Tech Peak » A Word or Two on Car Cup Holders

A Word or Two on Car Cup Holders

by heatherwhitney

Over the years, the automobile has seen a great deal of change. Today’s cars feature cup holders, a more comfortable ride, fuel-efficient engines, and advanced electronics. However, early automobiles did not come standard with cup holders. 

Actually, cup holders were regarded as one of the biggest developments in the car sector. 

Car interiors evolved into living environments as people spent more and more time inside them, making food and drink necessities. This is why cup holders along with car coasters, many other car accessories, and of course dash cams are considered must-haves for every vehicle.

What is Cup Holder

Today, cup holders are capable of much more than merely holding cups. Car manufacturers are releasing a variety of high-tech holders that can accommodate a wider range of container sizes, better prevent tipping and spilling, and assist keep drinks hot or cold. 

Companies are hoping that the new holders would help set apart their cars from the competition and draw customers, particularly since people spend more time in their cars and think more and more about cup holders when shopping for a new car. According to CNW Marketing Research Inc., around 58% of car buyers now rank cup holders as somewhat or extremely important, up from approximately 14% in 1990.

Origin & History

There will be 19 of them in the 2019 Subaru Ascent. Not cupholders, but airbags. That is over two and a half cup holders more than any mass-market vehicle has ever had for each passenger. There is enough for a Starbucks skim latte, a Big Gulp that is artificially colored, a Yeti Rambler, and numerous juice boxes. In fact, there are so many cup holders that The Wall Street Journal recently reported that “peak cup holder” has already been reached.

Eating and drinking in cars used to be very impossible, despite the fact that it may be difficult to imagine now. Rough roads, a lack of power steering, and sophisticated suspension systems made it impossible and unpleasant to eat or drink while driving, beyond a brief sip from a flask.

Cup holders were originally only circular indentations on the inside of the glove box door, but they have since evolved into a crucial feature that buyers consider when buying a new car, briefly dethroning fuel efficiency as the characteristic that buyers most value.

The accouterments for eating that came with cars like the Model T were meant to be used when the car was parked. A good example is E. B. White waxed lyrical in The New Yorker about how many Sears catalog pages were previously devoted to “pimping out a Model T,” which included a variety of goods for sale, including tiny kitchenettes crammed into trunks and fastened to sideboards of automobiles. 

They included a small fold-out table, iceboxes, and storage containers for pantry supplies like flour and sugar. They were probably utilized at the auto camps where early travelers stayed to take in the view, unwind, and recharge.

Luxury vehicles like the Rolls Royce had elegant, monogrammed picnic hampers with silver dishes as standard equipment. F. It was a rich cream color, bright with nickel, swollen here and there in its monstrous length with triumphant hatboxes and supper-boxes and toolboxes, according to Scott Fitzgerald’s description of Gatsby’s Rolls. However, these opulent items were most definitely meant for a chic roadside picnic, not for eating while driving.

Eating in automobiles didn’t become popular until the 1950s when drive-in eateries rose to fame. Milkshakes and hamburgers were presented on trays with crooked arms that hooked over partially downed car windows by waitresses on roller skates known as carhops. The driver served drinks to the passengers, who either laid them perilously on the floor or tucked them between their knees as they enjoyed their meals inside the vehicle.

However, as the roads got better and the transmissions got smoother, more daring visitors soon modified their vehicles to make it possible to eat a snack while driving. In a photo from the November 1950 issue of Popular Mechanics, a little snack tray is hanging from two cords that are suction-mounted to the dash. It states that two small beverage bottles may fit on the tray and that snacks can be consumed while moving. When not in use, the tray is intended to be kept in the glove box.

A Texas inventor received a patent for an automobile cupholder three years later, in 1953. The cupholders of today are quite similar to the drawings. They either show a single cup-holding cylinder or a tiny console with two spherical drink slots squished in between two back seats. The cupholder would still be an afterthought for manufacturers for another 20 years before they finally warmed to these designs, which would take years.

Up until that point, manufacturing cupholders were at best archetypal, serving more as ideas for where to put a drink than as actual cupholders. They were probably employed to hold beverages purchased at recently introduced drive-through eateries like McDonald’s. The flimsy nature of these early cupholders’ designs also seems to indicate that for them to be useful, the car would need to be stopped while eating and drinking.

Late in the 1960s and early in the 1970s, things started to alter. The concept of commuting to work from one town while living in another emerged as the suburbs expanded. The car evolved into more than just a mode of transportation, freeing rural residents from a social life limited to front porches and parlors. In addition, it changed into a distinct location.

Although car owners were not as enthusiastic about cupholders as manufacturers were, they were. They started transporting beverages using aftermarket accessories. According to Duke University engineering and history professor Henry Petroski, the first widely accessible genuine cupholders were plastic holster-like holders that mounted to the window.

According to Petroski, the pop-top can supplant soda bottles in the middle of the 1960s, at which point these cupholders became popular. According to him, they had a “thin, flat, hooked extension that was squeezed in between the glass and the then-commonly used, felt-like substance that kept automobile windows from rattling, inserted between the window and the inside door panel.”

