37betterMotors: A blast from the past (2002) 14 Sep 2005

14 comments Latest by Peter

Back in 2002 we published 37betterMotors (read the overview or dive into the design) — our vision for a better automotive ownership experience through telematics. I thought it would be nice to revisit the concept and hear what people think about the idea and execution. So, thoughts? And, ignore the code — this was way before the modern CSS craze ;)

14 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Tom Chambers 14 Sep 05

I remember reading that, and imagined honking the horn… but over the internet. The rest of it would be cool too, and be a nice step forward in managing the little things in life on a screen with a pleasant GUI.

Jeremy Jarvis 14 Sep 05

I actually really like the design and use of colours to distinguish different areas/actions/alerts etc. compared (forgive me) to more recent projects such as Basecamp. It just feels “tighter” too.

Mark 14 Sep 05

Nice concepts, I guess the main concern is that someone WOULD hack it eventually.

JF 14 Sep 05

It just feels �tighter� too.

It’s much easier to be tight when you control every pixel. In Basecamp and Backpack people fill the spaces with content so tight is sacrificed to a certain degree for flexibility.

Pete 14 Sep 05

its quite funny how outdated the mapquest image looks. After google maps, i don’t expect any thing less in the rendering of digital maps.

Kyle 14 Sep 05

I was perusing the 37Better archives on a whim a few months ago, and this was the one that stood out amongst the rest along with 37BetterBank that really had some strong, beneficial, and interesting ideas.

JF 14 Sep 05

FYI, Ernest Kim (no longer with 37s, but “ek” on the blog when he chimes in) did this project.

Chad 14 Sep 05

Are we revisiting this because there are plans to make 37betterMotors come to fruition? :-)

You should at least bring the 37better series back to life!

JF 14 Sep 05

No plans to bring 37betterMotors back to life, and we’re out of time to do more 37betters right now, sorry.

ek 14 Sep 05

Wow, now that is a blast from the past — feels like it was eons ago that I did that!

It�s much easier to be tight when you control every pixel.
I was about to post exactly that same sentiment before I read your post JF. It’s certainly a lot easier to make something seem tighter when it doesn’t actually have to function (thus the silliness of companies asking firms to do spec creative).

My favorite part of that whole project, though, was writing up the overview, as I think it’s a great example of how 37s, then and now, puts ideas first. As in all of the “Better” projects, we looked at something we thought wasn’t being done very well and put the time and effort into a solution that we believed addressed the problems — not just on the surface, but in a fundamental way.

As such, the part of that project I’m most proud of is not the design, but the idea of putting the phone at the center of the in-car telematics universe. Given the long lead times involved in automotive design and the incredibly rapid rate at which consumer electronics evolve, it doesn’t seem to make sense to me to spend thousands of dollars to embed a system into a car that was outdated a year before it hit dealers’ lots.

Build the infrastructure into the car (i.e. a high-speed data bus that enables data transmission to and from a car’s various internal systems, a nice big LCD screen (which can be used for non-telematics-based functions as well), wireless connectivity (Bluetooth for now) to allow connectivity with external devices, etc.), but let external devices that can benefit from rapid advances in electronics and software — not to mention continual decreases in price — do the work.

With Bluetooth becoming more common in cars and phones becoming ever more powerful, I think that idea has even greater relevance today than it did when we first launched the 37BetterMotors concept.

Not only that, it makes sense from a business model perspective for both carmakers and mobile services providers.

Oh well, just my 2 cents. And thanks for re-posting this JF, it brings back good memories!

Tom 14 Sep 05

This was my favorite of the better series and in general I always found the series inspiring. I remember thinking ‘they should be building their own projects’ (instead of designing for other people) I guess that came true!

Don Schenck 15 Sep 05

My one car has OnStar, and I will LOVE getting emails to remind me of service, etc. It’s a hassle to make up lists of what gets done at what mileage, etc. Especially when you have three cars.

Peter 17 Sep 05

Would be the perfect project to use Ajax