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Old 08-06-2009, 10:37 AM   #1
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Bolt on hybrid, simplicity vs transparency of operation...

Hi folks,

I've been coming up with a concept for a bolt-on hybrid system that recovers some braking energy and re-delivers it under acceleration...

It could be very simple, a literal "bolt on" for many vehicles, requiring no integration with the vehicles systems. However it would then have some quirks in operation requiring the driver to be aware of it, and compensate for some minor differences in vehicle behavior when installed...

The question would be then, would they make it "unsafe" in the hands of the general populace and lead to liability issues??? The issues in question should be no different really than those faced with using the average cruise control... in that when cruise control is active "the car just keeps going" until you touch the brakes where it shuts off. This hybrid system in simple form would be somewhat similar in that once you started accelerating it may continue to accelerate (at lower rate and according to stored energy) until you touch the brake or it reaches a breakeven point with vehicle drag. Also it may continue decelerating until you tap the throttle...

The vehicles brakes and throttle should easily overwhelm and disable the system even if it "stuck on" in either mode, though it's hard to say what would happen if it was fitted to a vehicle with extremely badly maintained brakes. In normal operation light taps of either pedal should be enough to disengage the braking or power modes if they do not do so automatically.

So the conundrum is, the very simplicity of it could make it highly popular, whereupon it will get put on badly maintained vehicles driven by people who can barely control them in the first place.... people who will crash into vehicles they were tailgating and blame the system rather than the fact that their foot never got anywhere near the brake pedal and they were driving too close in the first place.

If it is made more complex and as idiotproof as possible, it would cost a lot more, fit less vehicles, need installation by a tech, and probably actually be less reliable.

On the one hand, I think "If used as directed and with common sense it's completely safe" on the other I think "If some company introduced the kitchen knife for the first time ever in this day and age, they'd be sued out of existence in a year".


So what would your preferred solution be and why?
i) Something simple, cheap and effective that has potentials for irresponsible and unsafe use by being negligent of instructions and cautions.
ii) Something complex, expensive, but completely idiotproof.

Or maybe the real question is, is there any way of keeping stuff simple without getting held liable for the inadequacies of idiots?

Details deliberately kept sketchy because I'm not sure if I want to make money with it yet.


Road Warrior
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Old 08-06-2009, 11:25 AM   #2
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the problem is that if you don't make it idiot proof, the idiot will sue you when they do something stupid.

I like simple and cheap because it will sell more and get your name out there. that way if you do make a more expensive model that is more idiot proof, people already know your name and know your product (assuming it has a good reputation).

if I were you, I would talk to a lawyer about liability. most will give a free consultation or free advice.
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Old 08-06-2009, 11:52 AM   #3
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In this country the idiots will sue you for anything... Sue McDonald's because the coffee is hot. A lady catches her loose fitting nightgown on fire while cooking breakfast, so she sues the nightgown Mfr, and the stove Mfr because neither published a warning... My advice is to have a lawyer write a good warning, and also have a warning sticker that is to be permanently affixed to the dashboard in plain view of the driver at installation time.
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Old 08-06-2009, 12:06 PM   #4
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I could only see that working for the general populace if it was fully integrated into the car's computers.

For the case of a retrofit, I would only offer it in the same way the HHO stuff is being offered now - a kit that must be installed by someone who is quite familiar with cars and their operation, not for use by the average Joe.

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Old 08-06-2009, 12:44 PM   #5
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NEVER underestimate the power of idiocracy. There is no such thing as fool proof.

The best you can do is CYA. Something like a black box recording that saves inputs. If the box is recording speed and then a sudden stop without brake input but a constant throttle input until the wreck the crash wasn't your system.

McDonalds doesn't sell only cold coffee now to protect the lowest common denominator, they put a disclaimer. If they choose to disable or not have the logger installed clearly state they are releasing you a liability.
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Old 08-06-2009, 02:23 PM   #6
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Yup, I'm trying not to underestimate the capacity for idiocy, for instance, just thought, it could be possible to fit more than one system to a vehicle, whereupon the presumed safety margin of only gentle acceleration or braking for the vehicle to override becomes less... There's even the possible insanity of putting one or two on a towed vehicle.

The problem with the simple approach too is that it would be so damn easy to install, that folks would possibly just put it on their other car to try on that too, or lend it to a friend.

Then there's the question of "do I design it to failsafe at 120mph, or just tell people not to drive 120mph?" Actually designing it to break gracefully at 120 is probably not too much of a problem, designing it to actually survive it is another matter... I can make the design more efficient for a lower fail speed, but what should that be? I'd set it at 80, but there'd probably be wayyyy too many people breaking it then getting pissed that it is now broke and needs repair.
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Old 08-06-2009, 03:28 PM   #7
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I think a fail speed is of 80 MPH is sufficient as long as the owner operation manual makes it clear. I don't think there's a state anywhere in the US that has a legal speed limit of more than 80 MPH. As for my own use I think make it cheap and simple, but on the other hand with most people the more complex system would be the safest model for everyone on the road.
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Old 08-06-2009, 04:06 PM   #8
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There is prior art for a bolt-on hybrid system. It connects to the lugnuts and has an arm that goes to the quarter panel. It has been posted on GasSavers.org before. You should check how that one is setup and maybe consider going the other direction -- if that one is independent, you would go with integrated.

There is prior art for brakes that don't engage until after you're already slowing down: surge brakes on trailers. They've been around forever.
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Old 08-06-2009, 04:50 PM   #9
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Yes, actually will look at that patent if filed to see what the particular claims of novelty are, I knew about it, but now you mentioned it, it might claim novelty that it's bolt on, whereas I was thinking it would be that the particular drive system would be protected. I have different ideas on that. The wheel attachment was only one possibility for mounting it though, but would be convenient.
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Old 08-06-2009, 06:30 PM   #10
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From the original idea to the present its been 6 years for me. One abandoned patent after a lengthy appeals process (read costly), to the point where I should have a patent within a couple of months.

The attorney told me congratulations and the Patent Office has recognized the novelty of the design, so it's now a matter of details.

I will not believe it until the document is in my hands.

It may be better to file without an attorney, although I am not sure which way I would go if I had to do it again.

I wish you luck RW, the process is exhausting frustrating and at times it seemed like it would never come to anything. The wife couldn't see anything but the money going down a bottomless hole. At times I thought the attorney would just drain my resources and never get the job done.

Hundreds of attempted contancts with 99% of them not even the courtesy of a response.

regards
gary
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