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Will Your Next Car Be Covered In Morphing Dimples?

samzenpus posted about 3 months ago | from the slicing-down-the-highway dept.

Transportation 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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The Future. (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47529173)

My wife's car just had $10k worth of hail damage repaired via insurance. You're telling me that on her future vehicle we will be expected to pay extra for the "animated hail dimples" option?

Re:The Future. (1)

bistromath007 (1253428) | about 3 months ago | (#47530193)

Not just that, it'll also cost $30k to repair actual hail damage. You'll be better off buying a new car eveytime it gets a dent.

Re:The Future. (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 3 months ago | (#47530749)

maybe but enterprise rent a car will bill you the 30K + lost of use even when a new car costs less.

11% fuel efficiency improvement (5, Interesting)

Max_W (812974) | about 3 months ago | (#47529189)

It is a lot. Why car industry does not make cars like this?

Re:11% fuel efficiency improvement (2)

Mashiki (184564) | about 3 months ago | (#47529321)

Don't worry, I'm sure speed holes are up next.

Re:11% fuel efficiency improvement (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47529351)

Why Max_W does not use grammar properly?

Re:11% fuel efficiency improvement (3, Informative)

ravenscar (1662985) | about 3 months ago | (#47530291)

I know I'm feeding the trolls, but I'll venture that English is not Max_W's first language. Don't be an asshole. Or, if that's too hard, just be an asshole by yourself. No need to trumpet it online.

Re:11% fuel efficiency improvement (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47529361)

TESLA wants to replace side vision mirrors with tiny camera's, as side mirrors add 10% to drag apparently. That would be easier to do I'd imagine.

Re:11% fuel efficiency improvement (2)

Lord Lemur (993283) | about 3 months ago | (#47530375)

Easier, cheaper and a larger return, but it doesn't fail safe.

Re:11% fuel efficiency improvement (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47529373)

Because it's ugly, and when developing a new car costs something in the range of billions, you'll get very risk-averse, particularly since such a chassis shape is hard to explain to average joe. Always remember that people in general are stupid and don't believe facts....

However, have you noticed the small "7"-shaped slits in the side of the newer BMW models? Those have the same intention of reducing drag on the chassis, and I am sure other manufacturers are working on similar solution

Re:11% fuel efficiency improvement (1, Informative)

mrbester (200927) | about 3 months ago | (#47529375)

They do. Compare a European car with a US one. Faster with smaller, more fuel efficient engines.

Re:11% fuel efficiency improvement (1, Interesting)

CauseBy (3029989) | about 3 months ago | (#47532195)

It's true that Euro cars go a little farther on the same gasoline. In America we weigh the tradeoff between safety and fuel efficiently differently than they do in Europe. That's why many European cars aren't allowed on America's roads, because they don't meet our standards. The Euro-built cars on American roads are designed to meet America's higher safety standards. Likewise, American cars don't meet some European standards, but not because of safety.

Are Euro cars really faster? I have a hard time believing that. Don't you guys have teensy tiny little bitty cars and trucks? It's hard to imagine them keeping up with American cars doing 95 miles per hour on interstate highways.

Re:11% fuel efficiency improvement (3, Interesting)

Pentium100 (1240090) | about 3 months ago | (#47529483)

Because it looks ugly. Also, the laws in my country limit the maximum speed to 130km/h, so I don't care that denting the car will make it faster - I can break the law already if I want (my not very aerodynamic car made in 1982 with 80kW gasoline engine running on LPG can go at around 165km/h (and going 35km/h over the limit would result in a huge fine)), I do not really need a faster car). Also, saving 11% money on fuel but having to buy a new car would not pay off unless you drive a lot.

Re:11% fuel efficiency improvement (4, Informative)

gurps_npc (621217) | about 3 months ago | (#47530345)

Bull. It does not look ugly. It looks strange to you only because you have never seen it before. Let them start making it and all the young kids will say how cool it looks. (Look at what the silly things like in music!)

As for your argument about 11%, you are a very ignorant. It is not about replacing your car, but about making the NEXT car you buy 11% more fuel efficient.

Re:11% fuel efficiency improvement (1)

Pentium100 (1240090) | about 3 months ago | (#47530499)

Just because kids like the music they like does not mean that I do too.

