This is one of the most common shared experiences in all of automobilia: You’re outside a car, trying to get in. The person inside the car is attempting to open the door lock at the same time you’re pulling the handle to open the door. A comedy of errors ensues, with each of your actions cancelling out the other’s, leaving you both pulling handles or locking buttons over and over, in a seemingly never-ending mechanical stalemate. Eventually, someone yells for someone to let go, already, and the nightmare ends. But why must it be this way? What’s going on?
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Quickly fading are the days when we were free to dream of cranking a lever connected to cables that would squeeze the brakes and break traction, as more and more modern cars replace cabled emergency and parking brake systems with simply a button. But there's a lot of good reasons for it, so here's how electronic parking brakes work.
If you've ever looked at floor-mounted automatic transmission shift levers, with either disdain or genuine gratitude, you've probably noticed that they tend to fall into two main categories: the ones that have a simple, linear path through the PRNDL family, and those that use a convoluted, maze-like route through the gears. Why are there two very different schools of thought on the design of these? Is there a mechanical difference? Is one better than the other? What's going on?
I know what you're thinking. What is this dummy trying to accomplish here? Of course, I know about stop signs. But maybe -- maybe! -- you didn't know this: stop signs weren't always red. We've talked about other red things before, and there's a reason we ended up with red octagons telling you to STOP. I swear it's interesting. Here's why stop signs are red.
If you were to take the collective nuclear anxiety of the world during the height of the Cold War and somehow transfigure that into cold, hard engineering, you'd probably end up with something like this: the supersonic, low-altitude missile known as 'The Flying Crowbar.'