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Shortly, we can add smart windshields to the list of clever devices that enhance our lives, such as smartphones, smart TVs, and smart refrigerators.
Shortly, we can add smart windshields to the list of clever devices that enhance our lives, such as smartphones, smart TVs, and smart refrigerators.
( Source: ©Blue Planet Studio - stock.adobe.com)

Smart Windshields Are smart windshields cutting edge or safety concerns?

| Author / Editor: Jason Unrau / Erika Granath

Say good-bye to run-of-the-mill windshield glass. In the next decade, smart windshields can be covered entirely with overlay information in an augmented reality style.

It used to be that windshields were simply transparent, slightly tinted glass laminated together. Their job was two-fold: easy road visibility and structural safety. Actually, that's still what a windshield does, but it could be changing very soon.

Shortly, we can add smart windshields to the list of clever devices that enhance our lives, such as smartphones, smart TVs, and smart refrigerators. The list of automakers investing in the development of windshield technology is getting longer by the day, two companies at the forefront being Samsung and Continental.

What are smart windshields?

In general, smart windshields have a film embedded in the glass that can be manipulated in some way. Through input from a computer or module, the view through the windshield can be augmented. That could be variable window transparency or digital information, or some other data. But the image through the windshield is digitally transformed in some fashion at the user's behest.

Smart glass technology has applications in residential and commercial windows, electronics, and other industries, as well as mobility. While fixed objects are one matter, whether smart windshields are safe in the automotive sector is an important question (understatement of the century).

The possibility exists for changing images in the glass to distract a driver. Augmented reality can be implemented to 'block-out' distractions in surroundings, but could it eliminate the danger from view accidentally? And what if someone hacks your windshield while you're driving?

No doubt, extensive regulating will be required to implement smart windshields safely.

State-of-the-art windshield examples

Several styles of advanced windshield designs are on the market or could be coming soon. These windshields are just a taste of what could be coming in the industry in the not-so-distant future.

Electrochromic Glass

The closest example of smart glass currently available is electrochromic glass. Sandwiched between layers of glass is a solar film that can switch between transparent and ultra-dark tint at the touch of a button.

Electrochromic glass has been employed in high-end construction projects but is also used in automotive in extremely select models. The McLaren Speedtail Hyper-GT's futuristic design incorporates an electrochromic windshield, doors glass, and roof panel that's adjustable to the driver's taste.

Tesla Panoramic Windshield

Tesla's Model X might be most recognizable for its Falcon Wing rear doors, but its panoramic windshield is a technological marvel of its own. At nearly three square meters, it stretches above the driver and front passenger like a helicopter cockpit. Unobstructed, the exposure could cause driver visibility issues, not to mention unbelievable solar gain in the cabin.

Tesla's panoramic windshield uses solar tinting technology, much like transition lenses in eyeglasses, to darken the windshield relative to the sun's intensity.

Wiper-Free Windshield

McLaren also borrowed technology from the military to develop windshield wiper-free vehicles. The idea was pulled from modern fighter jets without a visible method to remove water or debris from the canopy. Instead, ultrasonic waves prevent water droplets, dirt, and even bugs from sticking to the glass.

Where's the industry headed?

These examples are barely a taste of what's possible in the coming years. Smart glass has the potential to change the mobility experience in endless ways, including:

  • Obstacles, POIs, and navigation landmarks could be displayed like augmented reality.
  • Advertisers could purchase in-vehicle ad space relevant to your location, using augmented reality.
  • Features like Continental's Intelligent Glass Control may enhance vehicle safety by blocking a would-be thief's view from the outside in.
  • Navigation instructions could be displayed across the whole windshield rather than a small head-up display projected in only the driver's view.

It won't be shocking if smart windshields become prominent in mobility solutions everywhere, not just vehicle windshields. There are safety concerns to overcome, yet the benefits surely outweigh apparent risks. So expect smart glass to be integrated more and more in the ever-changing automotive landscape.

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