Finding the light.

Look at all the boxes. Just look at ’em. Big boxes, small boxes. Green boxes, blue boxes. Lifted boxes, lowered boxes. Boxes in every shape for every taste. Just as long as you like boxes.i Even if your palate is more refined, your options are scarcely broadened by a deeper chequebook. But… why ?

Blame regulation.

Specifically, blame the regulations that aim to protect pedestrians from having their limbs amputated below the knee by a Lancia Stratos or DeLorean. There’ve already been too many, we’re told, and each of them was preventable, whatever that means. God forbid anyone was every directly injured by anything that was preventable. And what’s the big deal if the unintended consequences of safety regulations can neither be calculated nor adequately considered ? Calculators, of which computers are a subset, are for terrorists. And you’re not a terrorist are you ?

So it is that every front-end of every car at your local dealer is at least *this* tall, *this* wide, and afixed to a resultingly monotonous mound of metal with all the gravitas of a gibbled grape. Wait, Pete, why resultingly monotonous ? What does the frontal area have to do with the rest of the car ? Well, little Timmy, if you’re fitting cowcatchers as standard, nothing, but otherwise, absolutely everything.

You see, it all started with the intent to blunt the impact of a car’s front end against a pedestrianii but the resulting taller grille unintentionally resulted in a taller beltline, which unintentionally resulted in a narrow DLOiii because the overall height of the car couldn’t be sufficiently increased to compensate, which obviously resulted in poorer visibility, which unintentionally resulted in increased anxiety for increasingly cocooned drivers. At the same time larger wheels and lower profile tires were being fitted so as to compensate visually for the slabbier sides caused by the higher beltlines, which unintentionally resulted in a firmer and less comfortable ride, which unintentionally resulted in increased interest in larger off-roaders for city use, which unintentionally resulted in the crossover craze,iv which ultimately and still very much unintentionally resulted in a plethora of divers automotive form factors being supplanted by an ever narrowing set of lifted boxes-on-wheels, all of which consume more fuel and are less aerodynamic (and are more aesthetically challenging) than their less-regulated forebearers, which unintentionally resulted in lighter materials being used to compensate, which unintentionally resulted in plastifikation, which unintentionally resulted in cars that last a decade, not five,v as was the case briefly from certain marques… all to save a few

Now this chain reaction is probably worthy of more scholarship as a case study for would-be regulators, but you get the rough idea : pedestrian safety killed appealing automotive design. As ever, compliance is soul death, if not body death. And even though thinking people will agree that the former is immensely more tragic than the latter, heaps of unnatural propaganda continue to claim the contrary.vii

Needless to say, regulation can never be all-encompassing. For all its efforts, it can only ever look backwards while select few will always have the ability to look ahead.viii So it is that those looking to innovate in the sphere of automotive design have turned their attention to lighting.ix That the monumental resources of the automotive industry are coming to bear on such a relatively insignificant surface area can only lead to runaway complexity. But as ever with fresh plains, there will first be creativity, and if we’re lucky, beauty.

No one seriously cares about cars anymore anyways so might as well make a canvas out of them.x It’s the least the lights can do. Goodness knows they won’t outlast the rest of the bloody things.

Not anymore.

___ ___ ___

  1. Or hot dogs for that matter, same difference. Will sir have the small, medium, or large tube this evening ?
  2. Or at least a crash test dummies because god forbid anyone test anything on animals. And no, there aren’t 7 bn “people” on earth. Get a grip.
  3. Daylight opening aka greenhouse.
  4. Crossovers are essentially lifted station wagons that differ from SUVs or 4x4s in their unibody construction as opposed to the traditional ladder-on-frame construction of proper off-roaders. Anyways, Porsche kicked off the crossover trend in earnest with the 2003 Cayenne, but the recent arrival of the Bentley Bentayga as well as the imminent arrival of the Rolls Royce Cullinan and Lamborghini Urus show that the crescendo is still on the ascent.
  5. Steel is far more durable and handles the stress of potholes, curbs, and temperature fluctuations immensely better than plastic in the medium-term. Yes, steel rusts and plastic doesn’t, but plastic cracks and steel bends so the latter can be repaired but the former will be replaced in the event of damage.
  6. Graphically :

    Goal to save pedestrians

    Larger grille

    Taller beltline
    Larger wheels+tires            Narrower DLO
    ↓                                  ↓
    Firmer ride quality        More anxious drivers
    ↘                                  ↙
    Taller vehicles

    Crossover craze

    Reduced fuel efficiency

    Increased plastifikation

    80% reduction in car’s longevity

    Car as disposable fashion item

    (Car lights as canvas?)

  7. Who could’ve predicted that valuing life as the supreme good in a society would turn everything within it to shit ? 
  8. This is, incidentally, the exact same reason that autonomous vehicles are nowhere on the horizon. AI is effectively in the same backwards-looking boat as regulation.
  9. Those looking to innovate in computing hardware have bizarrely and altogether more questionably turned in the exact same direction. Such is the consequence of the death of Moore‘s and Kryder‘s Laws the “what colour are your bits?” joke is now a real thing, at least as much as the “how hot or not are you?” joke is a thing.
  10. It might not be a bad plan either. To quote a recent convo :

    pete_d has seen ‘virtual cockpit’ in new Audi S3. It’s rather nifty even if I wouldn’t want to own it.
    ben_vulpes: Let me guess, blue light everywhere. Screens with no gamma correction. Zero regard for night vision of driver.

    mircea_popescu: Oh ffs
    ben_vulpes: Not “correction”, but “yellowing” if it makes less of a ffs.

    pete_d: Actually whole dash turns into map. Not overly distracting. Big wow-factor. Very responsive graphics.
    ben_vulpes: Heh this is how the industry moves to automated cars. They make the non automated cars utterly unsafe to drive.
    mircea_popescu: Could be.

    ben_vulpes: Yes please, random screen twiddling in my peripheral vision while I drive. Yes please, blue light and screens at night while I drive.
    mircea_popescu: It’s not altogether a bad plan, monkeys utterly unable to resist shiny.

    Kittens love lasers, car buyers love virtual cockpits. You can see it, can’t you. 

12 thoughts on “Finding the light.

  1. hanbot says:

    I was just recently stuck somewhere with a view of 90% box-on-wheels, 10% riffraff owner-candidates, and wondered exactly at the too-high front bumper and Body Seemingly by Mattel.

    Well answered!

    (The owners’ “jorts” remain, happily, a mystery.)

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