Ask The Best And Brightest: Whatever Happened To Visibility?

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
ask the best and brightest whatever happened to visibility

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)?

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  • Sharewhut Sharewhut on Sep 12, 2011

    Very late to this, came across on a Googlie search as I'm helping MIL find a new car, and she is having issues with rear visibility in newer vehicles. One thing I haven't seen mentioned, (although functioning of side curtains was briefly addressed) is that higher belt lines/smaller side windows can better prevent occupant ejection, especially in a rollover. Even belted, with an open window you can fit out of there's a significant risk of at least partial ejection and getting pinned under part of vehicle.

  • Pugpal Pugpal on Nov 24, 2012

    Unfettered sight-lines and other ergonomic considerations are two of the critical factors in the decision to continue driving Peugeot 505s exclusively since 1982. Visibility is one of many factors for a suitable replacement vehicle and so far, none of the current crop of new cars has met the test.

  • Lou_BC Panther black? Borrowed from Dodge panther pink? One could argue that any Camaro is a limited run.
  • SCE to AUX I much prefer the looks of the Tucson version, but either is a great value.How was the driveability, namely the electric/gas transition? I had H/K's first attempt in a 13 Optima Hybrid (now in my son's garage), and it was gruff and abrupt in that phase of driving.
  • SCE to AUX My guess of $60k from a few years ago may be low.My EPA estimate would be 263 miles, but that's unladen, temperate conditions, driven at the speed limit, and 0% left in the tank - all unrealistic.Subtract 15% for full payload, 20% for cold, 10% for speed, and 20% minimum battery level, and you're down to 129 usable miles at times. Even in nice conditions (springtime, town driving), I'd only expect 180 usable miles.This vehicle will have the same challenge as electric pickups do - when used as intended (traveling with family and stuff in this case), the utility is lost.When these hit US roads, expect to see videos of unhappy/surprised customers who thought this thing would go 260+ miles all the time. For starters, it should have a 150 kWh battery, minimum, and then you're talking real money.No, I wouldn't buy it, but it might be a fun rental for local driving.The common argument "once everyone who wants one gets one, sales will die" may not apply here. 789k New Beetles were sold in the US from 1998-2021. True, sales dropped 50% in 5 years, and another 60% in the next 5 years, but it ebbed along for two decades, helped by a refresh along the way. That's not a bad run for a niche car.
  • Theflyersfan I still have visions of Radio Shack and Circuit City and Silo - the huge walls filled with hundreds of aftermarket cassette players fit for any budget and style. And the eyes would always go to the Alpine ones with the green lighting. When I see the old Japanese cars like this, I'm always reminded of those aftermarket stereos because it was like a rite of passage slapping in your own cassette deck and maybe if your rich enough, four new speakers, and mega-bucks here, the equalizer and amp. And this Toyota still has less rust on it than an 07 Silverado, so there's one positive.
  • Parkave231 Agree with everyone else here -- big initial push, and then everyone who wants one will have one.I am curious whether, or how much, extra engineering they had to do with respect to the front crash structure. Yes, this isn't a cab-over situation like the original and many 60s/70s vans, but there's still not a lot of real estate between you and the front bumper. (Maybe it's just an illusion.) I suppose with just enough nose and empty space in front of the firewall they could have a pretty beefy impact system there.