Exercise 49 – Design a product that prevents flat tires in cars.

Post and review answers and feedback to answers in the comments section of this post.

See also:

How to answer a product design question in a product manager job interview

List of product design questions for product manager job interviews

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Anonymous
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First, understand the meaning of “prevent flat tires”

The ways of preventing a flat tire are as follows
1. Prevent a sharp object from penetrating the material of the tire.
2. If an object does penetrate, the object is ejected and/or the tear is filled before the tire becomes flat.

Assume the interviewer asks me to go with 1.
Potential customers – Tire manufacturer, car manufacturer, end user.

The customer I will choose is a tire manufacturer. Makers of car tires fitting a variety of models from compacts to SUVs.

Tire manufacturer – needs to create new type of tires
Car manufacturer – Needs to adopt new tires based on risk and cost profile
End user – needs to buy these tires based on value.

Potential causes/pain points for flat tires
1. sharp object penetrating tires
2. Car going over a bump at a great speed that compresses the tires and causing them to explode
3. Over inflation of tires
4. Heat

In addition the customer also needs to worry the cost of new technology. The range of tires that need to be produced.

Potential solutions
1. Solution could be using multiple layers of rubber and other material
2. Metallic tires
3. Graphite and other carbon based tires
4. (Magnetic) Levitation

The goal that I’m trying to optimize is prevent flats.
Prioritization
1. Medium Impact, L-cost, M-Risk – This solution is the least expensive, potentially, as this would need the least interaction with other players in the ecosystem. The idea is to have metal and other impenetrable materials between layers of rubber. However, this may not be fool proof, hence medium risk. Also, wear and tear analysis may need to be studied. Potentially least time to develop. Low risk toward heat issues. Over inflation risk is similar to current tires. Minimal change to existing technology and user behavior.

2. High Impact, H-Cost – H-Risk – There is significant risk in getting adoption as customer behavior needs to be changed (both end user as well as car manufacturers). Heat issues as well as smooth ride issues as well as government regulations as these may be hazardous to the roads. The cost of developing a new metallic tire that will fit all the standards and needs of car manufacturers.

3. High Impact, H-Cost, L-M-Risk – Carbon and graphite are light weight and are used in cycling. Potentially expensive. Potentially long time to develop. Cost and technical shock for users/car manufacturers – Risk of not adopting. High impact as this completely prevents flat tires. High cost to develop, particularly over a large range of tires. Needs significant capital investment.

4. High Impact, H-Cost, H- Risk. Significant risk in terms of cost and potentially needs technology not currently available in the near future.

Based on the analysis above, I would present (1) as the product I would recommend in the short term and in the long term move to (3).

Anonymous
Guest

Another option I could have explored as a product is a device that clears all sharp objects from the road.

Bijan
Guest

Hi there
Thank you for posting your answer. I like how structured your answer is. I have some feedback around the solutions:
I think all the solutions you’ve listed belong to one category – materiel. You want to show your ability to think outside the box by listing some innovative ways of reducing flat tire. Here are a few examples:
– develop an AI tool with sensor that detects sharp objects coming and adjusts the wheels to avoid hitting them
– develop a smart tire health monitoring tool that constantly monitors the conditions of the tires and as soon as it detects the conditions are deteriorating, it notifies the driver
– develop an embedded pump that can auto-adjust the pressure in the tires to avoid too much or too little of pressure
There are many creative ways to reduce flat tires. I suggest that you present your creativity here by listing some outside the box type of ideas. And once you get to the evaluation phase, you will be able to eliminate the hard to implement ideas. I hope you find my feedback useful.

Anonymous
Guest

Hi Bijan,
Thanks. I was planning to branch out in the other thread about creating a device that detects and clears away the sharp objects last night but was too tired.I wanted to do it this morning, but you beat me to it with a response. But, a question to you. The question doesn’t say “reduce” flat tires, it says “prevent” flat tires, hence I started with the question to the interviewer as to what was meant by the word prevent. I assumed he said that prevent a sharp object from penetrating the tire. So there were two options for me, one is to avoid the said sharp object or if not, prevent it from penetrating the tire.
Any thoughts on this?

Thanks in advance.

Bijan
Guest

Regarding your comment on “reduce” vs. “prevent”, you bring up a good point. I think you can just address it by asking for clarification in the beginning of the interview as you have. My guess is they would say “reduce flat tire” would be an acceptable approach. There are many products that are supposed to prevent an incident from happening but they just reduce the likelihood (e.g. phone screen protector) If the interviewer says your objective is to prevent sharp objects from penetrating the tire, then yes you will have to focus on things such as materials, sensors that help you keep your distance from sideroad during parking, sensors that detect sharp objects and adjust car wheels accordingly,etc.

nabspm
Guest

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David
Guest

There are a few things that can cause a flat tire:
– penetration of something sharp
– vandalism
– overpumped tires
– sepration of the tire and rim by collision with another object (at the time of turn or parking)

I can think of a few solutions to help prevent flat tires.
1. embed liquid gel inside the tires so that when there is a hole, it is immediately covered by the gel
2. an alarm system that can be enabled so that as soon as someone walks towards the car, some of car lights will turn on to scare the vandalizer
3. a smart pressure measuring device that stops the tires from getting more air as soon as it detects the pressure is increasing
4. a smart pressure adjuster that reduces air pressure in the tires in the summer to avoid tire explosions
5. a camera sensor in front of the car that detects / predicts close distance between the tire and an object in turns / parkings and instructs the driver to increase their distance from the side road

Here is how I would evaluate each solution from impact on customer experience and cost of implementation.
1. not so good of an impact on customer experience as the material might be working temporarily and add risks to driving the car, hard to implement as it costs a lot of money to discover such material and to build it into the tires
2. medium impact on customer experience given only a small number flat tires are caused by vandalism, low cost of implementation
3. low impact on customer experience as people already look at the pressure measurer to decide how much air they should pump into the tires, medium cost of implementation as it’s an external device that must be added to the tires and could change the balance of the wheels
4. Medium impact given that only a small number of flat tires are caused by high air pressure in hot temperatures, small cost of implementation
5. High value to the customer since collision with sideroads is the main cause of flat tires (this is my understanding and assumption). Medium cost of implementation as you need some sort of sensor camera + AI software that detects curbs and alarms the driver

Out of the solutions listed above, I suggest implementing idea 5 since it addresses one of the main cuases of flat tire. The technology can also be used at later times in self-driving cars.

Bijan
Guest

I like the answer. It’s structured, shows you are problem solver (you can quickly list causes of flat tires) and can think creatively. I really like the solution #5. It is a great solution the problem of drivers hitting the curbs. Perhaps you can ask some clarifying questions in the beginning of the interview to ensure that you both have an agreement on the definition of “preventing flat tires”. See my comments above.

Anonymous
Guest

For a question like this, how do you structure the answer to start with the user or personas? Rather than just saying user = anyobe who drives?

Bijan
Guest

My general way of thinking about persona’s is by thinking about the ecosystem and types of people involved. In a car tire ecosystem, you have a few parties: driver, tire manufacturer, car maker, repair shop, etc. Each can be a persona.

You can pick a more specific persona (e.g. the type of driver) if you like: e.g. people driving in extreme heat conditions. I would make sure the interviewer is ok with the focus on a particular type of driver. If you are going for a particular type of driver, I would think about the causes of flat tire when coming up with various driver persona’s. examples: 1- people driving in extreme hot weather 2- people driving in extremely cold weather 3- people driving in bad roads etc.

Hope it helps.