THE DESIGN OF VEHICLES

Introduced by John Coates, Convener, on 13 October 1997

In the design of vehicles of all kinds the interactions between their main functional attributes, namely carrying capacity, control of motion, propulsion, protection and range of operation, were outlined together with the use of a form of equation relating the total mass of a vehicle to the sum of the masses needed to materialize each functional attribute. Advantageous changes in materials or techniques, however, alter such equations and the functions within them. Examples of such changes are: use of aluminium and developments in lubricants, the ability to stick polymers to steel, welding of steel structures, fan-jet engines, O-ring seals, electronic controls, and reliability design. The limits of visual design imposed by technical factors and function were touched upon, together with the need for most vehicles to be produced at an acceptable cost.
The discussion centred on motor cars, being of topical concern to so many, and led to the need to press ahead with the development of less polluting sources of power and new materials such as reinforced plastics; both can be expected to enter the market within decades. More important, however, is the need for political action to mould transport as a whole, and of all kinds, into forms conducive to civilised life and in which total, not just the presently accounted kinds of costs, are taken into consideration. Cars have to be seen as part of a system, community-wide, indeed worldwide, and their design will have to respond to such changes and influences.

John Coates.