Tesla Cybertruck: Is it daring or dumb? Design experts weigh in

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Lengthy but interesting article from Autoblog. It's interesting to read the wide range of reactions and opinions about the Cybertruck design. The design is so different and shocking it causes some people to consider ethical questions apparently hah.


Tesla Cybertruck: Is it daring or dumb? Design experts weigh in
Laughter, 'shock and horror' — and even some deep ethical questions

December 10, 2019

When the Tesla Cybertruck was unveiled, my friend Lance and I were in a homesteader’s cabin in the Mojave Desert, cooking dinner and watching the livestream, and we were certain it was a joke. Elon attempting to troll us, and the world, with an unrefined, scalene shape, lifted, seemingly whole, from one of Syd Mead’s darkly futuristic science fiction universes. (Mead envisioned the worlds for "Blade Runner," "Tron," and "Aliens," among other iconic films.)

“That has to be a fake body,” Lance said, transfixed by the computer screen, as the olive oil smoked on the stovetop. “They’re going to pull it off, like the disguise on some "Scooby Doo" villain, and the real truck will be underneath.”

Granted, we were drinking tequila and high as hell on pineapple habañero cannabis gummies. But our assessment seemed correct. Shortly thereafter, it became clear that it was not. This was, actually, the real Cybertruck, or as real a vehicle as any unveiled by Tesla. When a friend from the industry texted me asking what I thought of the design, my stoned verdict was surprisingly distilled. “Bold, and poorly rendered.”

Though the Cybertruck elicited an overwhelming amount of interest, I soon discovered that I wasn’t alone in my estimation. “I honestly thought it was a joke, like an Onion thing, because it just looked so crude,” says Paul Snyder, the chair of transportation design at Detroit’s prestigious College for Creative Studies. “My first impression was shock and horror.”

Perspectives shifted, slightly, if backhandedly, as the shock wore off. Still others found it nearly laughable. “My first reaction was that the name is hilarious,” says Paul Galloway, a collection specialist in architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City. “Then I noticed the vehicle itself, which at first glance seems as silly as its name.”

Others agreed. “It has very ambitious intentions,” says Camilo Pardo, former chief designer of Ford’s SVT studio, and the lead designer on the 2005 Ford GT. “And, I think it’s fine to be very simple and very minimalistic. But as it rotates, the personality of the side does not reflect to that of the front. They look like two different vehicles. The only thing I can relate it to is a very, very elemental Bertone concept from, like, the Sixties or Seventies. And I mean in the extremely early stages, before they would let anybody look at it.”

Beyond this, there seem to be deeper and perhaps more insidious issues under-girding the truck’s appearance, ones that pierce contemporary issues related to the intersection of technology, motive, and resource appropriation. “The only people that I would imagine would do anything like this, design-wise, would be the military,” says Pardo. “Like, if this thing had a mission, and it had to get there and back, and aesthetics does not have anything to do with the main objective.”

"Aside from the sail pillars, I quite like the shape. It's far more interesting than the milquetoast aesthetic that defines the rest of Tesla's lineup,” says Galloway. “I've long believed that electric vehicles should move away from traditional vehicle shapes, which are majorly dictated by the needs of the combustion engine and its components. So overall, the angular and aggressive shape of the Cybertruck — dear God I hate that name — is a bold and welcome design move for Tesla.”

Snyder concurs, in some ways. “A lot of what I’ve learned about it is that so much of the design is integral to the materiality. Like, apparently the thing was meant originally to be made in titanium, and so the flat panels were a requirement because you can’t really bend titanium,” he says. “And I kind of understand the telescoping lift gate that turns into a ramp, and the telescoping roof, and vault cover. And I personally love that they call it a vault and not a truck bed. So all that stuff is cool and justifies the aesthetic, somewhat.”

Still, Snyder continues, “I think it’s too severe. It doesn’t have any sophistication to it. There’s no subtlety, it's just beating you in the face with a stainless-steel flat panel.”

The Cybertruck thus performs a militaristic and bunker drag act that seems at odds with its positioning as a mainstream, Earth-saving, electric-powered work vehicle. “What the Cybertruck is going after is fantasy, and the perceived status offered by driving a utility vehicle,” says Galloway. “Farmers don't need a ‘nearly impenetrable exoskeleton’ or ‘armor glass.’ These are obvious giveaways that the market for this truck is more status-hungry tech-bro doomsday-preppers than it is construction workers.”

