From South Africa’s Engineering News comes a timely meditation on one-size-fits-all technology solutions, in this case addressing run-flat tires.
There is this ad currently showing on TV, for Bridgestone tyres, that tends to irritate me. It shows this happy guy whose BMW has just run over a nail in the road and has a flat tyre. The ad then tells us: “Bridgestone run-flat tyres let you travel up to 80 km at up to 80 km/h after air loss.” I am sure that this is great news when you get a flat tyre in the middle of the Karoo, at dusk, and you are driving one of those cars that now brag that they have no spare wheel because the car has run-flat tyres. That run-flat system may be fine for Germany, where a motorist can expect to find some service station within 80 km of anywhere. Note also the use of the words “up to” in the ad. In South Africa, to drive any car around without a spare wheel is nuts. Have the run-flat if you like, but not in place of the spare. To me, when I see that ad, and others that are similar, I immediately imagine German designers designing a car for German conditions – the soccer field. South Africa has the golf course, so the design criteria do not apply here. I remember an occasion when I was in Germany, and a group of folks were stunned to discover that I had often driven a car all day, like driving from inland to the coast. It was then that I discovered that driving from Pretoria to Cape Town was the same distance as driving from Rome to Amsterdam. European drivers just have no concept of these distances in a car. To them rally drivers drive these distances, not normal, respectable citizens.