2018-07-28 04:47:06 UTC
We are well aware that any device we build is a collection of
design compromises: cost, available materials, weight, size,
and many different aspects of performance. On top of this,
sometimes there is a further compromise with style. Customers
or designers want the device to look a certain way that actually
interferes with the device's function. Such an occasion is at
hand with respect to some types of automobile tires.
Many cars are now being sold with tires that are too shallow,
measuring from the lower edge of the rim of the wheel to the tread.
In the industry these are termed "low profile" tires. Some critics
call them "rubber band" tires. Tires like this have little distance
to flex to allow for irregularities in the road surface, and hence
are subject to severe damage from running over potholes. There
is no corresponding advantage in handling. Racing tires achieve
better handling not by being low as such but by being wide. This
gives them a larger contact patch which allows the designers to
use a softer rubber compound (with a higher coefficient of friction)
in the tread and still have the required tread life. The tires
on modern formula 1 racing cars are not as low as these
passenger car tires.
This problem has been discussed in the automotive press many
times over the years. The essential silliness of the situation
was highlighted recently when the Michelin company announced
the development of a wheel with a resilient rim to protect
these low profile tires from road damage:
Looking at the cross section of the "ACORUS" rim, one can see
that it in effect provides a prosthetic side wall so that the
tire plus rim acts as if the tire were designed with a reasonable
side wall height in the first place. It does seem to work OK;
in a test, a low profile tire mounted on the new wheel was able
to go over a pot hole at 35 miles per hour without damage, whereas
the same tire mounted on a conventional wheel was destroyed at
half that speed.
Has a science fiction writer ever used this trope of a technology
where function is compromised by style?