Re:11% fuel efficiency improvement (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47530881)

Speaking of kids music, some punk drove by yesterday playing a form I've never heard before... The best way I can describe it was as if Art of Noise has had a reunion but instead of angle grinders and chain saws, they were using pneumatic wrenches and engine starters, dentist drills, and and perhaps some resonating steel towers and guy wires. It really took me a few seconds to realize it was coming from a car stereo and not some weird mechanical failure I've never witnessed before.

Re:11% fuel efficiency improvement (1)

oldmac31310 (1845668) | about 3 months ago | (#47531795)

Surely you are thinking of Einsturzende Neubaten? Art of Noise didn't use tools, did they?

Re:11% fuel efficiency improvement (1)

poetmatt (793785) | about 3 months ago | (#47531281)

If every car looks this way, the argument of "ugly" is nonexistent. 11% economy would pay off to everyone at all times, including for EV's as well. It's not whether you drive a lot or not, it's just a flat benefit.

Re:11% fuel efficiency improvement (1, Insightful)

Pentium100 (1240090) | about 3 months ago | (#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).

Re:11% fuel efficiency improvement (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47532035)

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

... 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).

And what are the odds for your current car suffering the same (break down (in a way that cannot be repaired) or be smashed in a crash (and be not repairable) during the next 100000km? Then add in the added safety features you get with a new car, and consider that YOU are in the crash too...

Re:11% fuel efficiency improvement (2)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 3 months ago | (#47529833)

It is a lot. Why car industry does not make cars like this?

The people that would be interested in this already have very fuel efficient cars. Therefor the effect would be negligible on the types of vehicles they're buying. Where-as the effect would have the most dramatic effect on the SUV buyers... who clearly don't give a shit about efficiency. It's a Catch-22.

Re:11% fuel efficiency improvement (2)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 3 months ago | (#47530213)

There's also the people who think they "need" an SUV but get upset about how much they have to pay for fuel. It's a stupid market, but that market exists.

Re:11% fuel efficiency improvement (0)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | about 3 months ago | (#47530589)

And their solution is to drill more oil in currently protected reefs and forests. Yes, lets kill everyone's envionment so you can drive like an asshole in an suv cheaper. Where do I sign up?

Re:11% fuel efficiency improvement (4, Insightful)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 3 months ago | (#47530351)

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.

Re:11% fuel efficiency improvement (2)

usuallylost (2468686) | about 3 months ago | (#47531067)

If they can make this work at a reasonable cost the trucking industry is defiantly a place I’d expect to see it. After all fuel efficiency is one of the biggest factors in whether a trucking company makes money or not. I am not sure a dynamic system such as being described in the article makes that much sense for cars and trucks. Making some sort of prefabricated body panels that have some pattern permanent imprinted it in seems like it would be much cheaper and require less long term maintenance. Even if you only got a portion of the 11% improvement it could still equal millions of dollars a year to a large trucking company.

As far as they sort of dynamic system described in the article I have to wonder if that wouldn’t be more appropriate to something like the aviation industry. Aircraft have a large enough cost that even if a system like that was $100,000 to put in the impact on the overall cost of the aircraft wouldn’t be that great. It is another industry, like trucking, where fuel costs are among their greatest expenses so an 11% improvement would be significant.

Re:11% fuel efficiency improvement (1)

CauseBy (3029989) | about 3 months ago | (#47532267)

"SUV buyers... don't give a shit about efficiency."

This is nonsense. Give me a 45 MPG SUV and I'll give you $30,000 in return. Give me a 45 MPG car that seats two adults and zero carseats, and I won't give you anything, because that car is worthless to me. People buy SUVs because they solve problems, not because they love to pay for extra gasoline. It's the same reason we live in houses instead of mud huts and wipe our asses with toilet paper instead of tree leaves.

11% fuel efficiency improvement (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47530263)

Because it hadn't been researched, yet.

Re:11% fuel efficiency improvement (1)

Rolgar (556636) | about 3 months ago | (#47530989)

How easy will it be to clean when the dimples fill with bug guts compared to a smooth surface? Get enough of the dimples filled with crap, and not only will the car look awful, but it'll probably have worse aerodynamics than the smooth car.

