Wing Span: The female-designed YCC from
Volvo gull wing doors, which allow for more entry space and needs a 2-ft
margin--less than a conventional door--on each side of the car.
Volvo had a hand recently in hushing a group of vocal Wellesley College women. A team of female engineers and designers from the Swedish car company were on campus as part of the tour of—Your Concept Car (YCC)—the female-designed concept vehicle making headlines recently. The Volvo team fielded questions from students concerned that some features—such as computerized assistance for parallel parking, a no-open hood, and a ponytail holder space in the driver's head rest—ultimately stereotype women as bad drivers, ignorant about car maintenance, and concerned more with their hair than with a car's driveability. Turns out there's logic behind it all. Computerized parallel parking assistance is a feature made for safety—Volvo's number one priority—and is showing up on other predominantly male-designed cars today as well. The no-open hood, which actually can be opened by a mechanic if necessary, is in response to the fact that drivers of new cars today, and conceptually in 10 years, don't need to look under the hood since most of the parts reliably run off electronics. Plus, the car battery is stored in the trunk and the windshield wiper fluid is accessed through capless tanks on the side of the car. And the headrest space for the ponytail holder? It's a safety feature. In a car accident, the first point of contact against the headrest for a man or woman with a ponytail is on the ponytail holder, which means too much energy concetrated on a small point. No doubt, that logic and attention to detail came as a disappointment to any students on the Wellesley campus who were eager for a women's lib argument.
"It's like the Macintosh of cars," says Lena Ekelund, deputy technical project manager of the YCC. "The less you have to tinker with, the more focused you'll be on driving." Check out other innovative features of the car at Volvo's concept lab website (http://rbi.ims.ca/3850-531).
One way to keep a Formula One racing team moving at breakneck speed in the pit and at the test facility is to bring CAD drawings of the racing vehicle’s parts down to the test facility and even out to the track.
Most of us would just as soon step on a cockroach rather than study it, but that’s just what researchers at UC Berkeley did in the pursuit of building small, nimble robots suitable for disaster-recovery and search-and-rescue missions.
Design engineers need to prepare for a future in which their electronic products will use not just one or two, but possibly many user interfaces that involve touch, vision, gestures, and even eye movements.
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