When we think of cup holders, the first thing that comes to mind is how utterly helpless we would be without them in our comfy automobiles. Heralded as another non-essential addition to the interior décor of cars at the time of its inception, today imagining a car without a cup holder is well neigh impossible.
To be fair to early automotive creators, addition of something like this could not have entered their mind. The suspension systems were crude by today’s standards and combined with the not-so-smooth road conditions, the thought of sipping a cola while driving was too far-fetched to be taken seriously.
The popularization of drive-in restaurants and theaters paved the way for the earliest cup holders. These were basically makeshift arrangements where servers would hook a tray over the car’s side window. Sometimes the inside of the glove compartment had serrations to precariously support the beverage cups. All these arrangements were good enough for a parked car but ineffective when the car was in motion. Even the grooved glove compartments that protected against sliding were useless against sloshing and spilling. Leaving a drive-in with an unfinished drink meant summoning your immense juggling talents while you changed gears with a cup balanced on your thigh or your other hand.
The initial cup holders were anything but seamless with the automobile’s interior design. They were devices attached to the inside of car doors which invited the obvious risk of occasional over enthused slamming of doors. Over time however, automotive cup holders have become more sophisticated and convenient with the capacity to hold securely cups of various sizes. A popular design is to employ spring-loaded holders that clasp the cup regardless of its size.
One interesting cultural difference is starkly evident when we compare the evolution of automobiles in Europe and America. While for a lot of Americans the design and location of cup holder features amongst the important parameters influencing vehicle purchase, in Europe, designers consider cup holders inessential for driving pleasure or safety. However, with increasing globalization and integration of world markets many cars in Europe do incorporate cup holders.
The development of cup holder design has been an ongoing process and there is still scope for improvement. More often than not the supremacy of a design is a subjective matter but we can safely say that creative think tanks of automobile giants would continue to churn surprises for the masses.