No brainer technologies

I look at cars and sometimes have to slap my forehead thinking – What the hell are the auto manufacturers doing?  Here is a list of technologies, I think should have come into cars a long time back but have not made it in yet.
1.       e-assist – What I mean here is what GM has introduced in some of its Buicks. The 1st generation version was known as ‘mild hybrid’ but that name was canned for marketing reasons and offered hardly any improvement in fuel efficiency. The version that just came out lives upto its billing and helps get the car off from a standing start. Knowing that engines have to put out a lot of torque (and fuel) at low speeds, this probably makes a lot of sense.

Schematic of GM’s eAssist   © GM Company.

2.       Fuel economy gage – Toyota had this bright idea a few years back to put them in some of their cars. Heck Even BMW has an ‘economy meter’ in its car. I do not understand why they have not proliferated across the board. Giving it premium real estate in the instrument binnacle will prompt drivers to be more careful when stomping on the gas. Maybe they could replace the tachometer with the economy meter. If you are like most people and drive an automatic you don’t give a damn about the engine rpm anyway. And if you drive a stick shift, you should know when to shift by the seat of your pants. Assuming you are paying attention, of course.

3 series binnacle. Notice the mpg meter below the tachometer.
© BMW AG
3.       Convex shaped rear view mirrors – Ford recently got this bright idea to add convexity to its rear view mirrors which helped eliminate the blind spot. Get this and you can get rid of the new-fangled blind spot detection system.
Convex door mirror on the Fiesta
.       Local cell phone jammers – Ok, I am on tricky legal terrain here, but I see a lot of commonsense in having a cell phone jammer in your car. That way, any risk posed by distracted idiots driving around you would be negated when their calls drop! Maybe the FCC and DOT should seriously consider these things. Or we could avoid this issue altogether by having cell phones which turn off when their accelerometers sense a particular speed. Of course, for that happen, phone manufacturers have to commit to do what’s right rather that just go by the bottom-line.
5.       Daytime running lights – So far on this issue, only a handful of manufacturers including GM, Subaru and VW have been proactive. I don’t know, for the life of me, why others have not adopted this. The safety benefits are clear enough that they are mandated in Canada and Scandinavia. But hey, their lawmakers have more common-sense, less divided and less beholden to commercial interests.
6.       Cap-less fillers – This is a real puzzler. Why did it take Ford such a long time to come up with this idea. And why didn’t someone else come up with this idea before.

Ford’s easy fuel system © Ford Motor Co 
7.       Din2 sized stereos with smart phone docks – Most people listen to music on their smart-phone, iPhone and iPod Touch. So why bother designing a custom infotainment system? Just have a dock for your personal music player/phone. Android and iOS have interfaces that are far superior to most infotainment systems.
8.       Removable GPS systems (aka Suzuki) – Here’s my pet peeve. Most manufacturers price built in GPS at way above reasonable prices. And they are almost always inferior to the latest Tom Tom or Garmin ones you can buy at your local Best Buy. So why not just have a dock where you can plug in the latest GPS you bought from Amazon or wherever?
9.       Turning lamps in addition to turning indicators – This is a simple safety device. Remember how frustrating it is when you cannot see where you are going because your wheels have turned but your car has not. It would be very easy to mount an extra set of bulbs and have them driven by electric motors which are hooked up with your steering system. Or better yet, have headlamps pointed outwards which turn on if the wheels are turned beyond a threshold limit.
10.   Plug-in hybrids with simplified limp home capability- Ok we don’t need to have the sophisticated technology behind the Volt, especially if you could have drop the cost by a few grand. Instead you could have a small 2 cylinder engine or a mini-turbine which would fire up if your battery charge fell below say 75%. No need for all that fancy gearbox and software.
11.   Fresnel lens – My Dad has this on his Pajero in the 80s. What it essentially was a self adhesive high refractive index plastic which you stuck on your rear window so you can see stuff down by your rear bumper. Hey, no need for a rear view camera.
12.   Stop-start capability- Another no-brainer. Hey, even the basic Mahindra Bolero came up with one in conjunction with Bosch. Hey if Mahindra can afford to have one in a car costing 16K, why can’t the rest of them do it.

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