Re:11% fuel efficiency improvement (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47531043)

It doesn't actually help. Mythbuster's isn't exactly science.

Very specific flow conditions are needed for dimples to make a difference, and the flow around cars doesn't meet that criteria.
There is a lot of engineering that goes into cars. If dimples actually made a difference in fuel economy, we'd have seen it by now.
(Side note: sand paper placed at the right place actually has the same effect. If you want to try the dimple effect yourself, just glue sand paper 5-20% from the front of your car.)

Re:11% fuel efficiency improvement (2)

Solandri (704621) | about 3 months ago | (#47531729)

I can think of lots of reasons.
  • It's expensive. Stamping or rolling a sheet of metal into a flat shape or single-curved is quick and easy. Adding lots of little dimples takes time and adds cost. While I can't say how much cost, some or most of the fuel savings may be offset by additional energy consumed during manufacturing.
  • The mechanism for forming the dimples may not be cost-effective. A similar idea was tried with planes - NASA drilled lots of holes in the wing and attached suction tubes to keep the boundary layer attached, leading to laminar flow over the entire wing and better wing efficiency. That's the opposite of what you're doing here (the dimples disrupt laminar flow and cause the airflow to detach and become turbulent prematurely, which actually reduces drag because the air doesn't "stick" to the car as well). But the drawback may be the same - the weight and space of carrying all that sucking equipment completely offset any fuel and cost savings.
  • People don't like it. Auto manufacturers would love to eliminate the cost of the shiny clearcoat layer on top of the paint. But buyers love smooth and shiny - it sells new cars. So they don't.
  • It'd be a lot harder to clean. Dirt and other material like dead bugs and bird droppings would tend to collect and dry in the dimples. With a smooth surface, you can scrape these off. With dimples, the crud would collect inside, and you're going to take a lot more work to clean it out. Maybe enough for an owner to say "screw this, it ain't worth an 11% fuel savings." Deformable dimples may fare better, but the dried crud may prevent the dimple from completely flattening, leaving you with a similar problem.
  • It causes lots of reflections. Most of your car's body is flat panels so you only see reflected sunlight at certain angles. You deal with this by temporarily covering your view of the offending car withy our hand, until you've changed angles so there is no more glare. But put a lot of small curved surfaces on a car and they will reflect sunlight into your eyes from almost any angle. Are you prepared to drive on a road where every car is covered with lots of little glare dots from the sun? It would be less of a problem if cars were painted with flat paint, but see two bullets above.
  • Easier/more annoying to vandalize. Antisocial kids would run around popping these with a pin while your car was parked. You wouldn't notice it until you were up to speed and the dimple suction mechanism complained of reduced vacuum pressure, so the culprits are highly unlikely to be caught.

And those are just off the top of my head. That's not to say they're legit - maybe they won't turn out to be that big a problem in practice. But if you can't think of any reason why this hasn't already been done yet other than "it's an auto industry conspiracy!", then you haven't really put a lot of thought into it.

Your next supercar. (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | about 3 months ago | (#47529191)

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.

Re:Your next supercar. (4, Insightful)

rsborg (111459) | about 3 months ago | (#47529271)

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).

Notes:
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?

Re:Your next supercar. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 3 months ago | (#47529837)

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).

There are no electric supercars. Audi is about to bring out an electric R8 with a top speed of 124. My 1989 240SX would get there, if you defeated the rev limiter.

Re:Your next supercar. (2)

maroberts (15852) | about 3 months ago | (#47529885)

The claimed 0-60 time for a Tesla S is 4.2 seconds, which compares better or at least favourably with many supercars. The Roadster was even better at 3.7 seconds.
Max speed is electronically limited at around 125/130mph,

Similar the apocryphal Bill Gates quote, I could say that no one would want to go faster, but having experienced 165mph on roads, I know different....

Re:Your next supercar. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47529941)

It compares favourably with performance vehicles. 4.2 seconds is well outside Supercars range which is the 2.5-3.5 second range. The roadster is getting close though.

