fold-flat, quickly-deployable rain shield for a motorcycle. We contacted them, but they couldn't send us video or images of it at the time, as they were in the midst of applying for both a design patent and a utility patent.
Well, the wait is over: The patents have been granted, and a demo video of what they're calling the RainRunner is ready.
Would those of you with motorcycle experience use one of these? While the concept looks cool to a non-biker like me, the company has been struggling; they're currently lights-out, due to problems acquiring seed funding. Your opinions could provide some useful insight.
Edit: David Chen, Co-Founder of Roof for Two, writes: "We actually designed [the RainRunner] solely for motorcycle riders in India."
With European car sales in decline, it should come as no surprise that many manufacturers are increasingly focused on growth in China and the US. Couple this with the fact that many brands now opt for CES as a showcase for their latest connected car technologies, and this year's Geneva Motor Show was never going to be the showstopper of old.
To save you the trip, we've pulled together our highlights from the show—a selection of some of the finest design executions and some food for thought on an industry going through some massive changes.
The Crass Italian Super-cars
The mass drooling over this year's pin-ups—the Ferrari LaFerrari and Lamborghini's eccentric Venero—is perhaps an indication of what is wrong with the car industry. Testosterone prevails and with price tags of €1.3m for the LaFerrari and €3.12m for the Venero, it's also clear to see that the global recession is having little impact on high-end luxury purchases—if anything it's spurring on ever more ostentatious forms. Lamborghini no longer even seem concerned with aesthetic coherence, a frenzy of hard facets being 'complemented' by confused looking softer forms. Ferrari's counterpart, although slightly more refined, is plain awkward looking, a common result when attempting to flex F1 credentials too literally on consumer cars.
Mixed Fortunes for British Luxury Brands
Over at Aston Martin, the Rapide seems to have lost a little of it's predecessors' understated elegance. The deeper, more aggressive face gives the car a burly presence that you might not usually associate with the brand, but it is a measure that will surely increase its appeal in China, a key market for the brand if it is to survive in the future. At a cool £250k, Rolls-Royce's Wraith Coupe had what was probably the most sophisticated interior on display. With a nod to modern boating materials, the 'Canadel' wood options are named after the South France cove where company founder Sir Henry Royce and team spent time developing their wares in the 1910s—nice story and nice execution.
Last and perhaps least, Bentley looked every bit a manufacturer in transition while new studio boss Luc Donckerwolke begins his task of reinventing the brand. The new Flying Spur looked unconvincing from many angles, though especially the rear—a duller and more slab-sided take on Maserati's distinctive derrière. It was hard to pinpoint exactly, but it just seemed to be lacking character—something Donckerwolke brought to Lamborghini in spades. Let's hope he can do the same with Bentley moving forward.
For many of you, landing an auto design gig would be the end-all be-all. But imagine having that job, with all of its demands, and still having enough creativity left over to do your own art on the side.
Craig Metros is a Ford designer from Detroit, now transferred to Australia. In his new home base of Melbourne, Metros has rented a garage-studio with five other guys, and in his off hours, creates art (primarly car-based, you can check his pieces out here) and works on machines. Watch the video below and decide which of his lives you envy more.
They said it couldn't be done, but Lamborghini has pulled a design coup and successfully created the world's most-difficult-to-wax car. A cleverly arranged array of fins, vents, humps, angles, and even dangerously sharp edges have been designed to stymie even the most dedicated lackey, who simply will not be able to apply Meguiar's and wipe it back off in a reasonable amount of time. Mr. Miyagi's car, this isn't.
That isn't the only benefit conferred by the contorted shape: Should a cinderblock fall onto the car from above and damage the sheet metal, onlookers will likely not be able to tell where the damage occurred, saving the driver money on bodywork.
Early chatter indicated these drawings were fake, but Jalopnik's now fairly certain that the Lamborghini Veneno will debut at this week's Geneva Motor Show. Priced at a reasonable $4.6 million, the Veneno should prove irresistible to young families who need to get around town in a safe, roomy way. And the exterior styling belies a sensible 6.5-liter V12 powerplant, whose 750 horsepower and 220 m.p.h. top speed should be more than enough to get you over to the inlaws in a comfortable manner.
The Veneno will reportedly not come with a glovebox, but instead, a handbasket. Then you can take that handbasket, place the car inside of it, and you can bring it straight with you to Hell.
...And here's the second most awesome thing I've seen all week: The guys over at Audi UK came up with a fantastic way to test out the RS 4 Avant, using methods that have no applicability whatsoever to real-world driving. I'm a little disappointed that the guns don't swivel, and the ergonomic placement of the triggers seems poor, but I did enjoy the secondary/tertiary/quatenary paint-delivering devices. I won't spoil the surprise(s) for you:
You're likely wondering how they captured some of those aerial shots, as having a floor-mounted crane amidst those drifting cars doesn't seem feasible. The answer is: Drones to the rescue!