Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Visibly Dangerous - 1

Car engineering has made huge advances in the last 20 years.

But with regression in a couple of areas.

Most obviously in the driver's visibility out.
A few decades back, some cars were approaching the ideal visibility situation, where the driver's front/side view was effectively unimpeded.
This was achieved, for instance on the Citroen DS or the Lotus Elan, by having screen pillars thinner than the spacing between the driver's eyes, so that drivers, at least drivers with 2 eyes, had no blind spot at all.

Increasingly today, screen pillars are getting thicker.
For good reasons.
Mostly this is due to crash strength requirements & roll-over strength requirements.
Additionally, screen pillars are sloping more steeply, partly for styling reasons & partly for aerodynamic (fuel economy) reasons.
Sloping increases the horizontal section width & hence the effective thickness from a visibility viewpoint.
The situation is compounded in many people-carrier vehicles (Opel Meriva, Citroen Picasso) which have introduced an additional pillar each side.

Things are so bad now, blind spots are so big now, that not only pedestrians & cyclists but even cars can be hidden from the driver if they are on a collision course (approaching at a constant angle) as can happen particularly at roundabouts for instance.

I can see why intelligent & responsible engineers are taking design in this dangerous direction.
There is plenty of pressure (rightly) to improve crash safety, to improve fuel consumption, to produce attractive-looking vehicles people want to buy.
There is no pressure (wrongly) to improve driver visibility & hence active safety.

Who should be providing that pressure?
Consumer associations?
Insurance companies?

We may have to wait a long time!

Parting thot: "Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life." - Kant

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