Steve Edgett writes in:
Sajeev raised an excellent point in today’s piece on the 1974 Ford pickup regarding visibility. Like a few of the regular TTAC readers, I was driving when low belt lines and great visibility were considered cool, as well as functional. As much as I love my four year old BMW 3-series, I find the visibility out the rear to be atrocious. And, compared to a mid-80’s 3-series or a 2002, it is downright dangerous. How much of this bloat and reduced glass area is due to ”safety standards” and how much is fashion?
Because TTAC’s readers include both consumers of automobiles and the workers who design and build our four-wheeled friends, this seems like the perfect topic to settle in one of our friendly community discussions. After all, the most interesting questions about modern automobiles tend to come down to the chicken-and-egg relationship between the manufacturer’s ability to cultivate needs and sell the solution to them, and “true” consumer demand (as witnessed by the fact that neither side of this divide sees itself in as being “in the driver’s seat”). Certainly the Camaro pictured above points to the stylistic benefits of a tiny greenhouse: surely a Zeta-platform vehicle doesn’t need to have so little glass to meet crash test standards. At the same time, it’s likely not a coincidence that dramatic improvements in safety have been accompanied by a tightening of greenhouses.
So, to the designers and engineers in the house we ask: how important is reducing the amount of glass in a vehicle improve safety test performance? To what extent does this issue drive design? And to the consumers we ask: are you really asking for ever-tightening greenhouses in the name of fashion? Can you identify a point at which introducing more glass to a design makes a car look dorky but creating a tighter greenhouse hurts usability (and possibly even active safety)?