Cars companies are increasing their efforts every year to improve the safety of their vehicles. Decades of safety-focused design have led to an increase in “thick A-pillars” which is the term used for pillars at the front of the car that hold up the roof. The B-pillars support the front and rear doors, and the C-pillars support the rear window. The purpose is to keep a car from collapsing if it should flip over. However, consumers are complaining these thicker pillars are making it more difficult to see pedestrians in the corners.
“They do provide substantial safety benefits in a rollover,” says Zach Bolton- head of R&D at Continental. “But something must be done about visibility, he says. They’re typically several inches thick, plenty wide enough to hide a pedestrian or even a cyclist. Continental says an object 3 feet across is totally obscured when it’s 12 feet away from the car. Meanwhile, pedestrian deaths in the US are on the rise.
Several companies are now saying they may make these pieces of metal transparent. Using cameras and high resolution screens, the pillars can be wrapped into a wide-screen. This makes it possible for the driver to see a pedestrian crossing the street as they make a turn.
Continental has built a curving pillar with fish-eye cameras to fill the vision gap. However, it’s still being tested to see if it’s too distracting. In 2014, Land Rover showed a similar concept that projected the view from a forward-facing camera onto the lower part of the windshield. That made the whole hood look transparent, so the driver could get a good visual on what they’re running over, or the curb they’re trying to park against without scratching their alloys.
Automakers have already expressed interest in adding the setup to their vehicles, all of them looking for the clearest vision.