However, more troubling is the implication that our notion of the mainstream may — in this era of environmental unpredictability, resource strife, and combative nationalism — be outmoded.

“The problem I’m having with it is really on a societal-ethical level. This thing just conveys dystopia, it conveys a war zone, a combat vehicle. And that kind of messaging is just not what I want to see on the roads, especially because it's autonomous,” says Snyder.

He explains further. “One of the fascinating, exciting opportunities and challenges that designers have today, and all the students coming through my program have or will have, is they’re going to be designing the first real mass interaction with robots. Not the robots on the factory line that stay put, not Siri or Alexa in your house. I’m talking about autonomous cars. They’re going to be driving through the streets without drivers. So do we really want these things looking like sentinels from a war zone in our communities?”

This sentiment holds within it something of a conflict, not only because we may actually be living in or on the edge of a dystopia, making these stylistic choices at once prescient and sensible. But because of what this may presage for our autonomous future. “The whole thing just seems like it has a potential to escalate into an aesthetic that is just very unappealing and harsh,” says Snyder. “Given that we have so much impact and influence as designers, I think we need to be more … I don’t want to say ethical. But just, conscientious of the messaging that we want to give robots.”





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I am getting tired of opinion pieces or letters to the editor being published as actual news. We do not know today what the CT has for crumple zones or what it will be like to repair or how it will handle or who will buy it or how it will age or if it will help you survive the zombie apocalypse. What we know for sure is it will not rust, Tesla makes a safe vehicle and it will be better than advertised when built.
 

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The last comment on this thread was December 10.
It looks like ALL three of the comments disagree with the "experts."
I am commenting to bring it forward because I think the "experts" nailed it, though there are gaps in their assessment. What they wrote/said seems very true to me.
But I found it amusing that Galloway thought the name was "silly," like I do. And I believe Big E does since it has been stated that no badging will be on this vehicle. And how it the back storage area is referred to as a "vault" and not a "bed."
Also the expert talking about a dystopian vibe is a good thing to many of the people that want it...as one guy started his response after I asked everyone about how they feel about what people are going to think about them when they have this Vehicle and he started his reply with "IDGAF."
Another huge point is how automobiles' shapes evolved just like this Vehicle. In the beginning it was all about function. Automobiles were engineered to do something, not look like something. The image of what we think electric self-driving cars should look like is because Designers worked within the limitations of what areas a car must have to create an appealing object. Self-driving EV's don't have the same dimensional requirements or limitations so they can/will be different.
And the last words of wisdom from these experts...The guy nailed it. this is going to be one of the first socially accepted public robots. The first automobiles were "Horseless carriages" and they looked it. Driverless cars will morph away from the form required by their predecessors, and perhaps travel the same route as horseless carriages by becoming objects of beauty later.
Right now, probably like boys a hundred plus years ago, I am the kid that loves how this new Model "T"esla looks.
 

John K

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I am an instant fan of the design and its potential functionality. Thus, my opinion overrides everyone else. 😀

I plan to have the CT follow me around the block as I walk my dogs. How is that for a dystopian future?
 

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The reactions of the designers remind me of the way some ICE mechanics react to electric vehicles. They are angry that their "expert" knowledge is being made irrelevant, and will advocate a return to dogma. Their motivation is ultimately self preservation.

The more I think about it, the more I think the CT prototype is more of a prototype than most. There will be buckets of changes made by the time that thing hits the street. What you see today is definitely not what you'll get in two years.

Elon Musk : "We could cut an inch of width and six inches off the length without losing any functionality".
I give that one about a 90 percent chance of already being done.
 

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These "designers" are not looking at the elements that real designers consider when they criticize a design. They are literally criticizing the way it looks (aesthetics). Design is not about form, its about function. The cyber truck was built for function, not to "Look" like a truck. This is something that has bothered me about automotive design for so long, so many vehicles are just designed the way they are because it "looks cool". I was so excited to finally see a product designed for function over form. That's what people are missing and its also why its going to be better than any other truck on the market.
 

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Let’s not give too much credibility to the opinions of two drunk stoners, a FMC washout designer, and establishment professors. These “critics” obviously lack vision, and find inspiration boring. Someday in the future there will be a show at MOMA and the CT will be parked on the ground floor together with a plethora of other artful designs representing a whole genre that flew by the consciousness of unenlightened half-closed eyes.
 
