Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Here's Why Speedometers Do That

Why Do Speedometers Go To 160MPH?  According to that article, they don't actually know, but they agree that it leads to the psychological itch to go that bit faster.  In one way, the coming of digital speedometers has to some extent shown old dial type speedos to be the bullshit that they are and thus are solving one issue.

But for my money?  The clue's in the "needle's only half way" remark.  We like to think our machines have some reserve over and above our requirements.  Yes, we have drivers who are only happy when the needles on all the gauges are hovering partway into the red, and they who push that envelope are our race car drivers. (Or our hoon drivers, if they didn't luck into a racing career.)

But for the rest of us, the sense of security we get from driving along with "plenty in reserve" is what sells those cars with the 220kph speedos.  (Amusingly enough, if you push the average car to the valve-bending limit they will top out around 150kph, and then the various engine parts end up making pretty patterns on the road behind you.  We're such suckers...)

Also, of course, there's no way a car manufacturer wants to see the speedo needle hitting the end stop.  So even though 140kph is realistic, they will add that extra 80 just to make sure you won't ever "wrap the needle."  The next model will get that fast, buddy, you betcha.  Just buy it when we release it okay?

Also, all that unused range on the dial makes sure we cling to the speed limit or just over.  Despite knowing that every millimeter we depress that pedal is another half a litre per 100km.  So in a lot of ways, cars with dial type speedos have contributed to deaths, pollution, and the cost of constantly replacing your car with the next model.

And here comes my "personal responsibility" homily, yeah yeah...  See, the reason car manufacturers do those sorts of things is simple.  It's because they work.  You and I and everyone else that buys a car and is swayed by the horsepower and top speed, have contributed to this.

At least we're now pushing for greener cars and thinking about driving a bit slower - aren't we?

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