Panoramic windscreens are something of a building trend in Europe’s premium-ish small car segments, combining the benefits of a sunroof with improved visibility. GM debuted the concept as a rarely-chosen option on the previous-generation Astra three-door, and it’s coming back with the forthcoming Astra GTC. Which raises an interesting question: since I’m convinced the GTC will come to the US as a Buick coupe, will this funky look come across the pond as well? Bob Lutz emphasized his preference for “glowering” low rooflines, telling TTAC that an early version of the forthcoming Cadillac ATS looked like “a kid with too large of a forehead” before he told designers to bring down the browline. Will an exception be made for this unique (to the US Market) feature on what should be one of GM’s most purely European cars? Or will Lutz’s aesthetic tastes doom GM buyers to observing traffic lights out of their side windows? Is this an option that other automakers should consider making available?
Wards has a fascinating piece on the recent evolution of the A-pillar, starting with the aesthetic novelty of the B5 Passat and ending with the various roof crush and head-impact safety standards that are creating ever-larger and more vision-obstructing pillars. But is the added passive safety worth the trade-off in visibility, and therefore active safety? A researcher equivocates:
We lack quantitative models that express the safety cost of vision obstructions. We’ve worked on it, but it’s difficult to see the relationships in crash data. People are highly adaptive, and any vision effects are buried in other larger effects due to exposure and driving style.
Inspired by the write-up, I found that the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria (Australia) has its own annual forward visibility rating system, and that it refused to give a single 2011 model-year vehicle a five-star rating (in a rare display of respect for the five-star system). Without a rating system of our own, I thought TTAC should embrace the subjectivity of the subject matter and pool its collective wisdom to help the automakers understand which vehicles need an A-pillar diet. Which vehicles feel the least safe in terms of forward visibility? Which need window inserts and which need to just slim down? Or have we reached the point where we need A-pillar cameras?