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Will Your Next Car Be Covered In Morphing Dimples? 138

cartechboy writes Golfing and cars, not much in common there. But that's about to change thanks to a new technology from a research lab at MIT called Smorphs. The idea is simple: put a set of dynamic dimples on the exterior of a car to improve its surface aerodynamics and make it slipperier, and therefore faster. Pedro Reis is the mechanical engineering and research spearheading this project. A while ago Mythbusters proved the validity of the dimpled car form in a much more low-tech way. The concept uses a hollow core surrounded by a thick, deformable layer, and a smoother outer skin. When vacuum is applied, the outer layers suck in to form the dimples. The technology is only in its very earliest stages, but we could see this applied to future vehicles in an effort to make them faster and more fuel efficient.
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Will Your Next Car Be Covered In Morphing Dimples?

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  • by rsborg ( 111459 ) on Friday July 25, 2014 @03:35AM (#47529271) Homepage

    Your next supercar will be ugly as hitting your father with a sweaty sock, but really efficient because, as we all know, people buy supercars for their efficiency.

    Let's turn it around - *some* or "a lot* of people who buy super cars (especially of the electric variety) buy cars for their efficiency (speed/mileage).

    a) not all or nothing - a big enough niche where you dominate (and erect defenses from encroachment) will provide a solid business model and sustainable profits.
    b) speed requires efficiency, unless you plan on putting rocket fuel into your afterburner.
    c) I always thought dimples were sexy on a girl, why not a car?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 25, 2014 @07:10AM (#47529759)

    "People buy super cars because they consider them to be cool (and they have nothing better to spend their money on)."


    "New technology is cool."

    Not true. Some new technology is cool, but not all. Relevant case in point is the engines used in supercars, where you will often see naturally aspirated V8s, V10s etc used not because they are the latest, most efficient tech, but because they sound great, and people expect a supercar to sound awesome, efficiency is secondary.

    "If this is cool new tech, a super car seems like a logical place to start."

    Logic has little to do with supercars. Bugatti lost over $6million dollars on every Veyron sold; if it was about logic, they wouldn't make them.

    "Also note that efficiency isn't necessarily solely fuel economy, but can also affect top speed."

    True, but again, supercars aren't all about ultimate performance, they are more objets d'art than anything else. You wouldn't want a slow supercar, but they are supposed to look great, sound great, and feel great, as well as perform great. They are mostly driven around cities at 30MPH, not trying to set speed records, they just need credible performance to sit amongst their peers.

  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Friday July 25, 2014 @07:35AM (#47529851) Homepage Journal

    What really needs to be focused on is a method to stop them dead in their tracks whenever they are in striking distance of slower moving objects such as pedestrians and bicyclists.

    That's dumb. Pedestrians and bicyclists don't have the same requirements as automobiles, we should focus on keeping them separated. It's not as though they need to share the same space, except where no thought has been given to them.

  • by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Friday July 25, 2014 @09:12AM (#47530351) Journal
    Tractor trailers would seemingly benefit the most.

    Given the trucking industry's current interest in aerodynamic additions that are not necessarily aesthetic,

    I would say that's your target market.

  • by Primate Pete ( 2773471 ) on Friday July 25, 2014 @09:33AM (#47530539)
    Why not just press dimples into the plastic/fibreglas/metal panels of the car? No expensive technology needed, and "good enough" dimples can just be made part of the parts molds/presses.

    On a second topic, I would be investigating this if I owned a racing team because anything that decreases the fuel consumption of my car improves overall race performance. Skipping a single refueling stop is a big deal. Since the teams are already making custom cars, the cost of adding dimples should be negligible compared to the overall cost of the vehicle. Not quite something for nothing, but close.
  • by Pentium100 ( 1240090 ) on Friday July 25, 2014 @11:07AM (#47531411)

    If every car looks this way, the argument of "ugly" is nonexistent.

    Well, I already slightly dislike the look of every modern car, one of the reasons I love old cars - the manufacturers tried to make a car that looks good, they were not focusing all their effort to make the car as efficient as possible.

    It's not whether you drive a lot or not, it's just a flat benefit.

    Let's say the new car costs $20k and uses half the fuel that my current car uses.
    For $20k I could buy a lot of fuel for my current car, let's say it will be enough to go 100000km.
    So, my old car costs $0.2/km to drive. The new car would be $0.1/km, so it saves me $0.1 every km I drive it. I have to drive it 200000km for it to save me enough money to cover the cost of the car. If I do not drive a lot, chances are that the car will break down (in a way that cannot be repaired) or be smashed in a crash (and be not repairable), because it may take me many years to drive 200000km.

    So, I may be better off with a car that uses more fuel but costs less up front. Or just keeping my current car which I like and which looks nice (not completely aerodynamic).

A committee is a group that keeps the minutes and loses hours. -- Milton Berle