Re:Your next supercar. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47530045)

The Mercedes SLS Electric is listed as 3.9 seconds: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercedes-Benz_SLS_AMG#SLS_AMG_Electric_Drive_.282013.29

Re:Your next supercar. (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | about 3 months ago | (#47530363)

Uninformed. Ever hear of Tesla? They are the definition of electric supercars/

Re:Your next supercar. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 3 months ago | (#47530587)

Uninformed. Ever hear of Tesla? They are the definition of electric supercars/

A supercar needs to have top speed. It doesn't have to be over 200 mph, but it does need to be up there. Tesla makes zero cars with high top speed. For 5-10k you can buy a used Audi A8 (yes, just the A8 and defeat the limiter to get somewhere between 170 and 180 mph. (All cars not limited to 155 for euro-compliance are limited to 130 mph, for inadequate stock tires, depending on the model.) There are many wonderful things about the Teslas, and how fast do you need to go anyway? But they're not supercars. If I didn't live in the boonies, and range wasn't an issue, I'd like to own one, but they're still not supercars. There's a sports car and a sport tourer without enough range for touring but there's no supercar and no plans to produce one.

Re:Your next supercar. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47531103)

http://www.caranddriver.com/news/2014-mercedes-benz-sls-amg-electric-drive-photos-and-info-news

ahem. anybody saying black edition mercs are not supercars are daft.

Re: Your next supercar. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47529931)

Maybe, but girls have up to two dimples. For your argument to be valid, we would need to gauge your reaction to a girl whose entire surface is covered in dimples.

Re: Your next supercar. (1)

CauseBy (3029989) | about 3 months ago | (#47532297)

"Covered in dimples"

You mean cellulite? Yeah, that's not generally considered an attractive trait.

Re:Your next supercar. (1)

NoKaOi (1415755) | about 3 months ago | (#47529355)

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.

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. If this is cool new tech, a super car seems like a logical place to start. Also note that efficiency isn't necessarily solely fuel economy, but can also affect top speed.

As far as making it's way into the mass market...it seems like the "morphing" would be the expensive part. Why not just have it be a fixed dimple on a mass-production car? Perhaps it wouldn't be quite as efficient as one that optimized the dimple depth for the speed of the car, but ought to be a helluva lot cheaper. A disadvantage is that the dimples are going to fill up with grime and will be a PITA to clean.

Re:Your next supercar. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47529759)

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

True

"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.

Re:Your next supercar. (0)

shitzu (931108) | about 3 months ago | (#47529803)

"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.

He said "cool" not "efficient".

Re:Your next supercar. (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 3 months ago | (#47529569)

Most people buy supercars for the aesthetic allusions to cutting-edge technology, not because they genuinely benefit from the disk brakes, carbon fibre, or exposed engine parts that accomplish that allusion. I mean, they even put that stuff in vehicle ranges that genuinely have no need for it, because it's part of the "performance" style. I dare say that if golf ball dimpling (probably strategically deployed on particular parts of the chassis) starts appearing in, say, F1 racing - where efficiency is a differentiator - then it'll become a popular part of the supercar look.

Re:Your next supercar. (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 3 months ago | (#47531243)

Exactly, if it made a difference we'd already see it somewhere in racing.

Re:Your next supercar. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47529691)

> 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.

Wait until some design department created the next Ferrari Penissario 3000 and it will look kickass. They will not just add a layer of clay to an existing car, they would incorporate that in the design and colors.
Further, the size of the dimples might get smaller which means you'd have a less visible effect.

Re:Your next supercar. (1)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | about 3 months ago | (#47530609)

Lowering air resistance is something that is important to super cars, as it increases max speed.

I guess the dimples are ok (1)

fleabay (876971) | about 3 months ago | (#47529195)

but screw the mpg if i'm riding around with a vacuum attached to the outside of my car.

Re:I guess the dimples are ok (2)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | about 3 months ago | (#47529467)

I read "morphine dimples" at first. Then I got disappointed.

My car already is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47529199)

As a /. reader, car washing is way down my list of priorities.

Speed holes! (2)

Coolhand2120 (1001761) | about 3 months ago | (#47529231)

From the Simpsons
Car salesman: "These are speed holes, they make the car go faster"
Krusty: "Oh yeah, speed holes"
http://www.mercedescla.org/for... [mercedescla.org]

Re:Speed holes! (2)

creepynut (933825) | about 3 months ago | (#47530273)

That's actually Homer after having attended Krusty's clown college (episode: Homie the Clown).

