Just when we’re getting used to revolutionary new ideas for cars, a whole new aspect is introduced. Now we’re hearing from Robert J. Rosenfield is chairman and CEO of Bowrail Group, a Boston-based investment management group about windshields. According to Mr. Rosenfield, windshields, too, have joined the innovation party.
They are being fabricated with stronger, thinner and more lightweight materials. Like carbon fiber, glass is becoming strong enough to contend for structural roles.
Not only will car designers start using more of it, but glass is being used as an interface to run entire Internet of Things (IoT) systems, from entertainment to cloud connectivity, from 3D imaging to vehicle-to-vehicle communications.
We have selected 4 of the ideas that caught our eye and did some editing to the original article. To see the original information, click here.
1. Say goodbye to headlights and sun visors
In the future we’ll see the same photochromic dyes that dynamically cause vision lens [eye glasses] to darken when exposed to sunlight and lighten in the shade, applied to windshields. This type of glass adjusts to current light conditions. Adding another layer of driver protection is the potential for windshields to block harmful ultraviolet radiation. Studies show that consumers are willing to pay a premium for this kind of sun and glare blocking.
Speaking of glare, imagine never having to turn on your headlights or switch to high beams. Engineers well versed in nano technologies are already discussing ways to incorporate military style night vision capability using thermal imaging. This would allow drivers to literally see in the dark.
2. Vehicle communications
Before we can navigate without lights, road vehicles of all kinds will adapt solar panel technology to not only power hybrids and electrics, but to replace or augment alternators for charging batteries and to supply the needed power for new services.
A thin layer of photovoltaic cells could conceivably cover the hood, roof and trunk or flatbed, providing energy to more sophisticated GPS units that share info beyond map directions. Vehicles will be able to share traffic data compiled from all vehicles in the same geo location. The U.S. Department of Transportation is testing vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications on 3,000 cars and trucks in Ann Arbor, Mich., and claims the technology can improve safety.
3. Windshield as world interface
We will see glass offering an immersive experience, projecting live TV, video on demand, social media chats and smartphone apps that can be directly accessed on glass by using special motion and optical sensors to turn standard glass into a touch sensitive surface. Because of the emphasis on safety, designers will look at using the steering wheel or dashboard for activating features, per status quo.
As an interface, touch will most likely take a back seat to voice-activated prompts. Apple is naturally in the game, working with Honda on versions of its Siri voice-activated assistant. And Toyota and Microsoft have teamed up to experiment with gesture commands just like those used by the Xbox Kinect gaming console.
4. Say goodbye to wiper blades
In 2008, Italian designer Leonardo Fioravanti devised a self-cleaning and water-repelling nano-dust system into his prototype Hindra vehicle.
The new system eliminates the need for wiper blades through the use of advanced nanotechnology and aerodynamic principles that combine to ensure clear visibility for drivers. Specialized coatings exist that can repel water, ice and oil, but most agree these coatings will fade over time given the harsh exposure of weather. That's why McLaren is testing a promising technique of using high-frequency sound waves on smart windshields to fend off the nasty elements.
Now the question is how soon?
With intelligent applications of auto glass and the rush to market of advanced driver assistance systems, it's not a matter of “if” the technology becomes standard, but how soon.
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