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These "designers" are not looking at the elements that real designers consider when they criticize a design. They are literally criticizing the way it looks (aesthetics). Design is not about form, its about function. The cyber truck was built for function, not to "Look" like a truck. This is something that has bothered me about automotive design for so long, so many vehicles are just designed the way they are because it "looks cool". I was so excited to finally see a product designed for function over form. That's what people are missing and its also why its going to be better than any other truck on the market.
I had no real understanding of the difference between designing and engineering. I thought they were virtually one in the same. However i have watched a few presentations, and listened to discussions by Big E. And he makes a clear distinction between the two. And it is important to understand the separation of them in the construction of the whole automobile.
And I feel in the creation of an automobile engineering and design are kept separate, and they need to be... One depart deals with what can be done to make it work, and the other deals with all the aspects of developing how it will be sensed by people. There are areas of gray, but it is crucial to delineate the designing and the engineering of an automobile.
BELOW are definitions I found which correlate to how Big E uses the words when talking about objects he has created:
The action of Designing to the automotive industry refers to:
"the arrangement of parts, details, form, color, etc. so as to produce an artistic unit; artistic invention
the design of a rug"

The action of Engineering refers to:
"planned and constructed using scientific methods."
It seems that so much of what is design is precisely what has been chosen to make an object appear a certain way, such as color or pattern. But when the Shape is the result of engineering it is not design but just what it is. And example would be if stainless steel were black then the Tesla Utility Vehicle would be black and not 'silver." That is an aspect of engineering. however when painting the stainless steel a different color one is entering onto the area of design.
This vehicle was engineered first. Then turned over to designers. Often designs are created as in "concept cars" and THEN are turned over to engineers to see if they can "engineer" the design.
 

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Let’s not give too much credibility to the opinions of two drunk stoners, a FMC washout designer, and establishment professors. These “critics” obviously lack vision, and find inspiration boring. Someday in the future there will be a show at MOMA and the CT will be parked on the ground floor together will a plethora of other artful designs representing a whole genre that flew by the consciousness of unenlightened half-closed eyes.
I've always disliked the action of detracting from a statement by disparaging the person that stated it.
 

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"The reactions of the designers remind me of the way some ICE mechanics react to electric vehicles. They are angry that their "expert" knowledge is being made irrelevant, and will advocate a return to dogma. Their motivation is ultimately self preservation".

So true, Elon is moving the universe of automobile design...
We're in the verge of an era of EV vehicles that may lack 2 or 3 cpnventional wheels. that self balance, or that fly. They won't have to look like anything we imagine presently as a truck or car. As Elon teased about his China designed EV - it will be a radical concept. Everyone else can continue to refine that horse and buggy, concept! Lol.
 

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My opinion is that the "engineering" argument is mostly an excuse to be unconventional. Its 90% fanciful design. They could have produced a very conventional-looking truck at a similar price point and similar functionality. But they did not want to.
 

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My opinion is that the "engineering" argument is mostly an excuse to be unconventional. Its 90% fanciful design. They could have produced a very conventional-looking truck at a similar price point and similar functionality. But they did not want to.
Whah? :sick: OK? can you counter their reasons? Like when they talk about the pyramid shape making the vehicle structural sound without an undercarriage beam frame?
 

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Whah? :sick: OK? can you counter their reasons? Like when they talk about the pyramid shape making the vehicle structural sound without an undercarriage beam frame?
I suspect the beam frame was problematic in regards to having room for the batteries down under there. But conventional truck sellers make a big deal that without a heavy duty frame, its not a "real" truck. So Tesla has to market against that.

Any shape unibody cab can be made strong enough and stiff enough. They could have made it any shape they wanted to. Including the same as a conventional truck (like the new Honda just did). The only other engineering consideration is aerodynamics to hit the range. Even there, they made compromises to the styling over function. The big flat tailgate and larger front height are not helpful for aero - they are purely part of making the truck look aggressive.

All that 1/8" steel plate they are using on the skin just adds a lot of weight for no good functional reason (being bullet proof is not a function most buyers care about). They probably had to go that thick to make the flat surfaces look good. Its easy to see when something is not perfectly flat, and thinner metal would have subtle warping due to differential expansion, latent rolling stress, etc. Panels stamped into compound curves tend to hold their shape and when they warp, nobody notices because they are already curved. So even the thick skin is a compromise of design over function.

Most of the skin is not even structural in any case because the doors open, the sails open, and the frunk opens. I would bet that the glass front and roof panels are likely taking a lot of the torsional loads for stiffness.

But it is brilliant marketing - everybody is eating it up that it has to be that shape because the steel is too strong to be bent and your truck won't be strong enough if its not a pyramid.
 

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