Re:Speed holes! (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 3 months ago | (#47531527)

Glad I'm not the only one who thought about that after reading the summary.

Reminds me of... (1)

khellendros1984 (792761) | about 3 months ago | (#47529317)

The concept reminds me of a reverse-Vac-Man [wikipedia.org] , where the dimples go in, instead of out.

Why not permanent? (1)

lindseyp (988332) | about 3 months ago | (#47529343)

Seems like an awfully complicated way to get aerodynamic dimples on a large surface when there's not much of a compelling reason for them not to be there permanently, Which would be orders of magnitude cheaper to do with long-existing technology.

Re:Why not permanent? (4, Informative)

queazocotal (915608) | about 3 months ago | (#47529449)

I'm unsure - but suspect that if they were there permanently - with the profile done right, stamped out of the steel - they may improve stiffness, and reduce weight.
Stamping such a pattern would be 'interesting', and prone to lots of wear in the dies though.
For composite, in principle, it could almost be free.

Re:Why not permanent? (2)

Przemo-c (1010877) | about 3 months ago | (#47529603)

Probably dynamic so it can accomodate different air speed

Re:Why not permanent? (4, Informative)

oneandoneis2 (777721) | about 3 months ago | (#47529647)

From TFA: "If a golf ball were to fly fast enough, it would be better off with a smooth skin."

The dimples make things better at low speeds, and worse at high speeds.

Re:Why not permanent? (1)

sociocapitalist (2471722) | about 3 months ago | (#47529901)

From TFA: "If a golf ball were to fly fast enough, it would be better off with a smooth skin."

The dimples make things better at low speeds, and worse at high speeds.

And thus the 'morphing' aspect of the proposition. Smooth when fast, dimpled when not so fast.

Re:Why not permanent? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47530987)

Actually, its not faster or slower, it depends on speed.
Golf balls are in a transition flow region where dimples help. If it was much faster, or much slower, then dimples wouldn't help.

Dimples on a golf ball trip the laminar flow into turbulent flow earlier, which keeps the flow attached around the bluff body longer, and thus has a smaller low pressure zone after the golf ball, which is what causes drag.
In order to work, a car would have to travel near the turbulent transition point, and be a bluff body to benefit from a turbulent transition device (such as dimples).
Also, tripping the flow from laminar to turbulent happens near the front of the golf ball. So dimples only help near the front of the ball.
Interestingly, other sports have balls that are near this transition point. This is part of the reason for stitches on a baseball.

For example, airplane wings are engineered to no end. They would have dimples if it helped. They aren't bluff bodies, and they travel at high speeds, which is why airplane wings don't have dimples.

Re:Why not permanent? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47531923)

Google says a golf ball, off the tee, flies 100+ mph . . . .

Mythbusters did this . . . not exhaustively, but it's actually true that, to some extent, the dimples would help a car, so TFA is bunk in that sense.

To answer the main question: No. Why don't prius, which has sacrificed everything stylistic in the name of fuel economy have these? Easy, there's an ugly threshold that people won't cross.

Golf ball? (0)

the_arrow (171557) | about 3 months ago | (#47529363)

Dimples on a car? Like a golf ball car [mycarforum.com] ?

Hail storm (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47529401)

Just leave the car out in a Hail storm to get Dimples. Then use the bicycle.

Nope! (1)

dohzer (867770) | about 3 months ago | (#47529411)

Nope. What else would you like to know about my next car purchase?

Cars are fast enough already (0)

EzInKy (115248) | about 3 months ago | (#47529437)

But they are definitely still lacking in fuel efficiency and even more importantly safety. 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.

Re:Cars are fast enough already (3, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 3 months ago | (#47529851)

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.

Re:Cars are fast enough already (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 3 months ago | (#47530511)

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.

Roads belonged to pedestrians and they had priority, not horse carriages, bicycles, or eventually automobiles.
The status quo, where you separate pedestrians and drivers, is entirely a concoction of the automotive industry.
http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-26073797 [bbc.com]

Roads were originally a shared space and the thinking is moving back towards that direction.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shared_space [wikipedia.org]

Re:Cars are fast enough already (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 3 months ago | (#47530617)

Roads were originally a shared space and the thinking is moving back towards that direction.

