The New Age of Windshield Science

Auto makers are always trying to think of ways to make driving safer, easier  and more efficient.  Now technology is playing a big role in the new advances in windshields.  What used to be a piece of glass that supported the roof and kept bugs off our faces, is now the focal point of technological driver safety – literally.

Since ideally, a safe driver would keep eyes focused outside through the windshield or mirrors and hands on the steering wheel, automakers are now designing features to make this more practical.  Instead of making more extravagant (and confusing) center console features, we are starting to see more controls directly on the steering wheel.   And while more common in aircraft, some automobiles also have what is called a “heads up display”, that displays data and control settings via projection onto the inside of the windshield.

Now auto makers are experimenting with windshields that combine different  types of light and temperature sensors to give drivers what can be equated to night vision.   The new windshield technology enhances objects near the road such as mailboxes, telephone poles, people and animals by outlining them in a lighted silhouette.

One new model being tested by GM traces over the side of the road using a lighted line to help drivers anticipate curves and intersections in less than ideal conditions.  Some auto models are now available with small screens that show an enhanced view of the outside world, but new prototypes would project onto the entire windshield, enhancing the what the driver is looking at.  That includes detecting and highlighting speed limit signs for the speeding driver.

And since the current market is tightly focused on gas mileage, auto companies are looking at different ways to enhance this factor by making cars and trucks more aerodynamic.  One thing that can cause a surprisingly significant amount of wind drag is the windshield wipers, which is why auto manufacturers are looking to do away with them all together.

PPG has developed a product for manufacturers that repels water and bonds to the glass like Aquapel, but instead of six months, would last up to seven to eight years.  This would work in conjunction with a small, high speed blower to blow an airstream up along the windshield that would help remove water drops at speeds less than 40.  The airstream from the blower would also create a slipstream – instead of hitting the windshield abruptly, air would be slightly “cushioned” by the air moving upwards along the windshield – making the car more aerodynamic.

While these ideas may be a few years from being put into practical, everyday use, the reality is that every part of the auto is changing – even the windshield.