Piston Slap: Visibility's Unintended Rube Goldberg Effect?
TTAC Commentator Volvo writes:Why does the design of most newer vehicles have very poor driver visibility for objects close to the car? This is pretty much all around but especially the rear. I find the current design even makes it difficult to judge front and rear bumper distance from an object. This definitely was not the case for most cars prior to 1995.
- Is it to lower drag?
- Safety mandates?
- Just design esthetic?
Yes, yes, and sometimes a little bit yes. But mostly it’s your second guess: Safety mandates.
That’s because manufacturers force their product engineering/design teams to work on a budget. (Well, duh!) If outside influences (like pedestrian safety standards or mandatory backup cameras) deem a change, can they make it comply without throwing the budget out of whack? Or totally blowing the budget?
Let’s make up a totally hypothetical scenario:
- When safety mandates require a taller cowl and front fascia (or hood) to protect pedestrians from bouncing/slamming heads on the engine, that could very likely increase frontal area. Then designers do anything to lower wind resistance elsewhere: Air Curtains, flat faced wheels, buffalo butt trunks, etc. which likely took valuable resources/cash away from the R&D budget. And maybe thicker pillars (cheaper to make) saved cash while passing Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 216.
- From there, C-pillar needs to be ridiculously fast to complete a very strong, affordable arched roof pillar design. I mean, if it works for bridges…
- But then visibility suffers. So they make larger side-view mirrors (more drag?) with blind spot monitors: originally pure concept car fodder, but now cheap and easy to implement. Since cell phones have cameras, why not have enough of those eyeballs so cars have optional 360-degree viewing?
And, of course, automakers claw back profit on high-margin safety options, so maybe everything works out. It’s quite the Rube Goldberg affair, but honestly, as we all age, these electronic gizmos make our lives easier no matter how much glass we get…
…provided we can afford to buy, repair, and replace these systems after a collision.
It’s a bizarre world, but it ain’t gonna change: we keep everyone happy with this balancing act. Best and Brightest?
[Image: Shutterstock user Denise Lett]
Send your queries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.
HotPotato on May 11, 2019
Those enormously fat, incredibly shallow-angle roof pillars are responsible for driving people out of sedans and into CUVs. Instead of a car with pillars that block your view of pedestrians, a windshield that distorts your view, seats an inch off the floor, rear headroom unsuitable for adults despite the sedan being incredibly long, and a trunk so tall you can't see the kid you're about to back over, a CUV gives you great sightlines, upright seating with headroom front and rear, a near-vertical rear window for ample cargo and passenger space, and proper walls-o-glass all around...though you will still back over that kid. So naturally, manufacturers are now ruining CUVs too with fastback rooflines (wrong, BMW) and gun-slit windows (wrong, Mazda). I currently drive a 2018 Chevy Volt -- probably the absolute nadir for driver visibility and a packaging efficiency. Fat pillars, near-horizontal front and rear glass, tall butt. I have half the safety nannies and I wish I had all of them, because I'm pretty sure I won't know what I've hit until I've hit it. On the other hand, because it's one of the few cars engineered for North America only, it doesn't have the tall flat nose all cars have now to meet European pedestrian safety standards -- there's something alluringly retro-future about a 1990s-style plunging aero beak.
Frantz on May 11, 2019
I embrace the tech. I use my passing mirrors really just to confirm what I already know. I generally keep good situational awareness of who is around me, especially ahead of any lane changes. There hasn't be a time when my blind spot system didn't tell me someone was there that I didn't know. I'd be 100% okay with replacing side mirrors with side cameras.
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