It's idiot thinking. Why would you want to share space with the cars? Roads for pedestrians and bicyclists have much lesser requirements than those for cars, so they can be placed not only along much more direct routes, but also along far more pleasant ones because they can run through more environmentally sensitive areas without causing harm. Send the cars out of the way so that they don't bother the bicyclists and pedestrians, and let them have the most desirable and direct routes. The cars are much faster, so they can afford to go around.

Re:Cars are fast enough already (2)

mark_reh (2015546) | about 3 months ago | (#47529903)

The laws of physics are symmetric and apply equally to the people in the car and outside the car. The last thing you want is to stop a car dead at any speed.

OK, so the car has airbags to protect the occupants. Do you really want all the air bags going off every time a car is within striking distance (whatever that means) of a pedestrian or bicycle? There is no airbag between your brain and the inside of your skull. THAT is the real problem that needs to be solved.

I'd say what really needs to be focused on is educating people not to walk in front of cars.

Re:Cars are fast enough already (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47530203)

There is no airbag between your brain and the inside of your skull. THAT is the real problem that needs to be solved.

That is less of an issue that you apparently think, at least at speeds where you can reasonably expect to share the roads with cyclists and pedestrians. Tank crews are using headstraps for protection even today, and those things really stop dead in their (literal) tracks, and I have never heard of anyone getting a brain trauma from a full stop in all my time in the army.

Answer: possibly (2)

Trogre (513942) | about 3 months ago | (#47529441)

After so many "Your next car" posts on Slashdot presenting anti-features like MS Windows, brain control or remote disabling systems, finally here's a story with a feature that might actually benefit being added to a car.

Well done.

my next car ==> I N ... S P A C E (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47529443)

noooh need here the car will be woosh woosh fast even without any speed holes (no air!) ---> even faster
than woosh, wont hear it ;-P

Look how streamline my SPACEcar will be:

  /==\
:=____|
  o  o

(Even *if* "streamline" doesnt <i>matter</i>, it still influcences the perception you will have of my car watching it from your pitiful gravitational position --> doesn't it put you ashame that without this thin "layer" of dirty "crust" yur dense elements would slowly but almost instantly fall into the earthian core???)

Unlike you, I won't live at the bottom of an air-infested ocean of volcanoe fart like a maggot feeding off the rotting corpse it was born on.

So who did it first? MIT or Mythbusters? (1)

SillyBrit (3401921) | about 3 months ago | (#47529445)

So, did Mythbusters beat them to it? ;-) Good to see the article acknowledges that episode.

Re:So who did it first? MIT or Mythbusters? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47529693)

No. Dimpling and pebbling to improve laminar flow have been known for many years by people and many hundreds of thousands of years by dolphins.

Re:So who did it first? MIT or Mythbusters? (1)

butalearner (1235200) | about 3 months ago | (#47530177)

No. Dimpling and pebbling to improve laminar flow have been known for many years by people and many hundreds of thousands of years by dolphins.

Dimpling and pebbling is there to disrupt laminar flow; to introduce a small, turbulent boundary layer in order to reduce wake drag. If you compare the streamlines of a ping pong ball to a golf ball, the flow is laminar longer around the ping pong ball, but the flow separates sooner, creating a larger wake. Here is a more thorough explanation [aerospaceweb.org] .

That also raises the question: do the dimples really help everywhere on a car? I'd love to see some wind tunnel testing and CFD analysis of the Mythbusters' dimpled car. An 11% improvement is pretty significant, but there are lots of uncertainties: weight differences, center of mass differences, how aerodynamic the car was in the first place... I strongly suspect that, in general, it would be more helpful to only introduce dimples at strategic locations: i.e. the bumpers, undercarriage, and other body panels where the flow eventually separates.

Also, aren't dolphins pretty darn smooth?

Re:So who did it first? MIT or Mythbusters? (1)

Whibla (210729) | about 3 months ago | (#47531347)

Also, aren't dolphins pretty darn smooth?