Manufacturers began incorporating plastic cup holders as part of a new overall interior design in the mid-1980s after realizing how popular they were. According to reports, Chrysler installed the first cupholders in mass-market vehicles in its well-known Plymouth Voyager minivan in 1984. The vans’ center consoles have little depressions that could hold a 12-ounce cup of coffee.

Minivans would eventually come to represent contemporary motherhood and the stressed-out woman who tries to juggle it all while dressed for work, making it to soccer practice at the end of the day, feeding the kids in the back with sodas and snacks, and fueling herself with coffee as she races through her day. And that’s probably when the cupholder as we know it really started when the minivan became a living room, dining room, and study hall all in one, and the cupholder turned into more of a necessity than a convenience.

According to polls conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, customers placed greater value on the number of cupholders in a vehicle than fuel economy in 2007. Drivers appear willing to let the location and number of cupholders influence their purchasing decisions, at least in part, given the wide variety of car models available. One gearhead claims that cupholders “complete an interior,” sometimes even “bringing the whole automobile along for the ride.”

The journey is growing longer and longer in the meantime. The typical American commutes for around 50 minutes each day. Since eating while driving is so prevalent, several models have built-in vacuums to remove crumbs. Fast food chains now evaluate their food products for leakage and spill ability—what they refer to as “one-handed convenience”—because food and drinks consumed in cars have grown to be such a significant category.

The Saucemoto, essentially a little ramekin holder created expressly to go with chicken nuggets and french fries, is featured in a recent, successful Kickstarter campaign, upping the ante. For a chance to own an early version of this design, more than 3,000 backers contributed over $60,000 in pledges.

Most of the increase in the cupholder can be attributed to long commutes and busy, hectic schedules. But according to one professor, humans’ demand for warmth and comfort dates back to their earliest evolutionary needs. G. Cultural anthropologist Clotaire Rapaille, who was born in France, asserts that drinking something warm when driving fast is similar to grasping for a mother’s breast. It is crucial for our perception of the car as safe, according to Rapaille. What do you remember as a kid being the most important aspect of safety? “Does he ask? “It was the warm liquid that your mother fed you. Cupholders are therefore extremely necessary.

The European auto industry must have been unaware of this. Even though they were well aware of the attractiveness of an espresso, continental designers were slow to include cupholders into their automobiles, giving in only when U.S. sales began to decline. According to Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Daimler AG, “Mercedes was convinced for years that we should teach Americans to drink their coffee at home. To stay competitive, European and Japanese automakers researched the size and shape of American beverages, even going so far as to transport empty containers back to their corporate headquarters or 3D-print models of Big Gulp cups.

Even a futurist like Elon Musk sometimes struggles to understand the significance of the cupholder. Although Tesla provides drivers with huge technological and environmentally friendly advancements, the business received harsh criticism since the Model S’s original design lacked rear cupholders.

In the case of Tesla, a niche market developed where firms sold LED-lit cup holders that could be installed in what some consumers considered a weak back console. Tesla reacted quickly, and the Model X’s cupholders are now aesthetically pleasing, curved, and adjustable for any drink size.

Since they were first formally introduced in the minivan, cupholders have proliferated. For instance, ABC’s Nightline requested a makeover of the grocery cart from the Palo Alto design firm IDEO in 1999, and that model rather notably featured a cupholder for active consumers.

Cupholders are now a standard feature on shopping carts as well as riding mowers, strollers, and the big institutional floor scrubbers used by late-night cleaning crews in hospitals and airports. Everything must also provide a spot for a drink.

The interiors of driverless automobiles might be considerably different if they become a reality. Some people have pictured future autonomous automobiles as mini-conference rooms or offices. There are even bank chairs and a lounge-like setting in one driverless car concept. Ford envisions a more active future for the car, self-driving or not, saying that cup holders “might move under a cup being put down by a driver watching the road the way an outfielder moves under a fly ball” or that “truly visionary drivers might even fantasize of the robot cup holder that can move a cup into a hand groping in the dark.” The business submitted a patent for a gyroscopic cup holder last year that aims to maintain a drink upright even when moving.

However, some automakers that are gearing up for the collision of two significant trends – ride-sharing and driverless vehicles—have a far less optimistic outlook. According to a 2017 Investor’s Business Daily article, automakers are rethinking automobile design to accommodate the unusual circumstances of autonomy and ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft. Their interiors will be odor- and puke-proof, among other things. That’s a far cry from the romantic Rolls that Gatsby drove or even the daring camper in a Model T, much alone the idea of a car’s interior providing comfort on par with a mother’s breast.

The English novelist E. wrote that the car “moves on, but not on our lines.” M. Forster was astounded by the automobile’s capacity to influence social norms and, by extension, human conduct. It continues, he wrote. “But not to our objectives,”

It wasn’t a conscious decision, after all, to choose a hot coffee and burrito gulped down at 60 mph to a cup of coffee sipped from a china cup with the day’s newspaper nearby and a hot, cooked meal on the kitchen table. Drivers and passengers enjoy and demand the cup holder, but they never stop to think about why or what alternatives they give up in their obsession with drinking on the move.

To Finish Up… 

Do you consider the cup holders in cars to be functional? Please comment below with your ideas; we’d love to hear them.


You may also like

Leave a Comment