GP might well have been thinking about sharks, rather than dolphins. Their skin is covered with dermal denticles which can be individually raised or flattened to alter / interrupt laminar flow, making them more efficient swimmers.

I recall an article (in New Scientist I think) from many years ago about a company exploring this idea as a means of improving the efficiency of shipping, but since I haven't seen anything like it in production I guess the technical hurdles were too great to be practical. However, given that dimples in a surface are simply a mirror of ridges on a surface (for certain shapes of dimple and ridge, ofc), and since ships, especially the ones that carry most of the global trade in goods, are much larger than cars, therefore more capabable of efficiently* carrying the machinery necessary to create 'vacuum pockets', and stand to save their owners and operators significant sums of money (11% of fuel costs is huge), I'm suprised that cars are where anyone would be choosing to focus their attention and efforts.

*as a proportion of machinery weight to total vehicle weight

Well, will it? (1)

jamesl (106902) | about 3 months ago | (#47529669)

No.

Nor will the following:
      Boeing 777x
      Airbus 330neo
      Bombardier C Series
      Tesla Model 3
      Any Ferrari
      Any Jaguar
      Any BMW
      Any Mercedes

Re:Well, will it? (1)

SlashDread (38969) | about 3 months ago | (#47529747)

Yes.

BMW for instance, has research dedicated to "morphing skins" for both design and efficiency angles.

Unkind (1)

Alci12 (698263) | about 3 months ago | (#47529683)

Dimples on a car it will be teased by all the other vehicles. Think of the counselling it will need :-)

yeah, why can't they suck boundary layer ...? (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 3 months ago | (#47529735)

All that complexity of wrapping an airtight skin around sheet metal with holes, a vacuum system to create dimples on the fly... All to get some fuel efficiency through lower drag? An plug in electric car effectively buys as at some 2$ a gallon. Still, the extra price of battery makes the break even time longer than the life of the car. And what kind of pay back period for ugly looking warty lumpy bumpy car?

There are tons of complex technologies to reduce drag. Boundary layer suction for example. Drill small holes all along the skin of the aircraft or the car. Create channels below, connect to a pump and suck air. This controls the growth of boundary layer and it could delay the "separation" way beyond what a dimpled surface can. Typically smooth ball flow separates two or three degrees past the poles, and dimpling can delay it by another 10 degrees. Boundary layer suction can delay it way past 45 degrees. NASA experimental aircraft with boundary layer suction showed drag reduction by a factor of 2 or 3, can't remember. Remember the airliner makers are fighting in the third significant digit of the drag coefficient. Do you see any boundary layer sucking aircraft around?

Moral of the story, there are tons and tons of complex technology that can do wonderful things. Most will not get beyond a couple of papers in Journal of Thingamajigger, a tenure track position for a post-doc, and may be, if it is really interesting and really unusual, a 2 inch side bar in Popular Mechanics. (BTW does it still exist? Popular Mechanics, I mean).

Not an accident, an improvement. (1)

techdolphin (1263510) | about 3 months ago | (#47529809)

Great! Now if I have an accident I can claim I was improving your car by making it more aerodynamic.

My car is already covered with dimples (1)

jd2112 (1535857) | about 3 months ago | (#47529835)

Damn hailstorm!

If dimples have this big an effect (1)

maroberts (15852) | about 3 months ago | (#47529895)

Why aren't aircraft covered in them? 10% is a big difference in the aviation industry.

Re:If dimples have this big an effect (2)

ravenscar (1662985) | about 3 months ago | (#47530365)

I would guess that most aircraft travel at a speed where the dimples are detrimental rather than beneficial. The article notes that, if golf balls traveled fast enough, they would be better off with smooth skin. Probably, 400-550 mph is above the threshold of "fast enough".

Re:If dimples have this big an effect (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | about 3 months ago | (#47530405)

1) The effect varies tremendously at different speeds. At really high speeds it does nothing.

2)The aircraft itself is designed to carefully redirect the air in a very specific manner to create lift, not to reduce drag. The dimples,. even if they were helpful on lift (which is not discussed at all here), would make this far more complicated. Maybe someday someone will do the research to figure out if they help lift, but we don't know that yet.

Re:If dimples have this big an effect (1)

ibwolf (126465) | about 3 months ago | (#47530999)

Because they only reduce drag at low speeds. At high speeds (commercial airlines fly at Mach 0.8-0.85 usually) they would increase drag, not lower it.

most efficient? stop using cars. (1)

nimbius (983462) | about 3 months ago | (#47529927)

If this car technology comes to fruition, the initial cost will likely place it in the realm of BMW and Mercedes owners for at least the first 5 years. net gains from it may only be realized 25 years down the road, and its ability to reduce carbon emissions or fossil fuel consumption at whatever scale its adopted will be dwarfed in comparisson to easier, more readily available technologies like light-rail, bicycles, and busses.

Im geneally cynical about efficiency in automobiles mostly due to empirical reasons. Americans have far more pervasive culprits in fuel consumption and carbon emissions than just aerodynamics. Excessive speed, where we consistently drive 15 or more miles per hour over the speed limit on highways, needlessly wastes gas and endangers drivers. Long commutes and low fuel economy standards for our most popular vehicles, trucks and the universally-scorned SUV, also hurt our contribution to fighting climate change. small engines like lawnmowers and weed-eaters that have no emissions system, and motorcycles that have had their original exhaust and catalytic converter/oxygen sensors removed are another side of the issue. Our emergency vehicles and construction equipment largely operates with zero emissions control or fuel economy standard. Finally, a general culture of wastefulness contributes to long idles in parking lots and gas stations as we exploit our transportation as a personal entertainment/climate controlled cocoon in which we emerge merely to take advantage of this weeks savings at WalMart.

Marketing Outstrips MIT Meaningfulness (1)

fygment (444210) | about 3 months ago | (#47529963)

This is a big WTF?
        The principles involved are well known and explored unto death to the point that they are high school science project fodder.
        The inspiration/precedent for this particular exercise came from ... a TV show known for its precise experimental process?
        More effective and practical methods of implementing the principles have been in existence for a while, see 'boundary layer control'.
        Did this become a story because its amazing science and engineering?
        Or because it is a slow week for MIT's marketing department?

No (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47530071)

I don't drive you insensitive clods

Just when you thought vinyl tops where gone. (1)

tazan (652775) | about 3 months ago | (#47530155)

Now the whole car will be covered.

Incidentally, Richard Petty had a vinyl top in '68 and NASCAR outlawed it after everyone else complained of the extra advantage.

This seems unnecessarily complicated. (5, Insightful)

Primate Pete (2773471) | about 3 months ago | (#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.

Why "morphing" (2)

argStyopa (232550) | about 3 months ago | (#47530691)

I mean, what is the advantage of a complex vacuum system and the flexible (ie fail-able) skin?

Just put dimples on the cars. In a single generation, it would go from "looking weird" to normal.

Why (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47531751)

If you have the vacuum pump(s) already, why make dimples to form vortices? Just use the pumps to pump air through small holes like an air hockey table. Less aesthetically displeasing with the same effect.

More Aerodynamic than Dimples (2)

tekrat (242117) | about 3 months ago | (#47530913)

Is the Elio -- 84MPG with no hybrid nonsense!
http://www.eliomotors.com/ [eliomotors.com]

My next car? (1)

OakDragon (885217) | about 3 months ago | (#47531083)

Since my next car is likely to be a mid-2000s sedan, probably not.

Contradiction in title (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47531369)

"Will Your Next Car Be Covered In Morphing Dimples?"..."The technology is only in its very earliest stages"

works for airplanes? (1)

amoeba1911 (978485) | about 3 months ago | (#47531635)

I suggest trying dimpled airplanes. They go much faster and hence they experience much more drag. It's fairly easy to try this out, all you need is a hammer. Start hammering!

Nothing to See Here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47531897)

... adding just how much more to the (unaffordable for many) cost of the car, and how is that road maintenance going, or are they still raiding the general fund to prop up the freeways? Heh! Freeways. In the meantime, how is that declining supergiant oilfield infill drilling programme working out? There certainly is no 'age of austerity' as reported by the oil majors, that's for sure. Heh heh. I now return you to your regularly scheduled technocornucopianism. Sleep tight!

My next car will be covered in (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47532193)

morphine dimples

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